Front Page Titles (by Subject) CORRESPONDENCE 1786 - The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789)
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CORRESPONDENCE 1786 - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 5.
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ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS PROPOUNDED BY M. DE MEUSNIER1
(Jan. 24, 1786.)
1. On the original establishment of the several states, The civil code of England, from whence they had emigrated, was adopted. This, of course, could extend only to general laws, and not to those which were particular to certain places in England only. The circumstances of the new states oblige them to add some new laws which their special situation required, and even to change some of the general laws of England in cases which did not suit their circumstances or ways of thinking. The law of descents for instance, was changed in several states. On the late revolution, the changes which their new form of government rendered necessary were easily made. It was only necessary to say that the powers of legislation, the judiciary & the executive powers, heretofore exercised by persons of such and such descriptions shall henceforth be exercised by persons to be appointed in such and such manners. This was what their constitutions did. Virginia thought it might be necessary to examine the whole code of law, to reform such parts of it as had been calculated to produce a devotion to monarchy, and to reduce into smaller volumes such useful parts as had become too diffuse. A Committee was appointed to execute this work; they did it; and the assembly began in Octob. 1785, the examination of it, in order to change such parts of the report as might not meet with their approbation and to establish what they should approve. We may expect to hear the result of their deliberations about the last of February next.
I have heard that Connecticut undertook a like work: but I am not sure of this, nor do I know whether any other of the states have or have not done the same.
2. The Constitution of New Hampshire established in 1776, having been expressly made to continue only during the contest with Great Britain, they proceeded, after the close of that, to form and establish a permanent one, which they did. The Convention of Virginia which organized their new government had been chosen before a separation from Gr Britain had been thought of in their state. They had therefore none but the ordinary powers of legislation. This leaves their act for organizing the government subject to be altered by every legislative assembly, and tho no general change in it has been made, yet it’s effect has been controulled in several special cases. It is therefore thought that that state will appoint a Convention for the special purpose of forming a stable constitution. I think no change has been made in any other of the states.
3. The following is a rough estimate of the particular debts of some of the states as they existed in the year 1784:
The other states not named here are probably indebted in the same proportion to their abilities. If so, & we estimate their abilities by the rule of quotaing them those 8 states will owe about 14 millions, & consequently the particular debts of all the states will amount to 25 or 26 millions of dollars.
5. A particular answer to this question would lead to very minute details. One general idea however may be applied to all the states. Each having their separate debt, and a determinate proportion of the federal debt, they endeavour to lay taxes sufficient to pay the interest of both of these, and to support their own & the federal government. These taxes are generally about one or one & a half per cent. on the value of property, & from 2½ to 5 per cent. on foreign merchandise imported. But the paiment of this interest regularly is not accomplished in many of the states. The people are as yet not recovered from the depredations of the war. When that ended, their houses were in ruin, their farms waste, themselves distressed for clothing and necessaries for their household. They cannot as yet therefore bear heavy taxes. For the paiment of the principal no final measures are yet taken. Some states will have land for sale, the produce of which may pay the principal debt. Some will endeavor to have an exceeding of their taxes to be applied as a sinking fund, and all of them look forward to the increase of population, & of course an increase of productiveness in their present taxes to enable them to be sinking their debt. This is a general view. Some of the states have not yet made even just efforts for satisfying either the principal or interest of their public debt.
6. By the close of the year 1785 there had probably passed over about 50,000 emigrants. Most of these were Irish. The greatest number of the residue were Germans. Philadelphia receives most of them, and next to that, Baltimore & New York.
7. Nothing is decided as to Vermont. The four northernmost states wish it to be received into the Union. The middle & Southern states are rather opposed to it. But the great difficulty arises with New York which claims that territory. In the beginning every individual of that state revolted at the idea of giving them up. Congress therefore only interfered from time to time to prevent the two parties from coming to an open rupture. In the meanwhile the minds of the New Yorkers have been familiarizing to the idea of a separation & I think it will not be long before they will consent to it. In that case the Southern & Middle states will doubtless acquiesce, and Vermont will be received into the Union.
LeMaine, a part of the government of Massachusetts, but detached from it (the state of N Hampshire lying between) begins to desire to be separated. They are very weak in numbers as yet; but whenever they shall obtain a certain degree of population, there are circumstances which render it highly probable they will be allowed to become a separate member of the Union.
8. It is believed that the state of Virginia has by this time made a second cession of lands to Congress, comprehending all those between the meridian of the mouth of the great Kanhaway, the Ohio, Mississippi & Carolina boundary. Within this lies Kentucky. I believe that their numbers are sufficient already to entitle them to come into Congress, and that their reception there will only incur the delay necessary for taking the consent of the several assemblies. There is no other new state as yet approaching the time of it’s reception.
10. The number of Royalists which left New York, South Carolina & Georgia when they were evacuated by the British army was considerable, but I am absolutely unable to conjecture their numbers. From all the other states I suppose perhaps two thousand may have gone.
11. The Confederation is a wonderfully perfect instrument, considering the circumstances under which it was formed. There are however some alterations which experience proves to be wanting. These are principally three. 1. To establish a general rule for the admission of new states into the Union. By the Confederation no new state, except Canada, can be permitted to have a vote in Congress without first obtaining the consent of all the thirteen legislatures. It becomes necessary to agree what districts may be established into separate states, and at what period of their population they may come into Congress. The act of Congress of April 23, 1784, has pointed out what ought to be agreed on, to say also what number of votes must concur when the number of voters shall be thus enlarged. 2. The Confederation in it’s eighth article decides that the quota of money to be contributed by the several states shall be proportioned to the value of landed property in the state. Experience has shown it impracticable to come at this value. Congress have therefore recommended to the states to agree that their quotas shall be in proportion to the number of their inhabitants, counting 5 slaves however but as equal to 3 free inhabitants. I believe all the states have agreed to this alteration except Rhode island. 3. The Confederation forbids the states individually to enter into treaties of commerce, or of any other nature, with foreign nations: and it authorizes Congress to establish such treaties, with two reservations however, viz., that they shall agree to no treaty which would 1. restrain the legislatures from imposing such duties on foreigners, as natives are subjected to; or 2. from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of commodities. Congress may therefore be said to have a power to regulate commerce, so far as it can be effected by conventions with other nations, & by conventions which do not infringe the two fundamental reservations before mentioned. But this is too imperfect. Because till a convention be made with any particular nation, the commerce of any one of our states with that nation may be regulated by the State itself, and even when a convention is made, the regulation of the commerce is taken out of the hands of the several states only so far as it is covered or provided for by that convention or treaty. But treaties are made in such general terms, that the greater part of the regulations would still result to the legislatures. Let us illustrate these observations by observing how far the commerce of France & of England can be affected by the state legislatures. As to England, any one of the legislatures may impose on her goods double the duties which are paid other nations; may prohibit their goods altogether; may refuse them the usual facilities for recovering their debts or withdrawing their property, may refuse to receive their Consuls or to give those Consuls any jurisdiction. But with France, whose commerce is protected by a treaty, no state can give any molestation to that commerce which is defended by the treaty. Thus, tho’ a state may exclude the importation of all wines (because one of the reservations aforesaid is that they may prohibit the importation of any species of commodities) yet they cannot prohibit the importation of French wines particularly while they allow wines to be brought in from other countries. They cannot impose heavier duties on French commodities than on those of other nations. They cannot throw peculiar obstacles in the way of their recovery of debts due them &c. &c. because those things are provided for by treaty. Treaties however are very imperfect machines for regulating commerce in the detail. The principal objects in the regulation of our commerce would be: 1. to lay such duties, restrictions, or prohibitions on the goods of any particular nation as might oblige that nation to concur in just & equal arrangements of commerce. 2. To lay such uniform duties on the articles of commerce throughout all the states, as may avail them of that fund for assisting to bear the burthen of public expenses. Now this cannot be done by the states separately; because they will not separately pursue the same plan. New Hampshire cannot lay a given duty on a particular article, unless Massachusetts will do the same; because it will turn the importation of that article from her ports into those of Massachusetts, from whence they will be smuggled into New Hampshire by land. But tho Massachusetts were willing to concur with N Hampshire in laying the same duty, yet she cannot do it, for the same reason, unless Rhode island will also, nor can Rhode island without Connecticut, nor Connecticut without N York, nor N York without N Jersey, & so on quite to Georgia. It is visible therefore that the commerce of the states cannot be regulated to the best advantage but by a single body, and no body so proper as Congress. Many of the states have agreed to add an article to the Confederation for allowing to Congress the regulation of their commerce, only providing that the revenues to be raised on it, shall belong to the state in which they are levied. Yet it is believed that Rhode island will prevent this also. An everlasting recurrence to this same obstacle will occasion a question to be asked. How happens it that Rhode island is opposed to every useful proposition? Her geography accounts for it, with the aid of one or two observations. The cultivators of the earth are the most virtuous citizens, and possess most of the amor patriæ. Merchants are the least virtuous, and possess the least of the amor patriæ. The latter reside principally in the seaport towns, the former in the interior country. Now it happened that of the territory constituting Rhode island & Connecticut, the part containing the seaports was erected into a state by itself & called Rhode island, & that containing the interior country was erected into another state called Connecticut. For tho it has a little seacoast, there are no good ports in it. Hence it happens that there is scarcely one merchant in the whole state of Connecticut, while there is not a single man in Rhode island who is not a merchant of some sort. Their whole territory is but a thousand square miles, and what of that is in use is laid out in grass farms almost entirely. Hence they have scarcely any body employed in agriculture. All exercise some species of commerce. This circumstance has decided the characters of these two states. The remedies to this evil are hazardous. One would be to consolidate the two states into one. Another would be to banish Rhode island from the union. A third to compel her submission to the will of the other twelve. A fourth for the other twelve to govern themselves according to the new propositions and to let Rhode island go on by herself according to the antient articles. But the dangers & difficulties attending all these remedies are obvious.
These are the only alterations proposed to the confederation, and the last of them is the only additional power which Congress is thought to need.
12. Congress have not yet ultimately decided at what rates they will redeem the paper money in the hands of the holders, but a resolution of 1784, has established the principal, so that there can be little doubt but that the holders of paper money shall receive as much real money as the paper was actually worth at the time they received it, and an interest of 6 per cent from the time they received it. It’s worth will be found in the depreciation table of the state wherein it was received; these depreciation tables having been formed according to the market prices of the paper money at different epochs.
13. Those who talk of the bankruptcy of the U. S. are of two descriptions. 1. Strangers who do not understand the nature & history of our paper money. 2. Holders of that paper-money who do not wish that the world should understand it. Thus when, in March 1780. the paper money being so far depreciated that 40 dollars of it would purchase only 1. silver dollar, Congress endeavored to arrest the progress of that depreciation by declaring they would emit no more, and would redeem what was in circulation at the rate of one dollar of silver for 40 of paper; this was called by the brokers in paper money, a bankruptcy. Yet these very people had only given one dollar’s worth of provisions, of manufactures, or perhaps of silver for their forty dollars, & were displeased that they could not in a moment multiply their silver into 40. If it were decided that the U. S. should pay a silver dollar for every paper dollar they emitted, I am of opinion (conjecturing from loose data of my memory only as to the amount & true worth of the sums emitted by Congress and by the several states) that a debt, which in it’s just amount is not more perhaps than 6 millions of dollars, would amount up to 400 millions; and instead of assessing every inhabitant with a debt of about 2 dollars, would fix on him thirty guineas which is considerably more than the national debt of England affixes on each of its inhabitants, and would make a bankruptcy where there is none. The real just debts of the U. S., which were stated under the 3d query, will be easily paid by the sale of their lands, which were ceded on the fundamental condition of being applied as a sinking fund for this purpose.
14. La canne à sucre est un erreur du traducteur de M. Filson. Le mot Anglois ‘cane’ vent dire ‘arundo’ en latin, et ‘roseau’ ou ‘canne’ en François le traducteur en a fait la ‘canne du sucre,’ probablement que le ‘caffier’ est une erreur semblable.
15. The whole army of the United States was disbanded at the close of the war. A few guards only were engaged for their magazines. Lately they have enlisted some two or three regiments to garrison the posts along the Northern boundary of the U. S.
16. 17. The U. S. do not own at present a single vessel of war; nor has Congress entered into any resolution on that subject.
18. I conjecture there are 650,000 negroes in the five Southernmost states, and not 50,000 in the rest. In most of these latter effectual measures have been taken for their future emancipation. In the former, nothing is done towards that. The disposition to emancipate them is strongest in Virginia. Those who desire it, form, as yet, the minority of the whole state, but it bears a respectable proportion to the whole in numbers & weight of character & it is continually recruiting by the addition of nearly the whole of the young men as fast as they come into public life. I flatter myself it will take place there at some period of time not very distant. In Maryland & N. Carolina a very few are disposed to emancipate. In S. Carolina & Georgia not the smallest symptoms of it, but, on the contrary these two states & N. Carolina continue importations of negroes. These have been long prohibited in all the other states.
19. In Virginia, where a great proportion of the legislature consider the constitution but as other acts of legislation, laws have been frequently passed which controulled it’s effects. I have not heard that in the other states they have ever infringed their constitution; & I suppose they have not done it; as the judges would consider any law as void which was contrary to the constitution. Pennsylvania is divided into two parties, very nearly equal, the one desiring to change the constitution, the other opposing a change. In Virginia there is a part of the state which considers the act for organizing their government as a constitution, & are content to let it remain; there is another part which considers it only as an ordinary act of the legislature, who therefore wish to form a real constitution, amending some defects which have been observed in the acts now in force. Most of the young people as they come into office arrange themselves on this side, and I think they will prevail ere long. But there are no heats on this account. I do not know that any of the other states propose to change their constitution.
20. I have heard of no malversations in office which have been of any consequence; unless we consider as such some factious transactions in the Pennsylvania assembly; or some acts of the Virginia assembly which have been contrary to their constitution. The causes of these were explained in the preceding article.
21. Broils among the states may happen in the following way: 1. A state may be embroiled with the other twelve by not complying with the lawful requisitions of Congress. 2. Two states may differ about their boundaries. But the method of settling these is fixed by the Confederation, and most of the states which have any differences of this kind are submitting them to this mode of determination; and there is no danger of opposition to the decree by any state. The individuals interested may complain, but this can produce no difficulty. 3. Other contestations may arise between two states, such as pecuniary demands, affrays among their citizens, & whatever else may arise between any two nations. With respect to these, there are two opinions. One that they are to be decided according to the 9th article of the Confederation, which says that “Congress shall be the last resort in all differences between two or more states, concerning boundary jurisdiction, or any other cause whatever”; and prescribes the mode of decision, and the weight of reason is undoubtedly in favor of this opinion, yet there are some who question it.
It has been often said that the decisions of Congress are impotent because the Confederation provides no compulsory power. But when two or more nations enter into compact, it is not usual for them to say what shall be done to the party who infringes it. Decency forbids this, and it is unnecessary as indecent, because the right of compulsion naturally results to the party injured by the breach. When any one state in the American Union refuses obedience to the Confederation by which they have bound themselves, the rest have a natural right to compel them to obedience. Congress would probably exercise long patience before they would recur to force; but if the case ultimately required it, they would use that recurrence. Should this case ever arise, they will probably coerce by a naval force, as being more easy, less dangerous to liberty, & less likely to produce much bloodshed.
It has been said too that our governments both federal and particular want energy; that it is difficult to restrain both individuals & states from committing wrong. This is true, & it is an inconvenience. On the other hand that energy which absolute governments derive from an armed force, which is the effect of the bayonet constantly held at the breast of every citizen, and which resembles very much the stillness of the grave, must be admitted also to have it’s inconveniences. We weigh the two together, and like best to submit to the former. Compare the number of wrongs committed with impunity by citizens among us, with those committed by the sovereign in other countries, and the last will be found most numerous, most oppressive on the mind, and most degrading of the dignity of man.
22. The states differed very much in their proceedings as to British property; and I am unable to give the details. In Virginia, the sums sequestered in the treasury remain precisely as they did at the conclusion of the peace. The British having refused to make satisfaction for the slaves they carried away, contrary to the treaty of peace, and to deliver up the posts within our limits, the execution of that treaty is in some degree suspended. Individuals however are paying off their debts to British subjects, and the laws even permit the latter to recover them judicially. But as the amount of these debts are 20 or 30 times the amount of all the money in circulation in that state, the same laws permit the debtor to pay his debts in seven equal & annual payments.
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS OF M. DE MEUSNIER, AND ANSWERS
1. What has led Congress to determine that the concurrence of seven votes is requisite in questions which by the Confederation are submitted to the decision of a Majority of the U. S. in Congress assembled?
The IXth article of Confederation § 6. evidently establishes three orders of questions in Congress. 1. The greater ones, which relate to making peace or war, alliances, coinage, requisitions for money, raising military force, or appointing it’s commander-in-chief. 2. The lesser ones, which comprehend all other matters submitted by the Confederation to the federal head. 3. The single question of adjourning from day to day. This graduation of questions is distinctly characterized by the article.
In proportion to the magnitude of these questions, a greater concurrence of the voices composing the Union was thought necessary. Three degrees of concurrence, well distinguished by substantial circumstances, offered themselves to notice. 1. A concurrence of a majority of the people of the Union. It was thought that this would be ensured by requiring the voices of nine states; because according to the loose estimates which had been made of the inhabitants, & the proportion of them which were free, it was believed that even the nine smallest would include a majority of the free citizens of the Union. The voices therefore of nine states were required in the greater questions. 2. A concurrence of the majority of the states. Seven constitute that majority. This number therefore was required in the lesser questions. 3. A concurrence of the majority of Congress, that is to say, of the states actually present in it. As there is no Congress when there are not seven states present, this concurrence could never be of less than four states. But these might happen to be the four smallest, which would not include one ninth part of the free citizens of the Union. This kind of majority therefore was intrusted with nothing but the power of adjourning themselves from day to day.
Here then are three kind of majorities. 1. Of the people. 2. Of the states. 3. Of the Congress: each of which is entrusted to a certain length.
Tho the paragraph in question be clumsily expressed, yet it strictly ennounces it’s own intentions. It defines with precision the greater questions for which nine votes shall be requisite. To the lesser questions it then requires a majority of the U. S. in Congress assembled: a term indeed which will apply either to the number seven, as being a majority of the states; or to the number four, as being a majority of Congress. Which of the two kinds of majority was meant? Clearly that which would leave a still smaller kind for the decision of the question of adjournment. The contrary would be absurd.
This paragraph therefore should be understood as if it had been expressed in the following terms: “The United States in Congress assembled shall never engage in war &c. but with the consent of nine states: nor determine any other question but with the consent of a majority of the whole states; except the question of adjournment from day to day, which may be determined by a majority of the states actually present in Congress.”
2. How far is it permitted to bring on the reconsideration of a question which Congress has once determined?
The first Congress which met being composed mostly of persons who had been members of the legislatures of their respective states, it was natural for them to adopt those rules in their proceedings to which they had been accustomed in their legislative houses; and the more so as these happened to be nearly the same, as having been copied from the same original, the British parliament. One of those rules of proceeding was, that “a question once determined cannot be proposed a second time in the same session.” Congress, during their first session, in the autumn of 1774, observed this rule strictly. But before their meeting in the spring of the following year, the war had broke out. They found themselves at the head of that war in an Executive as well as Legislative capacity. They found that a rule, wise and necessary for a Legislative body, did not suit an Executive one, which, being governed by events, must change their purposes, as those change. Besides their session was likely then to become of equal duration with the war; and a rule which should render their legislation immutable during all that period could not be submitted to. They therefore renounced it in practice, and have ever since continued to reconsider their questions freely. The only restraint as yet provided against the abuse of this permission to reconsider, is that when a question has been decided, it cannot be proposed for reconsideration but by some one who voted in favor of the former decision, & declares that he has since changed his opinion. I do not recollect accurately enough whether it be necessary that his vote should have decided that of his state, and the vote of his state have decided that of Congress.
Perhaps it might have been better when they were forming the federal constitution, to have assimilated it as much as possible to the particular constitutions of the states. All of these have distributed the Legislative, executive & judiciary powers into different departments. In the federal constitution the judiciary powers are separated from the others: but the legislative and executive are both exercised by Congress. A means of amending this defect has been thought of. Congress having a power to establish what committees of their own body they please, and to arrange among them the distribution of their business, they might on the first day of their annual meeting appoint an executive committee, consisting of a member from each state, and refer to them all executive business which should occur during their session; confining themselves to what is of a legislative nature, that is to say to the heads described in the 9th article as of the competence of 9 states only, and to such other questions as should lead to the establishment of general rules. The journal of this committee of the preceding day might be read the next morning in Congress, & considered as approved, unless a vote was demanded on a particular article, & that article changed. The sessions of Congress would then be short, & when they separated, the Confederation authorizes the appointment of a committee of the states, which would naturally succeed to the business of the Executive committee. The legislative business would be better done, because the attention of the members would not be interrupted by the details of execution; and the executive business would be better done, because business of this nature is better adapted to small than great bodies. A monarchical head should confide the execution of it’s will to departments consisting each of a plurality of hands, who would warp that will as much as possible towards wisdom & moderation, the two qualities it generally wants. But a republican head founding it’s decrees originally in these two qualities should commit them to a single hand for execution, giving them thereby a promptitude which republican proceedings generally want. Congress could not indeed confide their executive business to a smaller number than a committee consisting of a member from each state. This is necessary to ensure the confidence of the Union. But it would be gaining a great deal to reduce the executive head to thirteen, and to debarrass themselves of those details. This however has as yet been the subject of private conversations only.
3. Calculating the federal debts by the interest they pay, their principal would be much more than is stated under the 3d. of the former queries. The reason for this is that there is a part of the money put into the loan office which was borrowed under a special contract that whatever depreciation might take place on the principal, the interest should be paid in hard money on the nominal amount, Congress only reserving to itself the right, whenever they should pay off the principal, to pay it according to it’s true value, without regard to it’s nominal one. The amount of this part of the debt is 3,459.200 dollars. From the best documents in my possession I estimate the capital of the federal debt as follows.
Domestic debt as stated in Apr. 1783, since which there is no better state.
The result as to the foreign debt is considerably more than in the estimate I made before. That was taken on the state of the Dutch loans as known to Congress in 1784. The new estimate of 1785 however (lately come to hand) shews those loans to be completed up to 7 millions of florins, which is much more than their amount in the preceding statements. The domestic debt too is made somewhat higher than in the preceding answer to the 3d. query. I had in that taken the statement of 1783 for my basis, and had endeavored to correct that by the subsequent liquidation of 1784. & 1785. On considering more maturely those means of correction, I apprehend they will be more likely to lead to error; and that, upon the whole, the statement of 1783, is the surest we can have recourse to. I have therefore adopted it literally.
3. A succinct account of paper money.
Previous to the late revolution, most of the states were in the habit, whenever they had occasion for more money than could be raised immediately by taxes, to issue paper notes or bills in the name of the state, wherein they promised to pay the bearer the sum named in the note or bill. In some of the states no time of paiment was fixed, nor tax laid to enable paiment. In these the bills depreciated. But others of the states named in the bill the day when it should be paid, laid taxes to bring in money enough for that purpose, & paid the bills punctually on or before the day named. In these states, paper money was in as high estimation as gold & silver. On the commencement of the late revolution, Congress had no money. The external commerce of the states being suppressed, the farmer could not sell his produce, & of course could not pay a tax. Congress had no resource then but in paper money. Not being able to lay a tax for it’s redemption they could only promise that taxes should be laid for that purpose so as to redeem the bills by a certain day. They did not foresee the long continuance of the war, the almost total suppression of their exports, and other events, which rendered the performance of their engagement impossible. The paper money continued for a twelvemonth equal to gold & silver. But the quantities which they were obliged to emit for the purpose of the war exceeded what had been the usual quantity of the circulating medium. It began therefore to become cheaper, or as we expressed it, it depreciated, as gold & silver would have done, had they been thrown into circulation in equal quantities. But not having, like them, an intrinsic value, it’s depreciation was more rapid & greater than could ever have happened with them. In two years it had fallen to two dollars of paper for one of silver, in three years to 4 for 1. in 9 months more it fell to 10 for 1. and in the six months following, that is to say, by Sep. 1779, it had fallen to 20 for 1. Congress, alarmed at the consequences which were to be apprehended should they lose this resource altogether, thought it necessary to make a vigorous effort to stop its further depreciation. They therefore determined in the first place, that their emissions should not exceed 200 millions of dollars, to which term they were then nearly arrived; and tho’ they knew that twenty dollars of what they were then issuing would buy no more for their army than one silver dollar would buy, yet they thought it would be worth while to submit to the sacrifice of 19. out of 20. dollars, if they could thereby stop further depreciation. They therefore published an address to their constituents in which they renewed their original declarations that this paper money should be redeemed at dollar for dollar. They proved the ability of the states to do this, and that their liberty would be cheaply bought at that price. The declaration was ineffectual. No man received the money at a better rate; on the contrary in 6. months more that is by March, 1780 it had fallen to 40 for 1. Congress then tried an experiment of a different kind. Considering their former offers to redeem this money at par, as relinquished by the general refusal to take it but in progressive depreciation, they required the whole to be brought in, declared it should be redeemed at it’s present value of 40 for 1. and that they would give to the holders new bills reduced in their denomination to the sum of gold or silver which was actually to be paid for them. This would reduce the nominal sum of the mass in circulation to the present worth of that mass, which was 5. millions, a sum not too great for the circulation of the states, and which they therefore hoped would not depreciate further, as they continued firm in their purpose of emitting no more. This effort was as unavailing as the former. Very little of the money was brought in. It continued to circulate & to depreciate till the end of 1780, when it had fallen to 75 for one, and the money circulated from the French army being by that time sensible in all the states north of the Patowmac, the paper ceased it’s circulation altogether, in those states. In Virginia & N. Carolina it continued a year longer, within which time it fell to 1000 for 1. and then expired, as it had done in the other states, without a single groan. Not a murmur was heard on this occasion among the people. On the contrary universal congratulations took place on their seeing this gigantic mass whose dissolution had threatened convulsions which should shake their infant confederacy to it’s centre, quietly interred in it’s grave. Foreigners indeed who do not, like the natives, feel indulgence for it’s memory, as of a being which has vindicated their liberties and fallen in the moment of victory, have been loud & still are loud. A few of them have reason but the most noisy are not the best of them. They are persons who have become bankrupt by unskilful attempts at commerce with America. That they may have some pretext to offer to their creditors, they have bought up great masses of this dead money in America, where it is to be had at 5000 for 1, & they show the certificates of their paper possessions as if they had all died in their hands, and had been the cause of their bankruptcy. Justice will be done to all, by paying to all persons what this money actually cost them, with an interest of 6. per cent from the time they received it. If difficulties present themselves in the ascertaining the epoch of the receipt, it has been thought better that the state should lose by admitting easy proofs, than that individuals & especially foreigners should, by being held to such as would be difficult, perhaps impossible.
5. Virginia certainly owed two millions sterling to Great Britain at the conclusion of the war. Some have conjectured the debt as high as three millions. I think that state owed near as much as all the rest put together. This is to be ascribed to peculiarities in the tobacco trade. The advantages made by the British merchants on the tobaccos consigned to them were so enormous that they spared no means of increasing those consignments. A powerful engine for this purpose was the giving good prices & credit to the planter till they got him more immersed in debt than he could pay without selling his lands or slaves. They then reduced the prices given for his tobacco, so that, let his shipments be ever so great, and his demand of necessaries ever so economical, they never permitted him to clear off his debt. These debts had become hereditary from father to son for many generations, so that the planters were a species of property annexed to certain mercantile houses in London.
6. The members of Congress are differently paid by different states. Some are on fixed allowances, from 4. to 8. dollars a day. Others have their expenses paid & a surplus for their time. This surplus is of two, three, or four dollars a day.
7. I do not believe there has ever been a moment when a single whig in any one state would not have shuddered at the very idea of a separation of their state from the Confederacy. The tories would at all times have been glad to see the Confederacy dissolved even by particles at a time, in hopes of their attaching themselves again to Great Britain.
8. The 11th article of Confederation admits Canada to accede to the Confederation at its own will; but adds that “no other colony shall be admitted to the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.” When the plan of April, 1784, for establishing new states was on the carpet, the committee who framed the report of that plan, had inserted this clause, “provided nine states agree to such admission, according to the reservation of the 11th of the articles of Confederation.” It was objected 1. That the words of the confederation “no other colony” could only refer to the residuary possessions of Gr. Britain, as the two Floridas, Nova Scotia, &c. not being already parts of the Union; that the law for “admitting” a new member into the union could not be applied to a territory which was already in the Union, as making part of a state which was a member of it. 2. That it would be improper to allow “nine” states to receive a new member, because the same reasons which rendered that number proper now would render a greater one proper when the number composing the Union should be increased. They therefore struck out this paragraph, and inserted a proviso that “the consent of so many states, in Congress, shall be first obtained as may at the time be competent,” thus leaving the question whether the 11th article applies to the admission of new states? to be decided when that admission shall be asked. See the Journ of Congress of Apr 20, 1784. Another doubt was started in this debate, viz.: whether the agreement of the nine states required by the Confederation was to be made by their legislatures or by their delegates in Congress? The expression adopted viz.: “so many states in Congress is first obtained” shew what was their sense in this matter. If it be agreed that the 11th article of the Confederation is not to be applied to the admission of these new states, then it is contended that their admission comes within the 13th article, which forbids “any alteration unless agreed to in a Congress of the U S, and afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every state. The independence of the new states of Kentucké and Frankland will soon bring on the ultimate decision of all these questions.
9. Particular instances whereby the General assembly of Virginia have shewn that they considered the ordinance, called their Constitution as every other ordinance or act of the legislature, subject to be altered by the legislature for the time being. The convention which formed that Constitution declared themselves to be the house of delegates during the term for which they were originally elected, and in the autumn of the year, met the Senate elected under the new constitution, & did legislative business with them. At this time there were malefactors in the public jail, and there was as yet no court established for their trial. They passed a law appointing certain members by name, who were then members of the Executive council, to be a court for the trial of these malefactors, tho’ the constitution had said, in it’s first clause, that “no person should exercise the powers of more than one of the three departments, legislative, executive & judiciary, at the same time.” This proves that the very men who had made that constitution understood that it would be alterable by the General assembly. This court was only for that occasion. When the next general assembly met after the election of the ensuing year, there was a new set of malefactors in the jail, & no court to try them. This assembly passed a similar law to the former, appointing certain members of the Executive council to be an occasional court for this particular case. Not having the journals of assembly by me, I am unable to say whether this measure was repealed afterwards. However they are instances of executive & judiciary powers exercised by the same persons under the authority of a law, made in contradiction to the Constitution. 2. There was a process depending in the ordinary courts of justice, between two individuals of the name of Robinson & Fauntleroy, who were relations, of different descriptions, to one Robinson a British subject lately dead. Each party claimed a right to inherit the lands of the decedent according to the laws. Their right should, by the constitution, have been decided by the judiciary courts; and it was actually depending before them. One of the parties petitioned the assembly (I think it was in the year 1782) who passed a law deciding the right in his favor. In the following year, a Frenchman, master of a vessel, entered into port without complying with the laws established in such cases, whereby he incurred the forfeitures of the law to any person who would sue for them. An individual instituted a legal process to recover these forfeitures according to the law of the land. The Frenchman petitioned the assembly, who passed a law deciding the question of forfeiture in his favor. These acts are occasional repeals of that part of the constitution which forbids the same person to exercise legislative & judiciary powers at the same time. 3. The assembly is in the habitual exercise during their sessions of directing the Executive what to do. There are few pages of their journals which do not show proofs of this, & consequently instances of the legislative & executive powers exercised by the same persons at the same time. These things prove that it has been the uninterrupted opinion of every assembly, from that which passed the ordinance called the Constitution down to the present day, that their acts may controul that ordinance, & of course that the state of Virginia has no fixed Constitution at all.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE ARTICLE ÉTATS-UNIS PREPARED FOR THE ENCYCLOPÉDIE1
[June 22, 1786.]
1. II. 17. 29. Pa 8. The Malefactors sent to America were not sufficient in number to merit enumeration as one class out of three which peopled America. It was at a late period of their history that this practice began. I have no book by me which enables me to point out the date of it’s commencement. But I do not think the whole number sent would amount to 2000 & being principally men, eaten up with disease, they married seldom & propagated little. I do not suppose that themselves & their descendants are at present 4000, which is little more than one thousandth part of the whole inhabitants.
Indented servants formed a considerable supply. These were poor Europeans who went to America to settle themselves. If they could pay their passage it was well. If not, they must find means of paying it. They were at liberty therefore to make an agreement with any person they chose, to serve him such a length of time as they agreed on, on condition that he would repay to the master of the vessel the expenses of their passage. If being foreigners unable to speak the language, they did not know how to make a bargain for themselves the captain of the vessel contracted for them with such persons as he could. This contract was by deed indented, which occasioned them to be called indented servants. Sometimes they were called Redemptioners, because by their agreement with the master of the vessel they could redeem themselves from his power by paying their passage, which they frequently effected by hiring themselves on their arrival as is before mentioned. In some states I know that these people had a right of marrying themselves without their master’s leave, & I did suppose they had that right everywhere. I did not know that in any of the states they demanded so much as a week for every day’s absence without leave. I suspect this must have been at a very early period while the governments were in the hands of the first emigrants, who being mostly labourers, were narrow-minded and severe. I know that in Virginia the laws allowed their servitude to be protracted only two days for every one they were absent without leave. So mild was this kind of servitude, that it was very frequent for foreigners who carried to America money enough, not only to pay their passage, but to buy themselves a farm, it was common I say for them to indent themselves to a master for three years, for a certain sum of money, with a view to learn the husbandry of the country. I will here make a general observation. So desirous are the poor of Europe to get to America where they may better their condition, that, being unable to pay their passage, they will agree to serve two or three years on their arrival there, rather than not go. During the time of that service they are better fed, better clothed, and have lighter labour than while in Europe. Continuing to work for hire a few years longer, they buy a farm, marry, and enjoy all the sweets of a domestic society of their own. The American governments are censured for permitting this species of servitude which lays the foundation of the happiness of these people. But what should these governments do? Pay the passage of all those who chuse to go into their country? They are not able; nor, were they able, do they think the purchase worth the price? Should they exclude these people from their shores? Those who know their situations in Europe & America, would not say that this is the alternative which humanity dictates. It is said that these people are deceived by those who carry them over. But this is done in Europe. How can the American governments prevent it? Should they punish the deceiver? It seems more incumbent on the European government, where the act is done, and where a public injury is sustained from it. However it is only in Europe that this deception is heard of. The individuals are generally satisfied in America with their adventure, and very few of them wish not to have made it. I must add that the Congress have nothing to do with this matter. It belongs to the legislatures of the several states.
P 26.1 “Une puissance, en effet, devoit statuer, en dernier resort, sur les relations que pouvoient suvire ou servir au sien general,” &c. The account of the settlement of the colonies, which precedes this paragraph, shows that that settlement was not made by public authority, or at the public expence of England; but by the exertions & at the expence of individuals. Hence it happened that their constitutions were not formed systematically but according to the circumstances which happened to exist in each. Hence too, the principles of the political connection between the old & new countries were never settled. That it would have been advantageous to have settled them is certain; and particularly to have provided a body which should decide in the last resort all cases wherein both parties were interested. But it is not certain that that right would have been given, or ought to have been given to the parliament; much less that it resulted to the parliament without having been given to it expressly. Why was it necessary that there should have been a body to decide in the last resort? Because, it would have been for the good of both parties. But this reason shews it ought not to have been the parliament, because that would have exercised it for the good of one party only.
Page 105. As to the change of the 8th article of Confederation for quotaing requisitions of money on the states.
By a report of the Secretary of Congress dated Jan 4, 1786, eight states had then acceded to the proposition, to wit, Massachus., Connect., N. York, N. Jersey, Pennsylva, Maryland, Virginia, & N. Carolina.
Congress, on the 18th of Apr, 1783, recommended to the states to invest them with a power, for 25 years to levy an impost of 5 per cent, on all articles imported from abroad. N Hamp. Mass. Conn. N Jer. Pensa, Delaware, Virga. N Cara. S Cara. had complied with this before the 4th of Jan, 1786. Maryland had passed an act for the same purpose; but by a mistake in referring to the date of the recommendation of Congress, the act failed of it’s effect. This was therefore to be rectified. Since the 4th of January, the public papers tell us that Rhode island has complied fully with this recommendation. It remains still for N York & Georgia to do it. The exportations of America, which are tolerably well known, are the best measure for estimating the importations. These are probably worth about 20 millions of dollars annually. Of course this impost will pay the interest of a debt to that amount. If confined to the foreign debt, it will pay the whole interest of that, and sink half a million of the capital, annually. The expenses of collecting this impost will probably be 6. per cent on it’s amount, this being the usual expense of collection in the U S. This will be 60.000 dollars.
On the 30th of April 1784 Congress recommended to the states to invest them with a power for 15 years to exclude from their ports the vessels of all nations not having a treaty of commerce with them; and to pass as to all nations an act on the principles of the British navigation act. Not that they were disposed to carry these powers into execution with such as would meet them in fair and equal arrangements of commerce; but that they might be able to do it against those who should not. On the 4th of Jan, 1786, N Hamp. Mass. Rho. isld. Connect. N York, Pensa. Maryld. Virga. & N. Carola had done it. It remained for N Jers, Delaware, S Carola, & Georgia to do the same.
In the meantime the general idea has advanced before the demands of Congress, and several states have passed acts for vesting Congress with the whole regulation of their commerce, reserving the revenue arising from these regulations to the disposal of the state in which it is levied. The states which, according to the public papers have passed such acts, are N. Hamp. Mass. Rho. isld. N Jers. Del. and Virga: but, the assembly of Virga, apprehensive that this disjointed method of proceeding may fail in it’s effect, or be much retarded, passed a resolution on the 21st of Jan. 1786, appointing commissioners to meet others from the other states whom they invite into the same measure, to digest the form of an act for investing Congress with such powers over their commerce as shall be thought expedient, which act is to be reported to their several assemblies for their adoption. This was the state of the several propositions relative to the impost, & regulation of commerce at the date of our latest advices from America.
Pa 125. The General assembly of Virginia, at their session in 1785, have passed an act declaring that the District, called Kentucky shall be a separate & independent state, on these conditions. 1. That the people of that district shall consent to it. 2. That Congress shall consent to it & shall receive them into the federal union. 3. That they shall take on themselves a proportionable part of the public debt of Virginia. 4. That they shall confirm all titles to lands within their district made by the state of Virginia, before their separation.
Page 131. “Et sur six assemblées à peine trouvet-on” &c. Jusques à’elles feront un meilleur choix. Page 132. I think it will be better to omit the whole of this passage for reasons which shall be explained in conversation.
Page 139. It was in 1783, & not in 1781, that Congress quitted Philadelphia.
Page 140. “Le Congres qui se trouvoit à la portée des rebelles fut effrayé.” I was not present on this occasion, but I have had relations of the transaction from several who were. The conduct of Congress was marked with indignation & firmness. They received no propositions from the mutineers. They came to the resolutions which may be seen in the journals of June 21, 1783, then adjourned regularly and went through the body of the mutineers to their respective lodgings. The measures taken by Dickinson, the president of Pennsylvania, for punishing this insult, not being satisfactory to Congress, they assembled 9. days after at Princeton in Jersey. The people of Pennsylvania sent petitions declaring their indignation at what had past, their devotion to the federal head, and their dispositions to protect it, & praying them to return; the legislature, as soon as assembled, did the same thing; the Executive whose irresolution had been so exceptionable made apologies. But Congress were now removed; and to the opinion that this example was proper, other causes were now added sufficient to prevent their return to Philadelphia.
Pa. 153. l. 8. ‘400,000 millions,’ should be, ‘400, millions.’
Pa 154. l. 3. From the bottom omettez ‘plus de,’ and l. 2. c’est a dire plus d’un milliard.’
Pa 155. l. 2. Omit “la dette actuelle, &c.
And also, “Les details de cette espece,” &c., &c., &c., to the end of the paragraph “celle des Etats Unis,” page 156. The reason is that these passages seem to suppose that the several sums emitted by Congress at different times, amounted nominally to 200 millions of dollars, had been actually worth that at the time of emission, & of course, that the souldiers & others had received that sum from Congress. But nothing is further from the truth. The souldier, victualler or other persons who received 40 dollars for a service at the close of the year 1779, received in fact no more than he who received one dollar for the same service in the year 1775 or 1776; because in those years the paper money was at par with silver; whereas by the close of 1779 forty paper dollars were worth but one of silver, & would buy no more of the necessaries of life. To know what the monies emitted by Congress were worth to the people at the time they received them, we will state the date & amount of every several emission, the depreciation of paper money at the time, and the real worth of the emission in silver or gold. [See page 41.]
Thus it appears that the 200 millions of Dollars emitted by Congress were worth to those who received them but about 36 millions of silver dollars. If we estimate at the same value the like sum of 200 millions, supposed to have been emitted by the states, and state the Federal debt, foreign & domestic,
at about 43 millions, and the state debts, at about 25 millions, it will form an amount of 140. millions of Dollars, or 735 millions of livres Tournois, the total sum which the war has cost the inhabitants of the U. S. It continued 8. years from the battle of Lexington to the cessation of hostilities in America. The annual expense then was about 17,500,000 Dollars, while that of our enemies was a greater number of guineas.
It will be asked How will the two masses of Continental & of State money have cost the people of the U. S. 72 millions of dollars, when they are to be redeemed now with about six millions? I answer that the difference, being 66. millions has been lost on the paper bills separately by the successive holders of them. Every one, thro whose hands a bill passed, lost on that bill what it lost in value, during the time it was in his hands. This was a real tax on him; & in this way the people of the United States actually contributed those 66 millions of dollars during the war, and by a mode of taxation the most oppressive of all, because the most unequal of all.
Pa. 157. l. 2. from bottom, ‘cinquantieme,’ this should be ‘dixieme.’
Pa. 158. l. 8. Elles ont fait des reductions,’ they have not reduced the debt, but instead of expressing it in paper money, as formerly, they express it by the equivalent sum in silver or gold, being the true sum it has cost the present creditor, and what therefore they are bound in justice to pay him. For the same reason strike out the words ‘ainsi reduites’ second line from the bottom.
Pa. 161. l. 8. ‘Point de remboursements en 1784,’ except the interest.
Pa 166, bottom line. “Et c’est une autre economie,” &c. The reason of this is that in 1784, purchases of land were to be made of the Indians which were accordingly made. But in 1785. they did not propose to make any purchase. The money desired in 1785, 5000 dollars was probably to pay agents residing among the Indians, or balances of the purchase of 1784. These purchases will not be made every year; but only at distant intervals as our settlements are extended; and it may be taken for a certainty that not a foot of land will ever be taken from the Indians without their own consent. The sacredness of their right, is felt by all thinking persons in America as much as in Europe.
Pa 170. Virginia was quotaed the highest of any state in the Union. But during the war, several states appear to have paid more, because they were free from the enemy, whilst Virginia was cruelly ravaged. The requisition of 1784, was so quotaed on the several states, as to bring up their arrearages so that when they should have paid the sums then demanded all would be on equal footing. It is necessary to give a further explanation of this requisition. The requisitions of 1.200,000 Dollars, of 8. millions & 2 millions had been made during the war as an experiment to see whether in that situation the states could furnish the necessary supplies. It was found they could not. The money was thereupon obtained by loans in Europe; & Congress meant by their requisition of 1784, to abandon the requisitions of 1.200.000 & of 2. millions, and also one half of the 8. millions. But as all the states almost had made some paiments in part of that requisition, they were obliged to retain such a proportion of it, as would enable them to call for equal contributions from all the others.
Pa 170. I cannot say how it has happened that the debt of Connecticut is greater than that of Virginia. The latter is the richest in productions, and perhaps made greater exertions to pay for her supplies in the course of the war.
172. “Les Americains si vantés apres une banqueroute, &c. The objections made to the U. S. being here condensed together in a short compass, perhaps it would not be improper to condense the answers in as small a compass, in some such form as follows. That is, after the words “aucun espoir,” add, “but to these charges it may be justly answered that those are no bankrupts who acknoledge the sacredness of their debts in their just & real amount, who are able within a reasonable time to pay them, & who are actually proceeding in that paiment; that they furnish actually the supplies necessary for the support of their government; that their officers & souldiers are satisfied, as the interest of their debt is paid regularly, and the principals are in a course of paiment; that the question whether they fought ill, should be asked of those who met them at Bunker’s hill, Bennington, Stillwater, King’s mountain, the Cowpens, Guilford and the Eutaw. And that the charges of ingratitude, madness, infidelity, and corruption are easily made by those to whom falsehoods cost nothing; but that no instances in support of them have been produced or can be produced.”
Pa 187. “Les officiérs et les soldats ont eté payés” &c. The balances due to the officers & souldiers have been ascertained, & a certificate of the sum given to each; on these the interest is regularly paid; and every occasion is seized of paying the principals by receiving these certificates as money, whenever public property is sold, till a more regular & effectual method can be taken, for paying the whole.
Pa 191. “Quoique la loi dont nous parlons, ne s’observe plus en Angleterre.” Blackstone B. 1. c. 10. pa. 372. “An alien born may purchase lands or other estates; but not for his own use; for the king is thereupon entitled to them.” “Yet an alien may acquire a property in goods, money & other personal estate, or may hire a house for his habitation for this is necessary for the advancement of trade.”—“Also an alien may bring an action concerning personal property, & may make a will & dispose of his personal estate.” “When I mention these rights of an alien, I must be understood of alien friends only, or such whose countries are in peace with ours; for alien enemies have no rights, no privileges, unless by the king’s special favour, during the time of war.” “An alien friend may have personal actions, but not real; an alien enemy shall have neither real, personal, or mixt actions. The reason why an alien friend is allowed to maintain a personal action is, because he would otherwise be incapacitated to merchandise, which may be as much to our prejudice as his.” Cunningham’s law dict. voce, aliens. The above is the clear law of England, practiced from the earliest ages to this day, & never denied. The passage quoted by M. de Meusnier from 2 Blackstone, ch. 26, is from his chapter “of title to things personal by occupancy.” The word “personal,” shews that nothing in this chapter relates to lands, which are real estate, and therefore this passage does not contradict the one before quoted from the same author B. 1 c. 10 which sais that the lands of an alien belong to the king. The words “of title by occupancy” shew that it does not relate to debts, which being a moral existence only, cannot be the subject of occupancy. Blackstone in this passage B. 2. c. 26. speaks only of personal goods of an alien which another may find and seize as prime occupant.
Pa 193. “Le remboursement presentera des difficultés des sommes considerables” &c. There is no difficulty nor doubt on this subject. Every one is sensible how this is to be ultimately settled. Neither the British creditor, nor the state will be permitted to lose by these paiments. The debtor will be credited with what he paid according to what it was really worth at the time he paid it, and he must pay the balance. Nor does he lose by this: for if a man, who owed 1000 dollars to a British merchant, paid 800 paper dollars into the treasury when the depreciation was at 8 for 1. it is clear he paid but 100 real dollars, & must now pay 900. It is probable he received those 800 dollars for 100 bushels of wheat, which were never worth more than 100 silver dollars. He is credited therefore the full worth of his wheat. The equivoque is in the use of the word “dollar.”
Pa. 223. l. 6. ‘Le comité charge de cette revision a publée son travail.’ Rather say ‘the committee charged with this work reported it in the year 1779 to the assembly, who ordered it to be printed for consideration in the year 1781—and who in their session of 1785–6: passed between 30. & 40. of the bills, meaning to resume it at their successive sessions till they shall have gone thro’ the whole.’
Pa 225. ‘Mais elle y acté insereé depuis.’ Rather say ‘but they prepared an amendment with an intention of having it proposed at the time the bill should be under discussion before the assembly. Selon cette amendment les enfans des esclaves demeurevoient’ &c.
Page 226. l. 11. “Qu’on abolisse les privileges du clergé.” This privilege originally allowed to the clergy, is now extended to every man, & even to women. It is a right of exemption from capital punishment for the first offence in most cases. It is then a pardon by the law. In other cases the Executive gives the pardon. But when laws are made as mild as they should be, both those pardons are absurd. The principle of Beccaria is sound. Let the legislators be merciful but the executors of the law inexorable. As the term “privileges du clergé” may be understood by foreigners, perhaps, it will be better to strike it out here, & to substitute the word “pardon.”
Pa. 238. ‘Plongés dans la mer. . .’ The English word ‘ducked’ means to ‘plunge the party into water’ no matter whether of the sea, a river, or pond.
Pa 239. “Les commissaries veulent &c. Manslaughter is the killing a man with design, but in a sudden gust of passion, and where the killer has not had time to cool. The first offence is not punished capitally, but the second is. This is the law of England & of all the American states; & is not a new proposition. Those laws have supposed that a man whose passions have so much dominion over him as to lead him to repeated acts of murder, is unsafe to society: that it is better he should be put to death by the law, than others more innocent than himself on the movements of his impetuous passions.
Ib. l. 12. “Mal-aisé d’ indiquer la nuance precise &c. In forming a scale of crimes & punishments, two considerations have principal weight. 1. The atrocity of the crime. 2. The peculiar circumstances of a country which furnish greater temptations to commit it, or greater facilities for escaping detection. The punishment must be heavier to counterbalance this. Was the first the only consideration, all nations would form the same scale. But as the circumstances of a country have influence on the punishment, and no two countries exist precisely under the same circumstances, no two countries will form the same scale of crimes & punishments. For example in America, the inhabitants let their horses go at large in the uninclosed lands which are so extensive as to maintain them altogether. It is easy therefore to steal them & easy to escape. Therefore the laws are obliged to oppose these temptations with a heavier degree of punishment. For this reason the stealing of a horse in America is punished more severely than stealing the same value in any other form. In Europe where horses are confined so securely that it is impossible to steal them, that species of theft need not be punished more severely than any other. In some countries of Europe, stealing fruit from trees is punished capitally. The reason is that it being impossible to lock fruit trees up in coffers, as we do our money, it is impossible to oppose physical bars to this species of theft. Moral ones are therefore opposed by the laws. This to an unreflecting American, appears the most enormous of all the abuses of power; because he has been used to see fruits hanging in such quantities that if not taken by men they would rot: he has been used to consider it therefore of no value, as not furnishing materials for the commission of a crime. This must serve as an apology for the arrangements of crimes & punishments in the scale under our consideration. A different one would be formed here; & still different ones in Italy, Turkey, China, &c.
Pa. 240. “Les officiers Americains &c. to pa 264. “qui le meritoient.” I would propose to new-model this Section in the following manner. 1. Give a succinct history of the origin & establishment of the Cincinnati. 2. Examine whether in its present form it threatens any dangers to the state. 3. Propose the most practicable method of preventing them.
Having been in America during the period in which this institution was formed, and being then in a situation which gave me opportunities of seeing it in all it’s stages, I may venture to give M. de Meusnier materials for the 1st branch of the preceding distribution of the subject. The 2d and 3d he will best execute himself. I should write it’s history in the following form.
When, on the close of that war which established the independance of America, it’s army was about to be disbanded, the officers, who during the course of it had gone thro the most trying scenes together, who by mutual aids & good offices had become dear to one another, felt with great oppression of mind the approach of that moment which was to separate them never perhaps to meet again. They were from different states & from distant parts of the same state. Hazard alone could therefore give them but rare & partial occasions of seeing each other. They were of course to abandon altogether the hope of ever meeting again, or to devise some occasion which might bring them together. And why not come together on purpose at stated times? Would not the trouble of such a journey be greatly over-paid by the pleasure of seeing each other again, by the sweetest of all consolations, the talking over the scenes of difficulty & of endearment they had gone through? This too would enable them to know who of them should succeed in the world, who should be unsuccessful, and to open the purses of all to every labouring brother. This idea was too soothing not to be cherished in conversation. It was improved into that of a regular association with an organized administration, with periodical meetings general & particular, fixed contributions for those who should be in distress, & a badge by which not only those who had not had occasion to become personally known should be able to recognize one another, but which should be worn by their descendants to perpetuate among them the friendships which had bound their ancestors together. Genl. Washington was at that moment oppressed with the operation of disbanding an army which was not paid, and the difficulty of this operation was increased by some two or three of the states having expressed sentiments which did not indicate a sufficient attention to their paiment. He was sometimes present when his officers were fashioning in their conversations their newly proposed society. He saw the innocence of it’s origin, & foresaw no effects less innocent. He was at that time writing his valedictory letter to the states, which has been so deservedly applauded by the world. Far from thinking it a moment to multiply the causes of irritation, by thwarting a proposition which had absolutely no other basis but of benevolence & friendship, he was rather satisfied to find himself aided in his difficulties by this new incident, which occupied, &, at the time soothed the minds of the officers. He thought too that this institution would be one instrument the more for strengthening the federal bond, & for promoting federal ideas. The institution was formed. They incorporated into it the officers of the French army & navy by whose sides they had fought, and with whose aid they had finally prevailed, extending it to such grades as they were told might be permitted to enter into it. They sent an officer to France to make the proposition to them & to procure the badges which they had devised for their order. The moment of disbanding the army having come on before they could have a full meeting to appoint their president, the General was prayed to act in that office till their first general meeting which was to be held at Philadelphia in the month of May following. The laws of the society were published. Men who read them in their closets, unwarmed by those sentiments of friendship which had produced them, inattentive to those pains which an approaching separation had excited in the minds of the institutors, Politicians, who see in everything only the dangers with which it threatens civil society, in fine the labouring people, who, shielded by equal laws, had never seen any difference between man and man, but had read of terrible oppressions which people of their description experience in other countries from those who are distinguished by titles & badges, began to be alarmed at this new institution. A remarkable silence however was observed. Their sollicitudes were long confined within the circles of private conversation. At length however a Mr. Burke, chief justice of South Carolina, broke that silence. He wrote against the new institution; foreboding it’s dangers very imperfectly indeed, because he had nothing but his imagination to aid him. An American could do no more: for to detail the real evils of aristocracy they must be seen in Europe. Burke’s fears were thought exaggerations in America; while in Europe it is known that even Mirabeau has but faintly sketched the curses of hereditary aristocracy as they are experienced here, and as they would have followed in America had this institution remained. The epigraph of Burke’s pamphlet was “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion.” It’s effect corresponded with it’s epigraph. This institution became first the subject of general conversation. Next it was made the subject of deliberation in the legislative assemblies of some of the States. The governor of South Carolina censured it in an address to his Assembly. The assemblies of Massachusetts, Rhode island and Pennsylvania condemned it’s principles. No circumstance indeed brought the consideration of it expressly before Congress, yet it had sunk deep into their minds. An offer having been made to them on the part of the Polish order of divine providence to receive some of their distinguished citizens into that order, they made that an occasion to declare that these distinctions were contrary to the principles of their confederation. The uneasiness excited by this institution had very early caught the notice of General Washington. Still recollecting all the purity of the motives which gave it birth, he became sensible that it might produce political evils which the warmth of these motives had masked. Add to this that it was disapproved by the mass of citizens of the Union. This alone was reason strong enough in a country where the will of the majority is the law, & ought to be the law. He saw that the objects of the institution were too light to be opposed to considerations as serious as these; and that it was become necessary to annihilate it absolutely. On this therefore he was decided. The first annual meeting at Philadelphia was now at hand. He went to that, determined to exert all his influence for it’s suppression. He proposed it to his fellow officers, and urged it with all his powers. It met an opposition which was observed to cloud his face with an anxiety that the most distressful scenes of the war had scarcely ever produced. It was canvassed for several days, & at length it was no more a doubt what would be it’s ultimate fate. The order was on the point of receiving it’s annihilation by the vote of a very great majority of it’s members. In this moment their envoy arrived from France, charged with letters from the French officers accepting with cordiality the proposed badges of union, with sollicitations from others to be received into the order, & with notice that their respectable sovereign had been pleased to recognize it, & permit his officers to wear it’s badges. The prospect now changed. The question assumed a new form. After the offer made by them, & accepted by their friends, in what words could they clothe a proposition to retract it which would not cover themselves with the reproaches of levity & ingratitude? which would not appear an insult to those whom they loved? Federal principles, popular discontent, were considerations whose weight was known & felt by themselves. But would foreigners know & feel them equally? Would they so far acknowledge their cogency as to permit without any indignation the eagle & ribbon to be torn from their breasts by the very hands which had placed them there? The idea revolted the whole society. They found it necessary then to preserve so much of their institution as might continue to support this foreign branch, while they should prune off every other which would give offence to their fellow citizens; thus sacrificing on each hand to their friends & to their country. The society was to retain it’s existence, it’s name, it’s meetings, & it’s charitable funds: but these last were to be deposited with their respective legislatures; the order was to be no longer hereditary; a reformation which had been pressed even from this side of the Atlantic; it was to be communicated to no new members; the general meetings instead of annual were to be triennial only. The eagle & ribbon indeed were retained; because they were worn, & they wished them to be worn, by their friends who were in a country where they would not be objects of offence; but themselves never wore them. They laid them up in their bureaus with the medals of American Independance, with those of the trophies they had taken & the battles they had won. But through all the United States no officer is seen to offend the public eye with the display of this badge. These changes have tranquillized the American states. Their citizens do justice to the circumstances which prevented a total annihilation of the order. They feel too much interest in the reputation of their officers, and value too much whatever may serve to recall to the memory of their allies the moments wherein they formed but one people. Tho they are obliged by a prudent foresight to keep out everything from among themselves which might pretend to divide them into orders, and to degrade one description of men below another, yet they hear with pleasure that their allies whom circumstances have already placed under these distinctions, are willing to consider it as one to have aided them in the establishment of their liberties & to wear a badge which may recall to their remembrance; and it would be an extreme affliction to them if the domestic reformation which has been found necessary, if the censures of individual writers, or if any other circumstance should discourage the wearing their badge, or lessen it’s reputation.
This short but true history of the order of the Cincinnati, taken from the mouths of persons on the spot who were privy to it’s origin & progress, & who knew it’s present state, is the best apology which can be made for an institution which appeared to be, & was really, so heterogeneous to the governments in which it was erected.
It should be further considered that, in America, no other distinction between man & man had ever been known, but that of persons in office exercising powers by authority of the laws, and private individuals. Among these last the poorest labourer stood on equal ground with the wealthiest millionnaire, & generally on a more favoured one whenever their rights seem to jar. It has been seen that a shoemaker, or other artisan, removed by the voice of his country from his work bench into a chair of office, has instantly commanded all the respect and obedience which the laws ascribe to his office. But of distinction by birth or badge they had no more idea than they had of the mode of existence in the moon or planets. They had heard only that there were such, & knew that they must be wrong. A due horror of the evils which flow from these distinctions could be excited in Europe only, where the dignity of man is lost in arbitrary distinctions, where the human species is classed into several stages of degradation, where the many are crushed under the weight of the few, & where the order established can present to the contemplation of a thinking being no other picture than that of God almighty & his angels trampling under foot the hosts of the damned. No wonder then that the institution of the Cincinnati should be innocently conceived by one order of American citizens, could raise in the other orders only a slow, temperate, & rational opposition, and could be viewed in Europe as a detestable parricide
The 2d & 3d branches of this subject, no body can better execute than M. de. Meusnier. Perhaps it may be curious to him to see how they strike an American mind at present. He shall therefore have the ideas of one who was an enemy to the institution from the first moment of it’s conception, but who was always sensible that the officers neither foresaw, nor intended the injury they were doing to their country.
As to the question then, whether any evil can proceed from the institution as it stands at present, I am of opinion there may. 1. From the meetings. These will keep the officers formed into a body; will continue a distinction between the civil & military which it would be for the good of the whole to obliterate as soon as possible; & the military assemblies will not only keep alive the jealousies & the fears of the civil government, but give ground for these fears & jealousies. For when men meet together, they will make business if they have none; they will collate their grievances, some real, some imaginary, all highly painted; they will communicate to each other the sparks of discontent; & this may engender a flame which will consume their particular, as well as the general, happiness. 2. The charitable part of the institution is still more likely to do mischief, as it perpetuates the dangers apprehended in the preceding clause. For here is a fund provided of permanent existence. To whom will it belong? To the descendants of American officers of a certain description. These descendants then will form a body, having sufficient interest to keep up an attention to their description, to continue meetings, & perhaps, in some moment, when the political eye shall be slumbering, or the firmness of their fellow-citizens realized, to replace the insignia of the order & revive all its pretensions. What good can the officers propose which may weigh against these possible evils? The securing their descendants against want? Why afraid to trust them to the same fertile soil, & the same genial climate which will secure from want the descendants of their other fellow citizens? Are they afraid they will be reduced to labour the earth for their sustenance? They will be rendered thereby both honester and happier. An industrious farmer occupies a more dignified place in the scale of beings, whether moral or political, than a lazy lounger, valuing himself on his family, too proud to work, & drawing out a miserable existence by eating on that surplus of other men’s labour which is the sacred fund of the helpless poor. A pitiful annuity will only prevent them from exerting that industry & those talents which would soon lead them to better fortune.
How are these evils to be prevented? 1. At their first general meeting let them distribute the funds on hand to the existing objects of their destination, & discontinue all further contributions. 2. Let them declare at the same time that their meetings general & particular shall henceforth cease. 3. Let them melt up their eagles & add the mass to the distributable fund that their descendants may have no temptation to hang them in their button holes.
These reflections are not proposed as worthy the notice of M. de Meusnier. He will be so good as to treat the subject in his own way, & no body has a better. I will only pray him to avail us of his forcible manner to evince that there is evil to be apprehended even from the ashes of this institution, & to exhort the society in America to make their reformation complete; bearing in mind that we must keep the passions of men on our side even when we are persuading them to do what they ought to do.
Pa. 268. “Et en effet la population” &c. 270. “Plus de confiance.”
To this we answer that no such census of the numbers was ever given out by Congress nor ever presented to them: and further that Congress never has at any time declared by their vote the number of inhabitants in their respective states. On the 22d of June 1775 they first resolved to remit paper money. The sum resolved on was 2. millions of dollars. They declared then that the 12 confederate colonies (for Georgia had not yet joined them) should be pledged for the redemption of these bills. To ascertain in what proportion each state should be bound, the members from each were desired to say as nearly as they could what was the number of the inhabitants of their respective states. They were very much unprepared for such a declaration. They guessed however as well as they could. The following are the numbers, as they conjectured them, & the subsequent apportionment of the 2. millions of dollars.
Georgia having not yet acceded to the measures of the other states, was not quotaed; but their numbers were generally estimated at about 30,000 & so would have made the whole 2,448,000 persons of every condition. But it is to be observed that tho Congress made this census the basis of their apportionment, yet they did not even give it a place on their journals; much less publish it to the world with their sanction. The way it got abroad was this. As the members declared from their seats the number of inhabitants which they conjectured to be in their state, the secretary of Congress wrote them on a piece of paper, calculated the portion of 2 millions of dollars accordingly & entered the sum only in the journals. The members however for their own satisfaction and the information of their states, took copies of this enumeration & sent them to their states. From thence they got into the public papers: and when the English newswriters found it answered their purpose to compare this with the numeration of 1783, as their principle is “to lie boldly that they may not be suspected of lying” they made it amount to 3,137,809 and ascribed it’s publication to Congress itself.
In April 1785, Congress being to call on the states to raise a million & a half of dollars annually for 25 years, it was necessary to apportion this among them. The states had never furnished them with their exact numbers. It was agreed too that in this apportionment 5 slaves should be counted as 3 freemen only. The preparation of this business was in the hands of a Committee. They applied to the members for the best information they could give them of the numbers of their states. Some of the states had taken pains to discover their numbers. Others had done nothing in that way, & of course were now where they were in 1775 when their members were first called on to declare their numbers. Under these circumstances, & on the principle of counting three-fifths only of the slaves, the Committee apportioned the money among the states & reported their work to Congress. In this they had assessed S. Carolina as having 170,000 inhabitants. The delegate for that state however prevailed on Congress to assess them on the footing of 150,000 only, in consideration of the state of total devastation in which the enemy had left their country. The difference was then laid on the other states, and the following was the result.
Still however Congress refused to give the numeration the sanction of a place on their journals, because it was not formed on such evidence as a strict attention to accuracy & truth required. They used it from necessity, because they could get no better rule, and they entered on their journals only the apportionment of money. The members, however, as before, took copies of the numeration which was the groundwork of the apportionment, sent them to their states, & thus this second numeration got into the public papers, & was by the English ascribed to Congress, as their declaration of the present numbers. To get at the real numbers which this numeration supposes, we must add 20.000 to the number on which S. Carolina was quotæed; we must consider that 700.000 slaves are counted but as 420.000 persons, & add on that account 280.000. This will give us a total of 2.639.300 inhabitants of every condition in the 13 states, being 221.300 more than the numeration of 1775, instead of 798.509 loss, which the English papers asserted to be the diminution of numbers in the United States according to the confession of Congress itself.
Pa. 272. “Comportera peut etre une population de thirty millions.”
The territories of the United States contain about a million of square miles, English. There is in them a greater proportion of fertile lands than in the British dominions in Europe. Suppose the territory of the U. S. then to attain an equal degree of population with the British European dominions, they will have an hundred millions of inhabitants. Let us extend our views to what may be the population of the two continents of North & South America supposing them divided at the narrowest part of the isthmus of Panama. Between this line and that of 50° of north latitude the northern continent contains about 5 millions of square miles, and South of this line of division the Southern continent contains about 7 millions of square miles. I do not pass the 50th degree of northern latitude in my reckoning, because we must draw a line somewhere, & considering the soil & climate beyond that, I would only avail my calculation of it, as a make weight, to make good what the colder regions within that line may be supposed to fall short in their future population. Here are 12 millions of square miles then, which at the rate of population before assumed, will nourish 1200 millions of inhabitants, a number greater than the present population of the whole globe is supposed to amount to. If those who propose medals for the resolution of questions, about which nobody makes any question, those who have invited discussions on the pretended problem Whether the discovery of America was for the good of mankind? if they, I say, would have viewed it only as doubling the numbers of mankind, & of course the quantum of existence & happiness, they might have saved the money & the reputation which their proposition has cost them. The present population of the inhabited parts of the U. S. is of about 10. to the square mile; & experience has shown us, that wherever we reach that the inhabitants become uneasy, as too much compressed, and go off in great numbers to search for vacant country. Within 40 years the whole territory will be peopled at that rate. We may fix that then as the term beyond which the people of those states will not be restrained within their present limits; we may fix it too as the term of population, which they will not exceed till the whole of those two continents are filled up to that mark, that is to say, till they shall contain 120 millions of inhabitants. The soil of the country on the western side of the Mississippi, it’s climate, & it’s vicinity to the U. S. point it out as the first which will receive population from that nest. The present occupiers will just have force enough to repress & restrain the emigrations to a certain degree of consistence. We have seen lately a single person go & decide on a settlement in Kentucky, many hundred miles from any white inhabitant, remove thither with his family and a few neighbors, & though perpetually harassed by the Indians, that settlement in the course of 10 years has acquired 30.000 inhabitants, it’s numbers are increasing while we are writing, and the state of which it formerly made a part has offered it independance.
Pa. 280. line five. “Huit des onze etats” &c. Say “there were ten states present. 6. voted unanimously for it, 3 against it, and one was divided: and seven votes being requisite to decide the proposition affirmatively, it was lost. The voice of a single individual of the state which was divided, or of one of those which were of the negative, would have prevented this abominable crime from spreading itself over the new country. Thus we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, & heaven was silent in that awful moment! But it is to be hoped it will not always be silent & that the friends to the rights of human nature will in the end prevail. On the 16th of March 1785 it was moved in Congress that the same proposition should be referred to a Committee, & it was referred by the votes of 8 states against 3. We do not hear that anything further is yet done on it.”
Pa. 280. Note (a). I would wish this note to be omitted.
Pa. 281. “L’ acte federatif lui donne le droit de prononcer sur tout ce qui a rapport, au bien general de l’union, & line 6 the word ’ainsi.” It is better to omit these words, the passage stands right without them, & they would give a false idea not only of the principle on which Congress proceeded, but of their general powers.
Pa. 283. line 4. from bottom. “8 per cent, excepté en Virginie ou il etoit de 6 per cent” say “5 per cent in most, if not in all the states & still continues the same.”
Pa. 286. “L’autorité du Congrés etoit necessaire.” The substance of the passage alluded to in the Journ of Congr., May 26th. 1784, is, “that the authority of Congress to make requisitions of troops during peace is questioned, that such an authority would be dangerous, combined with the acknoledged one of emitting or borrowing money, and that a few troops only being wanted to guard magazines & garrison the frontier posts, it would be more proper at present to recommend than to require.”
Pa. 287. ‘Nous n’osons nous permettre &c.—ce n’est pas tout’ in the fourth line of the next page. I think all this passage had better be left out. It will alarm the states & damp their dispositions to strengthen the hands of Congress.
Pa. 291. l. 8. from the bottom. ‘Tous les terreins qui se trouvent en deca.’ Say ‘toute la territoire de Kentucky qui est en deca.’
Pa. 291. l. 6 from bottom. After ‘appartenoient’ add ‘au celle des Montagnes Alleghanies.’
Pa. 296. ‘Consentement unanimé,’ the words in the original are the ‘joint consent of Congress & of the particular state’ on the part of Congress the vote need not be unanimous. Seven states will suffice. This observation shews that the passage ‘on sera peutetre surpris’—to ‘dont nous parlous’ should be omitted.
Pa. 301. ‘Environ’ the word ‘probablement’ might be better, because it is probable that the cessions of Georgia will be such as will make up the number of new states 16.
Pa. 301, l. 3 from bottom. ‘Huit ou dix ans.’ It would be safer to say ‘peu d’années.
Pa, 302. ‘40.000’ should not this be ‘32.000’? Also pa. 304.
Pa. 304. ‘Canne à sucre’ is a mistaken translation of the English word ‘cane,’ which means a reed i.e. canne, ou roseau. It is the Arundo phragmitis of the botanists. By ‘Coffee tree’ the author must mean some tree bearing berries which are used as coffee. There can certainly be no coffee tree in that latitude.
Pa. 307. Omit the note (a). It has been before observed that Virginia has consented to the independance of Kentucky, but the consent of Kentucky itself & of Congress are still wanting.
Pa. 323. Between line 7. & 8. I can make a communication to M. de Meusnier which I dare say he will be glad to give an account of at this place.
Pa. 334. ‘150.000.’ I am of opinion that the proportion of persons to warriors among the Indians may be greatly estimated at about 10 to 3. Consequently we must not reckon that nations of Indians containing 25.000 warriors have more than about 80.000 persons.
Pa. 334. line 2. from bottom. ‘11 degrees,’ say 12 or 15 degrees.’
Finished June 22. 1786.
Mr. Jefferson presents his compliments to M. de Meusnier & sends him copies of the 13th, 23d, & 24th articles of the treaty between the K. of Prussia & the United States.
In the negociation with the Minister of Portugal at London, the latter objected to the 13th article. The observations which were made in answer to his objections Mr. Jefferson incloses. They are a commentary on the 13th article. Mr. de Meusnier will be so good as to return the sheet on which these observations are as Mr. Jefferson does not retain a copy of it.
If M. de Meusnier proposes to mention the facts of cruelty of which he & Mr. Jefferson spoke yesterday, the 24th article will introduce them properly, because they produced a sense of the necessity of that article. These facts are 1. The death of upwards of 11,000 Americans in one prison ship (the Jersey) and in the space of 3. years. 2. General Howe’s permitting our prisoners taken at the battle of Germantown and placed under a guard in the yard of the Statehouse of Philadelphia to be so long without any food furnished them that many perished with hunger. Where the bodies laid, it was seen that they had eaten all the grass round them within their reach, after they had lost the power of rising, or moving from their place. 3. The 2d fact was the act of a commandg officer; the 1st of several commanding officers, & for so long a time as must suppose the approbation of government. But the following was the act of government itself. During the periods that our affairs seemed unfavourable & theirs successful, that is to say, after the evacuation of New York, and again after the taking of Charlestown in South Carolina, they regularly sent our prisoners taken on the seas & carried to England to the E. Indies. This is so certain, that in the month of Novemb. or Decemb. 1785, Mr. Adams having officially demanded a delivery of the American prisoners sent to the East Indies, Ld. Cærmarthen answered officially “that orders were issued immediately for their discharge.” M. de Meusnier is at liberty to quote this fact. 4. A fact not only of the government, but of the parliament, who passed an act for that purpose in the beginning of the war, was the obliging our prisoners taken at sea to join them and fight against their countrymen. This they effected by starving & whipping them. The insult on Capt. Stanhope, which happened at Boston last year, was a consequence of this. Two persons, Dunbar & Lorthrope, whom Stanhope had treated in this manner (having particularly inflicted 24 lashes on Dunbar), meeting him at Boston, attempted to beat him. But the people interposed & saved him. The fact is referred to in that paragraph of the declaration of independence which sais “he has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends & brethern, or to fall themselves by their hands.” This was the most afflicting to our prisoners of all the cruelties exercised on them. The others affected the body only, but this the mind—they were haunted by the horror of having perhaps themselves shot the ball by which a father or a brother fell. Some of them had constancy enough to hold out against half allowance of food & repeated whippings. These were generally sent to England & from thence to the East Indies. One of these escaped from the East Indies and got back to Paris, where he gave an account of his sufferings to Mr. Adams, who happened to be then at Paris.
M. de Meusnier, where he mentions that the slave-law has been passed in Virginia, without the clause of emancipation, is pleased to mention that neither Mr. Wythe nor Mr. Jefferson were present to make the proposition they had meditated; from which people, who do not give themselves the trouble to reflect or enquire, might conclude hastily that their absence was the cause why the proposition was not made; & of course that there were not in the assembly persons of virtue & firmness enough to propose the clause for emancipation. This supposition would not be true. There were persons there who wanted neither the virtue to propose, nor talents to enforce the proposition had they seen that the disposition of the legislature was ripe for it. These worthy characters would feel themselves wounded, degraded, & discouraged by this idea. Mr. Jefferson would therefore be obliged to M. de Meusnier to mention it in some such manner as this. “Of the two commissioners who had concerted the amendatory clause for the gradual emancipation of slaves Mr. Wythe could not be present as being a member of the judiciary department, and Mr. Jefferson was absent on the legation to France. But there wanted not in that assembly men of virtue enough to propose, & talents to vindicate this clause. But they saw that the moment of doing it with success was not yet arrived, and that an unsuccessful effort, as often happens, would only rivet still closer the claims of bondage, and retard the moment of delivery to this oppressed description of men. What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment & death itself in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment be deaf to all those motives whose power supported him thro’ his trial, and inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose. But we must await with patience the workings of an overruling providence, & hope that that is preparing the deliverance of these, our suffering brethren. When the measure of their tears shall be full, when their groans shall have involved heaven itself in darkness, doubtless a god of justice will awaken to their distress, and by diffusing light & liberality among their oppressors, or at length by his exterminating thunder, manifest his attention to the things of this world, and that they are not left to the guidance of a blind fatality.”
TO JOHN JAY
Paris, 25. Jan. 1786.
—I received on the 18th instant your private favor of Dec. 9. and thank you for the confidence you are so good as to repose in me, of which that communication is a proof. As such it is a gratification to me, because it meets the esteem I have ever borne you. But nothing was needed to keep my mind right on that subject, and I believe I may say the public mind here. The sentiments entertained of you in this place are too respectful to be easily shaken. The person of whom you speak in your letter arrived here on the 19th and departed for Warsaw1 on the 22d. It is really to be lamented that after a public servant has passed a life in important and faithful services, after having given the most plenary satisfaction in every station, it should yet be in the power of every individual to disturb his quiet, by arraigning him in a gazette and by obliging him to act as if he needed a defence, an obligation imposed on him by unthinking minds which never give themselves the trouble of seeking a reflection unless it be presented to them. However it is a part of the price we pay for our liberty, which cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it. To the loss of time, of labour, of money, then, must be added that of quiet, to which those must offer themselves who are capable of serving the public, and all this is better than European bondage. Your quiet may have suffered for a moment on this occasion, but you have the strongest of all supports that of the public esteem. It is unnecessary to add assurances of that with which I have the honor to be dear Sir,
Your most obedient and most humble Servt.
TO ARCHIBALD STUART1
Paris, Jan. 25, 1786.
—I have received your favor of the 17th of October, which though you mention as the third you have written me, is the first which has come to hand. I sincerely thank you for the communications it contains. Nothing is so grateful to me at this distance as details both great & small of what is passing in my own country. Of the latter we receive little here, because they either escape my correspondents or are thought unworthy notice. This however is a very mistaken opinion, as every one may observe by recollecting that when he has been long absent from his neighborhood the small news of that is the most pleasing and occupies his first attention either when he meets with a person from thence, or returns thither himself. I shall hope therefore that the letter in which you have been so good as to give me the minute occurrences in the neighborhood of Monticello may yet come to hand. And I venture to rely on the many proofs of friendship I have received from you, for a continuance of your favors. This will be the most meritorious as I have nothing to give you in exchange. The quiet of Europe at this moment furnishes little which can attract your notice. Nor will that quiet be soon disturbed, at least for the current year. Perhaps it hangs on the life of the K. of Prussia, and that hangs by a very slender thread. American reputation in Europe is not such as to be flattering to its citizens. Two circumstances are particularly objected to us, the nonpaiment of our debts, and the want of energy in our government. These discourage a connection with us. I own it to be my opinion that good will arise from the destruction of our credit. I see nothing else which can restrain our disposition to luxury, and the loss of those manners which alone can preserve republican government. As it is impossible to prevent credit, the best way would be to cure it’s ill effects by giving an instantaneous recovery to the creditor; this would be reducing purchases on credit to purchases for ready money. A man would then see a poison painted on everything he wished but had not ready money to pay for. I fear from an expression in your letter that the people of Kentucké think of separating not only from Virginia (in which they are right) but also from the confederacy. I own I should think this a most calametous event, and such an one as every good citizen on both sides should set himself against. Our present federal limits are not too large for good government, nor will the increase of votes in Congress produce any ill effect. On the contrary it will drown the little divisions at present existing there. Our confederacy must be viewed as the nest from which all America, North & South is to be peopled. We should take care too, not to think it for the interests of that great continent to press too soon on the Spaniards. Those countries cannot be in better hands. My fear is that they are too feeble to hold them till our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece. The navigation of the Mississippi we must have. This is all we are as yet ready to receive. I have made acquaintance with a very sensible candid gentleman here who was in South America during the revolt which took place there while our revolution was working. He says that those disturbances (of which we scarcely heard anything) cost on both sides an hundred thousand lives.—I have made a particular acquaintance here with Monsieur de Buffon, and have a great desire to give him the best idea I can of our elk. Perhaps your situation may enable you to aid me in this. Were it possible, you could not oblige me more than by sending me the horns, skeleton, & skin of an elk. The most desirable form of receiving them would be to have the skin slit from the under paw along the belly to the tail, & down the thighs to the knee, to take the animal out, leaving the legs and hoofs, the bones of the head, & the horns attached to the skin by sewing up the belly & shipping the skin it would present the form of the animal. However as an opportunity of doing this is scarcely expected I shall be glad to receive them detached, packed in a box, & sent to Richmond to the care of Doctor Currie. Every thing of this kind is precious here, and to prevent my adding to your trouble I must close my letter with assurances of the esteem & attachment with which I am Dr Sir Your friend & servt.
P. S. I must add a prayer for some Peccan nuts, 100, if possible, to be packed in a box of sand and sent me. They might come either directly or via N. York.
TO C. W. F. DUMAS1
Paris, Feb. 2, 1786.
—I was honoured some time ago with a letter from you of Dec. 6 inclosing two for America which I forwarded by the first occasion. On the 18th of this month I received a letter from his Excellency the Count de Vergennes expressing the interest which he takes in your welfare and recommending you to Congress. This I had an opportunity of forwarding from hence on the 27th of Jan. under cover to Mr. Jay. Yesterday I was gratified with the receipt of your favor of Jan. 27 containing a copy of the resolution. of Congress of Oct. 14 in your favor, and which I wish had been more so. With respect to the paiment of the arrearages, two things are necessary, first an order from the treasury and secondly money to comply with it. Mr. Grand wrote to me this morning that he had not now as much left to pay a bill of Mr. Carmichael’s for 4500 livres just presented. I shall forward your letter to Mr. Jay the next week with a request that the necessary measures may be taken for the paiment of your arrearages and interest. In the mean time I think you would do well to write a line for the same purpose to Mr. Jay, or to the Commissioners of the Treasury. I do not mean that what I have said above should prevent your drawing in due time for the salary of the current quarter. I will honour that draught from a private fund with which I can take that liberty. I thank you for what you say of the Notes on Virginia. It is much more than they deserve: tho the various matters they touch on would have been beyond the information of any one person whatever to have treated fully, and infinitely beyond mine, yet had I, at the time of writing them, had anything more in view than the satisfying a single individual, they should have been more attended to both in form and matter. Poor as they are, they have been thought worthy of a surreptitious translation here, with the appearance of which very soon I have been threatened. This has induced me to yield to a friendly proposition from the Abbé Morellet to translate and publish them himself submitting the sheets previously to my inspection. As a translation by so able a hand will lessen the faults of the original instead of their being multiplied by a hireling translator, I shall add to it a map, and such other advantages as may prevent the mortification of my seeing it appear in the injurious form threatened. I shall with great pleasure send a copy of the original to you by the first opportunity, praying your acceptance of it.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris, Feb. 8, 1786.
—My last letters have been of the 1st & 20th of Sept. and the 28th of Oct. Yours unacknowledged are of Aug. 20, Oct. 3, & Nov. 15. I take this the first safe opportunity of enclosing to you the bills of lading for your books, & two others for your namesake of Williamsburgh & for the attorney which I will pray you to forward. I thank you for the communication of the remonstrance against the assessment. Mazzei who is now in Holland promised me to have it published in the Leyden gazette. It will do us great honour. I wish it may be as much approved by our assembly as by the wisest part of Europe. I have heard with great pleasure that our assembly have come to the resolution of giving the regulation of their commerce to the federal head. I will venture to assert that there is not one of it’s opposers who, placed on this ground, would not see the wisdom of this measure. The politics of Europe render it indispensably necessary that with respect to everything external we be one nation only, firmly hooped together. Interior government is what each state should keep to itself. If it could be seen in Europe that all our states could be brought to concur in what the Virginia assembly has done, it would produce a total revolution in their opinion of us, and respect for us. And it should ever be held in mind that insult & war are the consequences of a want of respectability in the national character. As long as the states exercise separately those acts of power which respect foreign nations, so long will there continue to be irregularities committing by some one or other of them which will constantly keep us on an ill footing with foreign nations.
I thank you for your information as to my Notes. The copies I have remaining shall be sent over to be given to some of my friends and to select subjects in the college. I have been unfortunate here with this trifle. I gave out a few copies only, & to confidential persons, writing in every copy a restraint against it’s publication. Among others I gave a copy to a Mr. Williamos. He died. I immediately took every precaution I could to recover this copy. But by some means or other a bookseller had got hold of it. He employed a hireling translator and was about publishing it in the most injurious form possible. An Abbé Morellet, a man of letters here to whom I had given a copy, got notice of this. He had translated some passages for a particular purpose: and he compounded with the bookseller to translate & give him the whole, on his declining the first publication. I found it necessary to confirm this, and it will be published in French, still mutilated however in it’s freest parts. I am now at a loss what to do as to England. Everything, good or bad, is thought worth publishing there; and I apprehend a translation back from the French, and a publication there. I rather believe it will be most eligible to let the original come out in that country; but am not yet decided.
I have purchased little for you in the book way, since I sent the catalogue of my former purchases. I wish first to have your answer to that, and your information what parts of those purchases went out of your plan. You can easily say buy more of this kind, less of that &c. My wish is to conform myself to yours. I can get for you the original Paris edition in folio of the Encyclopedie for 620 livres, 35. vols.; a good edn in 39 vols, 4to, for 380♯; and a good one in 39 vols 8vo, for 280♯. The new one will be superior in far the greater number of articles: but not in all. And the possession of the ancient one has moreover the advantage of supplying present use. I have bought one for myself, but wait your orders as to you. I remember your purchase of a watch in Philadelphia. If it should not have proved good, you can probably sell her. In that case I can get for you here, one made as perfect as human art can make it for about 24 louis. I have had such a one made by the best & most faithful hand in Paris. It has a second hand, but no repeating, no day of the month, nor other useless thing to impede and injure the movements which are necessary. For 12 louis more you can have in the same cover, but on the back side & absolutely unconnected with the movements of the watch, a pedometer which shall render you an exact account of the distances you walk. Your pleasure hereon shall be awaited.
Houdon is returned. He called on me the other day to remonstrate against the inscription proposed for Genl W.’s statue. He says it is too long to be put on the pedestal. I told him I was not at liberty to permit any alteration, but I would represent his objection to a friend who could judge of it’s validity, and whether a change could be authorized. This has been the subject of conversations here, and various devices & inscriptions have been suggested. The one which has appeared best to me may be translated as follows: “Behold, Reader, the form of George Washington. For his worth, ask History: that will tell it, when this stone shall have yielded to the decays of time. His country erects this monument: Houdon makes it.” This for one side. On the 2d represent the evacuation of Boston with the motto “Hostibus primum fugatis.” On the 3d the capture of the Hessians with “Hostibus iterum devictis.” On the 4th the surrender of York, with “Hostibus ultimum debellatis.” This is seizing the three most brilliant actions of his military life. By giving out here a wish of receiving mottos for this statue, we might have thousands offered, of which still better might be chosen. The artist made the same objection of length to the inscription for the bust of the M. de la Fayette. An alteration of that might come in time still, if an alteration was wished. However I am not certain that it is desirable in either case. The state of Georgia has given 20.000 acres of land to the Count d’ Estaing. This gift is considered here as very honourable to him, and it has gratified him much. I am persuaded that a gift of lands by the state of Virginia to the Marquis de la Fayette would give a good opinion here of our character, and would reflect honour on the Marquis. Nor am I sure that the day will not come when it might be an useful asylum to him. The time of life at which he visited America was too well adapted to receive good & lasting impressions to permit him ever to accommodate himself to the principles of monarchical government; and it will need all his own prudence & that of his friends to make this country a safe residence for him. How glorious, how comfortable in reflection will it be to have prepared a refuge for him in case of a reverse. In the meantime he could settle it with tenants from the freest part of this country, Bretagny. I have never suggested the smallest idea of this kind to him: because the execution of it should convey the first notice. If the state has not a right to give him lands with their own officers, they could buy up at cheap prices the shares of others. I am not certain however whether in the public or private opinion, a similar gift to Count Rochambeau could be dispensed with. If the state could give to both, it would be better: but in any event, I think they should to the Marquis. C. Rochambeau too has really deserved more attention than he has received. Why not set up his bust, that of Gates, Green, Franklin in your new capitol? A propos of the Capitol. Do my dear friend exert yourself to get the plan begun on set aside, & that adopted which was drawn here. It was taken from a model which has been the admiration of 16. centuries, which has been the object of as many pilgrimages as the tomb of Mahomet: which will give unrivalled honour to our state, and furnish a model whereon to form the taste of our young men. It will cost much less too than the one begun, because it does not cover one half the Area. Ask if you please, a sight of my letter of Jan. 26 to Messrs. Buchanan & Hay, which will spare me repeating its substance here.
Everything is quiet in Europe. I recollect but one new invention in the arts which is worth mentioning. It is a mixture of the arts of engraving & printing, rendering both cheaper. Write or draw anything on a plate of brass with the ink of the inventor, and in half an hour he gives you engraved copies of it so perfectly like the original that they could not be suspected to be copies. His types for printing a whole page are all in one solid piece. An author therefore only prints a few copies of his work from time to time as they are called for. This saves the loss of printing more copies than may possibly be sold, and prevents an edition from being ever exhausted.
I am with a lively esteem Dear Sir, your sincere friend & servant.
P. S. Could you procure & send me an hundred or two nuts of the peccan? they would enable me to oblige some characters here whom I should be much gratified to oblige. They should come packed in sand. The seeds of the sugar maple too would be a great present.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE
Paris, Feb. 10, 1786.
—I forgot last night a very Material circumstance in my calculation. The Farmers general are, by their bail, obliged to keep a certain provision of tobacco and snuff always on hand. I believe it is three years’ consumption. However for fear of error I will call it two years; because were the bail silent on this head they would certainly have always on hand one year’s stock ready for manufacture, and one year’s stock manufactured. There is no extensive manufacture which does not find that it has on hand generally two years’ stock of goods. As the Farmers buy their tobacco for ready money (and I know they even advance money) they lay out of their money two years. This interest must therefore be added, and the estimate will stand thus
thus, according to their own shewing, the King should in favor to them, discontinue the bail; and they cannot ask it’s continuance without acknowledging they have given in a false state of quantities & sums.
TO THE SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
London, Mar. 12, 1786.
—The date of a letter from London will doubtless be as unexpected to you as it was unforeseen by myself a few days ago. On the 27th of the last month Colo. Smith arrived in Paris with a letter from Mr. Adams informing me that there was at this place a minister from Tripoli having general powers to enter into treaties on behalf of his state, and with whom it was possible we might do something in our Commission to that power and that he gave reason to believe he could also take arrangements with us for Tunis: he further added that the minister of Portugal here had received ultimate instructions from his court, and that probably that treaty might be concluded in the space of three weeks were we all on the spot together. He therefore pressed me to come over immediately. The first of these objects had some weight in my mind, because as we had sent no person to Tripoli or Tunis I thought if we could meet a minister from them on this ground our arrangements would be settled much sooner & at less expence. But what principally decided with me was the desire of bringing matters to a conclusion with Portugal before the term of our commission should expire or any new turn in the negotiations of France & England should abate their willingness to fix a connection with us. A third motive had also it’s weight. I hoped that my attendance here, and the necessity of shortening it, might be made use of to force a decisive answer from this court. I therefore concluded to comply with Mr. Adams’s request. I went immediately to Versailles and apprised the Count de Vergennes that circumstances of public duty called me hither for three or four weeks, arranged with him some matters, and set out with Colo. Smith for this place where we arrived last night, which was as early as the excessive rigour of the weather admitted. I saw Mr. Adams immediately, & again to-day. He informs me that the minister of Portugal was taken ill five or six days ago, has been very much so, but is now somewhat better. It would be very mortifying indeed should this accident, with the shortness of the term to which I limit my stay here, defeat what was the principal object of my journey, and that without which I should hardly have undertaken it. With respect to this country, I had no doubt but that every consideration had been urged by Mr. Adams which was proper to be urged. Nothing remains undone in this way. But we shall avail ourselves of our journey here as if made on purpose, just before the expiration of our commission, to form our report to Congress on the execution, of that Commission, which report they may be given to know cannot be formed without decisive information of the ultimate determination of their court. There is no doubt what that determination will be; but it will be useful to have it: as it may put an end to all further expectations on our side of the water, and shew that the time is come for doing whatever is to be done by us for counteracting the unjust & greedy designs of this country. We shall have the honour, before I leave this place to inform you of the result of the several matters which have brought me to it.
A day or two before my departure from Paris I received your letter of Jan. The question therein proposed How far France considers herself as bound to insist on the delivery of the posts, would infallibly produce another, How far we consider ourselves as guarantees of their American possessions & bound to enter into any future war in which these may be attacked? The words of the treaty of alliance seems to be without ambiguity on either head, yet I should be afraid to commit Congress by answering without authority. I will endeavor on my return to sound the opinion of the minister if possible without exposing myself to the other question. Should anything forcible be meditated on those posts, it would possibly be thought prudent previously to ask the good offices of France to obtain their delivery. In this case they would probably say we must first execute the treaty on our part by repealing all acts which have contravened it. Now this measure, if there be any candour in the court of London, would suffice to obtain a delivery of the posts from them, without the mediation of any third power. However if this mediation should be finally needed I see no reason to doubt our obtaining it, and still less to question its omnipotent influence on the British court.
TO ALEXANDER McCAUL
London, Apr. 19, 1786.
—Your favor of Mar. 30 came to hand some days ago, and renewed the recollection of a friendship among the earliest I formed in life, and which neither time nor events have weakened at any moment since. I wish it were in my power to inform you that arrangements were at length taken between the two nations for carrying into complete execution the late treaty of peace, and for settling those conditions which are essential to the continuance of a commerce between them. I suppose all arrangement is thought unnecessary here, as the subject has not been deemed worthy of a conference. Both nations are left to pursue their own measures and it is not easy to foresee what these will be. Each has complaints on the subject of the late treaty. We, that but one post out of six or eight within our limits has yet been evacuated by the British troops; and that a great number slaves were brought away contrary to stipulation, on the other part it is urged that we have thrown obstructions in the way of the recovery of the debts due to the merchants of this country. There are two circumstances of difficulty in the paiment of these debts. To speak of the particular state with which you & I are best acquainted, we know that it’s debt is ten times the amount of it’s circulating cash. To pay that debt at once then is a physical impossibility. Time is requisite. Were all the creditors to rush to judgment together, a mass of two millions of property would be brought to market where there is but the tenth of that sum of money in circulation to purchase it. Both debtor and creditor would be ruined, as debts would be thus rendered desperate which are in themselves good. Of this truth I find the merchants here sufficiently sensible, & I have no doubt we should have arranged the article of time to mutual satisfaction, allowing judgment to pass immediately, & dividing the execution into instalments. There was another point on which we should have differed. It is a general sentiment in America that the principal of these debts should be paid, & that that alone is stipulated by the treaty. But they think the interest also which arose before & since the war, is justly due. They think it would be as unjust to demand interest during the war. They urge that during that time they could not pay the debt, for that of the remittances attempted, two thirds on an average were taken by the nation to whom they were due: that during that period they had no use of the money, as from the same circumstance of capturing their produce on the sea, tobacco sold at 5/ the hundred, which was not sufficient to bear the expences of the estate, that they paid the taxes and other charges on the property during that period, and stood it’s insurers in the ultimate event of the war. They admit indeed that such individual creditors as were not engaged in privateering against them have lost this interest; but that it was the fault of their own nation and that this is the case where both parties having lost, each may justifiably endeavor to save himself. Setting aside this portion of the interest I am persuaded the debts in America are generally good, and that there is an honest intention to pay them. The improvident and indolent may delay the commencement of that duty, but they do not think certainly to avoid it. After the war ceased the first profits of their plantations would be applied to get supplies of clothing, to rebuild their houses, fences, barns, &c. where they were burned, or decayed, and to repair the other ravages of the war. This might reasonably take two or three years: but it is now time that they should begin the paiment of their old debts.
With respect to myself I acknowledge to you that I do not think an interest justly demandeable during the war. Whatever I owed, with interest previous & subsequent to the war, I have taken measures for paying as speedily as possible. My chief debts are to yourself & to Mr. Jones of Bristol. In the year 1776 before there was a shilling of paper money issued, I sold land for £4200 to pay these two debts. I did not receive the money till it was not worth Oak leaves. I have lost the principal and interest of these debts once then in attempting to pay them. Besides this Ld. Cornwallis’ army took off 30 of my slaves, burnt one year’s crop of tobacco in my houses & destroyed another in the fields with other damages to the amount of three or four thousand pounds. Still I am renewing my efforts to pay what I justly ought; and I hope these will be more successful. My whole estate is left in the hands of Mr. Lewis of Albemarle and Mr. Eppes of Chesterfield to apply it’s whole profits to the paiment of my debts. Some had been necessarily contracted during the war. They write me word that these will be cleared off this year. There will remain then only yours & Mr. Jones’s, toward which the labour of 100 slaves will be annually applied till the paiment is effected, for till that I shall not draw one shilling from the estate nor resume it’s possession. I do not know the exact amount of either of these debts, but I propose that the profits of my estate shall be annually divided in proportion to them. I think it very possible that you will not concur with me in opinion as to the intermediate interest: and that so far I shall meet your censure. Both parties are liable to feel too strongly the arguments which tend to justify their endeavors to avoid this loss. Yet after making allowances for this prejudice, it seems to me impossible but that the hardships are infinitely greater on our side than on yours. You have lost the interest but it is not we who have gained it. We deem your nation the aggressors. They took those profits which arose from your property in our hands, and inflicted on us immeasurable losses besides. I urge these considerations because while they decide my own opinion, I wish them to weigh so much as to preserve me yours, which I highly esteem, and should be afflicted were I to lose it. I have thus stated to you my views of things both public & private, according to the wish expressed in your letters, and I rely on your justice that you make use of the information for your own purposes only, without committing me. I shall at all times be happy to hear from you, being with sincere esteem, Dear Sir, Your friend and servt.
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE
London, Apr. 22, 1786.
—In your letter of October the 29th, you desired me to send you one of the new lamps. I tried at every probable place in Paris, and could not get a tolerable one. I have been glad of it since I came here, as I find them much better made here. I now deliver one with this letter into the hands of Mr. Fulwar Skipwith, a merchant from Virginia settled here, who promises to send it to you, with one for Mr. C. Thomson. Of this be pleased to accept from me. It is now found that they may be used with almost any oil,
I expect to leave this place in about three days. Our public letters, joint and separate, will inform you what has been done, and what could not be done here. With respect to a commercial treaty with this country, be assured that the government not only has it not in contemplation at present to make any, but that they do not conceive that any circumstances will arise which shall render it expedient for them to have any political connection with us. They think we shall be glad of their commerce on their own terms. There is no party in our favor here, either in power or out of power. Even the opposition concur with the ministry & the nation in this. I can scarcely consider as a party the Marquis of Lansdowne, and a half dozen characters about him, such as Dr. Price &c. who are impressed with the utility of a friendly connection with us. The former does not venture this sentiment in parliament, and the latter are not in situations to be heard. The Marquis of Lansdowne spoke to me affectionately of your brother, Doctr. Lee, and desired his respects to him, which I beg leave to communicate through you. Were he to come into the ministry (of which there is not the most distant prospect) he must adopt the King’s system, or go out again, as he did before, for daring to depart from it. When we see that through all the changes of ministry which have taken place during the present reign, there has never been a change of system with respect to America, we cannot reasonably doubt that this is the system of the King himself. His obstinacy of character we know; his hostility we have known, and it is embittered by ill success. If ever this nation, during his life, enters into arrangements with us, it must be in consequence of events of which they do not at present see a possibility. The object of the present ministry is to buoy up the nation with flattering calculations of their present prosperity, and to make them believe they are better without us than with us. This they seriously believe; for what is it men cannot be made to believe! I dined the other day in a company of the ministerial party. A General Clark sat next to me, a Scotchman & ministerialist. He introduced the subject of American affairs, and in the course of the conversation told me that were America to petition Parliament to be again received on their former footing, the petition would be very generally rejected. He was serious in this, & I think it was the sentiment of the company, and is the sentiment perhaps of the nation. In this they are wise, but for a foolish reason. They think they lost more by suffering us to participate of their commercial privileges at home & abroad, than they lose by our political severance. The true reason however why such an application should be rejected, is that in a very short time we should oblige them to add another hundred millions to their debt in unsuccessful attempts to retain the subjection offered to them. They are at present in a frenzy, and will not be recovered from it till they shall have leaped the precipice they are now so boldly advancing to. Writing from England, I write you nothing but English news. The continent at present furnishes nothing interesting. I shall hope the favor of your letters at times. The proceedings & views of Congress, & of the assemblies, the opinions and dispositions of our people in general, which in governments like ours must be the foundation of measures, will always be interesting to me, as will whatever respects your own health & happiness, being with great esteem Dear Sir your most obedient, and most humble servant.
TO ANNA SCOTT RANDOLPH JEFFERSON1
London, April 22d, 1786.
My Dear Nancy,
—Being called here for a short time, and finding that I could get some articles on terms here of which I thought you might be in want, I have purchased them for you. They are two pieces of linen, three gowns, and some ribbon. They are done up in paper, sealed, and packed in a trunk, in which I have put some other things for Colonel Nicholas Lewis. They will of course go to him, and he will contrive them to you. I heard from Patsy a few days ago; she is well. I left her in France, as my stay here was to be short. I hope my dear Polly is on her way to me. I desired you always to apply to Mr. Lewis for what you should want; but should you at any time wish anything particular from France, write to me and I will send it to you. Doctor Currie can always forward your letters. Pray remember me to my sisters Carr and Bolling, to Mr. Bolling and their families, and be assured of the sincerity with which I am, my dear Nancy, your affectionate brother.
TO THE SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
London, Apr. 23, 1786.
—In another letter of this day I stated to you what had passed with public characters, since my arrival here. Conversations with private individuals I thought it best not to mingle with the contents of that letter. Yet as some have taken place which relate to matters within our instructions, and with persons whose opinions deserve to have some weight, I will take the liberty of stating them. In a conversation with an antient and respectable merchant of this place such a view of the true state of the commercial connection of America & Great Britain was presented to him, as induced him to acknolege they had been mistaken in their opinions, and to ask that Mr. Adams and myself would permit the chairman of the committee of American merchants to call on us. He observed that the same person happened to be chairman of the committee of the whole body of British merchants; and that such was the respect paid to his person & office that we might consider what came from him as coming from the committees themselves. He called on us at an appointed hour. He was a Mr. Duncan Campbell, formerly much concerned in the American trade. We entered on the subject of the non-execution of the late treaty of peace alleged on both sides. We observed that the refusal to deliver the Western posts, and the withdrawing American property contrary to express stipulation, having preceded what they considered as breaches on our part, were to be considered as the causes of our proceedings. The obstructions thrown by our legislatures in the way of recovery of their debts were insisted on by him. We observed to him that the great amount of the debt from America to Great Britain, and the little circulating coin in the former country, rendered an immediate paiment impossible, that time was necessary, that we had been authorized to enter into explanatory arrangements on this subject; that we had made overtures for the purpose which had not been attended to, and that the states had therefore been obliged to modify the article for themselves. He acknowledged the impossibility of immediate paiment, the propriety of an explanatory convention, and said that they were disposed to allow a reasonable time. We mentioned the term of five years, including the present, but that judgments might be allowed immediately, only dividing the execution into equal & annual parts so that the last should be levied by the close of the year 1790. This seemed to be quite agreeable to him, and to be as short a term as would be insisted on by them. Proceeding to the sum to be demanded, we agreed that the principal with the interest incurring before and after the war should be paid; but as to that incurring during the war, we differed from him. He urged it’s justice with respect to themselves who had laid out of the use of their money during that period. This was his only topic. We opposed to it all those which circumstances both public & private gave rise to. He appeared to feel their weight but said the renunciation of this interest was a bitter pill, and such an one as the merchants here could not swallow. He wished that no declaration should be made as to this article: but we observed that if we entered into explanatory declarations of the points unfavourable to us, we should expect, as a consideration for this, corresponding declarations on the parts in our favour. In fact we supposed his view to be to leave this part of the interest to stand on the general expressions of the treaty, that they might avail themselves in individual cases of the favourable dispositions of debtors or of juries. We proceeded to the necessity of arrangements of our future commerce, were it only as a means of enabling our country to pay it’s debts. That they had been contracted while certain modes of remittance had existed here, and had been an inducement to us to contract these debts. He said he was not authorized to speak on the subject of the future commerce. He appeared really & feelingly anxious that arrangements should be stipulated as to the paiment of the old debts; said he would proceed in that moment to Lord Caermarthen’s, and discuss the subject with him, and that we might expect to hear from him. He took leave; and we never since heard from him or any other person on the subject. Congress will judge how far these conversations should influence their future proceedings, or those of the states.
I have the honour to be with the highest respect & esteem, Sir, your most obedient humble servt.
TO JOHN PAGE
Paris, May 4, 1786.
—Your two favours of Mar 15 and Aug 23, 1785, by Monsieur de la Croix came to hand on the 15th of November. His return gives me an opportunity of sending you a copy of the nautical almanacs for 1786, 7, 8, 9. There is no late and interesting publication here, or I would send it by the same conveiance. With these almanacs I pack a copy of some Notes I wrote for Monsr de Marbois in the year 1781, of which I had a few printed here. They were written in haste & for his private inspection. A few friends having asked copies I found it cheaper to print than to write them. They will offer nothing new to you, not even as an oblation of my friendship for you which is as old almost as we are ourselves. Mazzei brought me your favor of Apr 28. I thank you much for your communications. Nothing can be more grateful at such a distance. It is unfortunate that most people think the occurrences passing daily under their eyes, are either known to all the world, or not worth being known. They therefore do not give them place in their letters. I hope you will be so good as to continue your friendly information. The proceedings of our public bodies, the progress of the public mind on interesting questions, the casualties which happen among our private friends, and whatever is interesting to yourself and family will always be anxiously received by me. There is one circumstance in the work you were concerned in which has not yet come to my knowledge, to wit how far Westward from Fort Pitt does the Western boundary of Pennsylvania pass, and where does it strike the Ohio? The proposition you mention from Mr. Anderson on the purchase of tobacco, I would have made use of, but that I have engaged the abuses of the tobacco trade on a more general scale. I confess their redress does not appear with any certainty: but till I see all hope of removing the evil by the roots, I cannot propose to prune it’s branches.
I returned but three or four days ago from a two months trip to England. I traversed that country much, and own both town & country fell short of my expectations. Comparing it with this, I found a much greater proportion of barrens, a soil in other parts not naturally so good as this, not better cultivated, but better manured, & therefore more productive. This proceeds from the practice of long leases there, and short ones here. The labouring people here are poorer than in England. They pay about one half their produce in rent, the English in general about a third. The gardening in that country is the article in which it surpasses all the earth. I mean their pleasure gardening. This indeed went far beyond my ideas. The city of London, tho’ handsomer than Paris, is not so handsome as Philadelphia. Their architecture is in the most wretched stile I ever saw, not meaning to except America where it is bad, nor even Virginia where it is worse than in any other part of America, which I have seen. The mechanical arts in London are carried to a wonderful perfection. But of these I need not speak, because of them my countrymen have unfortunately too many samples before their eyes. I consider the extravagance which has seized them as a more baneful evil than toryism was during the war. It is the more so as the example is set by the best and most amiable characters among us. Would that a missionary appear who would make frugality the basis of his religious system, and go thro the land preaching it up as the only road to salvation, I would join his school tho’ not generally disposed to seek my religion out of the dictates of my own reason & feelings of my own heart. These things have been more deeply impressed on my mind by what I have heard & seen in England. That nation hates us, their ministers hate us, and their King more than all other men. They have the impudence to avow this, tho’ they acknolege our trade important to them. But they say we cannot prevent our countrymen from bringing that into their laps. A conviction of this determines them to make no terms of commerce with us. They say they will pocket our carrying trade as well as their own. Our overtures of commercial arrangement have been treated with a derision which shows their firm persuasion that we shall never unite to suppress their commerce or even to impede it. I think their hostility towards us is much more deeply rooted at present than during the war. In the arts the most striking thing I saw there, new, was the application of the principle of the steam-engine to grist mills. I saw 8 pr. of stones which are worked by steam, and they are to set up 30 pair in the same house. A hundred bushels of coal a day are consumed at present. I do not know in what proportion the consumption will be increased by the additional geer.
Be so good as to present my respects to Mrs. Page & your family, to W. Lewis, F. Willis & their families and to accept yourself assurances of the sincere regard with which I am Dr Sir your affectionate friend & servt.
P. S. Mazzei is still here and will publish soon a book on the subject of America.
TO JAMES ROSS
Paris, May 8, 1786.
—I have duly received your favor of Octob 22, and am much gratified by the communications therein made. It has given me details which do not enter into the views of my ordinary correspondents, and which are very entertaining. I experience great satisfaction at seeing my country proceed to facilitate the intercommunications of it’s several parts by opening rivers, canals & roads. How much more rational is this disposal of public money, than that of waging war.
Before the receipt of your letter, Morris’s contract for 60,000 hhds of tob was concluded with the Farmers general. I have been for some time occupied in endeavouring to destroy the root of the evils which the tobacco trade encounters in this country; by making the ministers sensible that merchants will not bring a commodity to a market where but one person is allowed to buy it: and that so long as that single purchaser is obliged to go to foreign markets for it, he must pay for it in coin & not in commodities. These truths have made their way to the minds of the ministry, insomuch as to have delayed the execution of the new lease of the farms six months. It is renewed however for three years, but so as not to render impossible a reformation of this great evil. They are sensible of the evil, but it is so interwoven with their fiscal system that they find it hazardous to disentangle. The temporary distress too of the revenue they are not prepared to meet. My hopes therefore are weak, though not quite desperate. When they become so, it will remain to look about for the best palliative this monopoly can bear. My present idea is that it will be found in a prohibition to the farmers general to purchase tobacco anywhere but in France. You will perceive by this that my object is to strengthen the connection between this country & my own in all useful points. I am of opinion that 23,000 hhds of tobacco, the annual consumption of this country, do not exceed the amount of those commodities which it is more advantageous to us to buy here than in England, or elsewhere, and such a commerce would powerfully reinforce the motives for a friendship from this country towards ours. This friendship we ought to cultivate closely, considering the present dispositions of England towards us. I am lately returned from a visit to that country. It appears to me to be more hostile than during the war; this spirit of hostility has always existed in the mind of the King, but it has now extended itself thro’ the whole mass of people, and the majority in the public councils. In a country where the voice of the people influences so much the measures of administration and where it coincides with the private temper of the King, there is no pronouncing on future events. It is true they have nothing to gain & much to lose by a war with us. But interest is not the strongest passion in the human breast. There are difficult points too still unsettled between us. They have not withdrawn their armies out of our country nor given satisfaction for the property they brought off. On our part we have not paid our debts, and it will take time to pay them. In conferences with some distinguished mercantile characters, I found them sensible of the impossibility of our paying these debts at once, and that an endeavor to force universal & immediate paiment would render debts desperate, which are good in themselves. I think we should not have differed in the term necessary. We differed essentially in the article of interest. For while the principal and interest preceding & subsequent to the war seems justly due from us, that which incurred during the war does not. Interest is a compensation for the use of money. Their money in our hands was in the form of lands & negroes. Tobacco, the produce of these lands and negroes (or as I may call it, the interest of them) being almost impossible of conveyance to the markets of consumption, because taken by themselves in it’s way there, sold during the war at 5/ or 6/ the hundred. This did not pay tools, taxes, & other plantation charges. A man who should have attempted to remit to his creditor tobacco for either principal or interest, must have remitted it three times before one would have arrived safe: and this from the depredations of their own nation, and often of the creditor himself, for some of the merchants entered deeply into the privateering business. The individuals who did not, say they have lost this interest: the debtor replies that he has not gained, & that it is a case where a loss having incurred, every one tries to shift it from himself. The known bias of the human mind from motives of interest, should lessen the confidence of each party in the justice of their reasoning; but it is difficult to say which of them should make the sacrifice both of reason & interest. Our conferences were intended as preparatory to some arrangement. It is incertain how far we should have been able to accommodate our opinions. But the absolute aversion of the government to enter into any arrangement prevented the object from being pursued. Each country is left to do justice to itself & to the other according to its own ideas, as to what is past, and to scramble for the future as well as they can: to regulate their commerce by duties and prohibitions, and perhaps by cannons & mortars; in which event we must abandon the ocean where we are weak, leaving to neutral nations the carriage of our commodities: & measure with them on land where they alone can lose. Farewell then all our useful improvements of canals, roads, reformations of laws & other rational emploiments. I really doubt whether there is temper enough on either side to prevent this issue of our present hatred. Europe is at this moment without the appearance of a cloud. The death of the K of Prussia, daily expected, may raise one. My paper admonishes me that after asking a continuance of your favors, it is time for me to conclude with assurances of the esteem with which I am Dr Sir, your friend & servt.
TO JAMES MONROE
Paris, May 10, 1786.
—My last to you was of Jan. 27. Since that I have received yours of Jan. 19. Information from other quarters gives me reasons to suspect you have in negotiation a very important change in your situation. You will carry into the execution all my wishes for your happiness. I hope it will not detach you from a settlement in your own country. I had even entertained hopes of your settling in my neighborhood: but these were determined by your desiring a plan of a house for Richmond. However reluctantly I relinquish this prospect, I shall not the less readily obey your commands by sending you a plan. Having been much engaged since my return from England in answering the letters & despatching other business which had accumulated during my absence & being still much engaged, perhaps I may not be able to send the plan by this conveyance. If I do not send it now, I will surely by the first conveiance after this. Your Encyclopedie, containing 18 livraisons, went off last night for Havre, from whence it will go in a vessel bound to N. York. It will be under the care of M. la Croix a passenger, who, if he does not find you in N. York will carry it to Virginia. I send it to Richmond. Another copy in a separate box, goes for Currie. I pay here all charges to N. York. What may occur afterwards I desire him to ask either of you or Currie, as either will pay for the other, or to draw on me for them. My letters to Mr. Jay will inform you of the objects which carried me to England: and that the principal one, the treaty with Portugal has been accomplished. Tho’ we were unable to procure any special advantages in that, yet we thought it of consequence to insure our trade against those particular checks and discouragements which it has heretofore met with there. The information as to the Barbary states, which we obtained from Abdrahaman the Tripoline ambassador was also given to Mr. Jay. If it be right, & the scale of proportion between those nations which we had settled be also right, eight times the sum required by Tripoli will be necessary to accomplish a peace with the whole, that is to say about two hundred and fifty thousand guineas. The continuance of this peace will depend on their idea of our power to enforce it, and on the life of the particular Dey or other head of the government, with whom it is contracted. Congress will no doubt weigh these circumstances against the expense & probable success of compelling a peace by arms. Count d’Estaing having communicated to me verbally some information as to an experiment formerly made by this country, I shall get him to put it into writing and I will forward it to Congress, as it will aid them in their choice of measures. According to this a force, which after the first outfit, might cost about three thousand guineas a month sufficed in a short time. However, which plan is eligible can only be known to ourselves who are on the spot & have under your view all the difficulties of both. There is a third measure: that of abandoning the Mediterranean carriage to other nations. With respect to England no arrangements can be taken. The merchants were certainly disposed to have consented to accommodation as to the article of debts. I was not certain when I left England that they would relinquish the interest during the war. A letter received since from the first character among the American merchants in Scotland satisfies me they would have relinquished it to insure the capital & residue of interest. Would to heaven all the states therefore would settle on a uniform plan. To open the courts to them so that they might obtain judgments, to divide the executions into so many equal annual instalments as that the last might be paid in the year 1790, to have the paiments in actual money, and to include the capital & interest preceding & subsequent to the war, would give satisfaction to the world, and to the merchants in general. Since it is left for each nation to pursue their own measures in the execution of the late treaty, may not Congress with propriety recommend a mode of executing that article respecting the debts, and send it to each state to be passed into law. Whether England gives up the posts or not, these debts must be paid, or our character stained with infamy among all nations & to all times. As to the satisfaction for slaves carried off, it is a bagatelle which if not made good before the last instalment becomes due, may be secured out of that.
I formerly communicated the overtures for a treaty which had been made by the Imperial ambassador. The instructions from Congress being in their favor, and Mr. Adams’s opinion also, I encouraged them. He expected his full powers when I went to England. Yet I did not think, nor did Mr. Adams, that this was of importance enough to weigh against the objects of that journey. He received them soon after my departure, & communicated it to me on my return, asking a copy of our propositions. I gave him one, but observed our commission had then but a few days to run. He desired I would propose to Congress the giving new powers to go on with this, and said that in the meantime he would arrange with us the plan. In a commercial view, no great good is to be gained by this, but in a political one it may be expedient. Our national respect needs strengthening in Europe. It will certainly receive reinforcement by our being received into alliance by the second power & what will shortly be the first character in Europe. He is at the head too of the other great European confederacy, and may serve us with all the powers in that scale. As the treaty would of course be in the terms of those of Prussia & Portugal, it will give us but little additional embarrasment in any commercial regulations we may wish to establish. The exceptions from these which the other treaties will require, may take in the treaty with the Emperor. I should be glad to communicate some answer as soon as Congress shall have made up their minds on it. My information to Congress on the subject of our commercial articles with this country has only come down to Jan 27. Whether I shall say anything on it in my letter to Mr. Jay by this conveiance, depends on it’s not being too early for an appointment. I expect hourly word from the Count de Vergennes to meet him on this & other subjects. My last information was that the lease was too far advanced to withdraw from it the article of tobacco, but that a clause is inserted in it empowering the King to discontinue it at any time. A discontinuance is therefore the only remaining object, and as even this cannot be effected till the expiration of the old lease, which is about the end of the present year, I have wished only to stir the subject from time to time so as to keep it alive. This idea led me into a measure proposed by the M. de la Fayette whose return from Berlin found the matter in that point to which my former report to Congress had conducted it. I communicated to him what I had been engaged on, what were my prospects, and my purpose of keeping the subject just open. He offered his services with that zeal which commands them on every occasion respecting America. He suggested to me the meeting two or three gentlemen well acquainted with this business. We met. They urged me to propose to the Ct de Vergennes the appointing a committee to take this matter into consideration. I told them that decency would not permit me to point out to the Ct de Vergennes the mode by which he should conduct a negotiation, but that I would press again the necessity of an arrangement, if whilst that should be operating on his mind they would suggest the appointment of a committee. The Marquis offered his service for this purpose. The consequence was the appointment of a committee, & the Marquis as a member of it. I communicated to him my papers. He collected other lights wherever he could, & particularly from the gentlemen with whom he had before concerted, and who had a good acquaintance with the subject. The Marquis became our champion in the committee and two of it’s members, who were of the corps of Farmers general entered the lists on the other side. Each gave in memorials. The lease indeed was signed while I was gone to England, but the discussions were & still are continued in the Committee from which we derive two advantages, 1, that of shewing that the object is not to be relinquished and 2, to enlighten government as to it’s true interest. The Ct de Vergennes is absolutely for it; but it is not in his department. Calonnes is his friend, and in this instance his principle seems so be America veritas, sed magis amicus Plato. An additional hope is founded in the expectation of a change of the minister of finance. The present one is under the absolute controul of the farmers general. The committee’s views have been somewhat different from mine. They despair of a suppression of the farm, and therefore wish to obtain palliatives which would coincide with the particular good of this country. I think that so long as the monopoly in the sale is kept up, it is of no consequence to us how they modify the pill for their own internal relief: but on the contrary the worse it remains, the more necessary it will render a reformation. Any palliative would take from us all those arguments & friends who would be satisfied with accommodation. The Marquis, tho differing in opinion from me in this point, has however adhered to my principle of absolute liberty or nothing. In this condition is the matter at this moment. Whether I say anything on the subject to Mr. Jay will depend on my interview with Ct de Vergennes. I doubt whether that will furnish anything worth communicating & whether it will be in time. I therefore state this much to you, that you may see the matter is not laid aside.
I must beg leave to recommend Colo Humphreys to your acquaintance & good offices. He is an excellent man, an able one, & in need of some provision. Besides former applications to me in favor of Dumas, the Rhingrave of Salm (the effective minister of the government of Holland, while their two ambassadors here are ostensible, and) who is conducting secret arrangements for them with this court, presses his interests on us. It is evident the two governments make a point of it. You ask why they do not provide for him themselves? I am not able to answer the question but by a conjecture that Dumas’s particular ambition prefers an appointment from us. I know all the difficulty about this application which Congress has to encounter. I see the reasons against giving him the primary appointment at that court, and the difficulty of his accommodating himself to a subordinate one. Yet I think something must be done in it to gratify this court, of which we must be always asking favours. In these countries personal favours weigh more than public interest. The minister who has asked a gratification for Dumas, has embarked his own feelings & reputation in that demand. I do not think it was discreet by any means. But this reflection might perhaps aggravate a disappointment. I know not really what you can do: but yet hope something will be done. Adieu my dear Sir & believe me to be yours affectionately.
TO THE SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Paris, May 23, 1786.
—Letters received from both Madrid & Algiers while I was in London having suggested that treaties with the states of Barbary would be much facilitated by a previous one with the Ottoman porte, it was agreed between Mr. Adams and myself that on my return I should consult on this subject the Count de Vergennes, whose long residence at Constantinople rendered him the best judge of it’s expediency. Various circumstances have put it out of my power to consult him till to-day. I stated to him the difficulties we were likely to meet with at Algiers and asked his opinion what would be the probable expense of a diplomatic mission to Constantinople, & what it’s effect at Algiers. He said that the expense would be very great, for that presents must be made at that court, and every one would be gaping after them; and that it would not procure us a peace at Algiers one penny the cheaper. He observed that the Barbary states acknoleged a sort of vassalage to the Porte, & availed themselves of that relation when anything was to be gained by it: but that whenever it subjected them to a demand from the Porte they totally disregarded it: that money was the sole agent at Algiers, except so far as fear could be induced also. He cited the present example of Spain, which tho’ having a treaty with the Porte, would probably be obliged to buy a peace at Algiers at the expense of upwards of six millions of livres. I told him we had calculated from the demands & information of the Tripoline ambassador at London that to make peace with the four Barbary states would cost us between two & three hundred thousand guineas, if bought with money. The sum did not seem to exceed his expectations. I mentioned to him that, considering the incertainty of a peace when bought, perhaps Congress might think it more eligible to establish a cruise of frigates in the Mediterranean & even to blockade Algiers. He supposed it would require ten vessels great & small. I observed to him that Monsr. de Massiac had formerly done it with five; he said it was true, but that vessels of relief would be necessary. I hinted to him that I thought the English capable of administering aid to the Algerines. He seemed to think it impossible, on account of the scandal it would bring on them. I asked him what had occasioned the blockade by Mr. de Massiac: he said, an infraction of their treaty by the Algerines. I had a good deal of conversation with him also on the situation of affairs between England & the United States: & particularly on their refusal to deliver up our posts. I observed to him that the obstructions thrown in the way of the recovery of their debts were the effect & not the cause, as they pretended, of their refusal to deliver up the posts: that the merchants interested in these debts shewed a great disposition to make arrangements with us, that the article of time we could certainly have settled, & probably that of the interest during the war: but that the minister shewing no disposition to have these matters arranged, I thought it a sufficient proof that this was not the true cause of their retaining the posts. He concurred as to the justice of our requiring time for the paiment of our debts; said nothing which shewed a difference of opinion as to the article of interest, and seemed to believe fully that their object was to divert the channel of the fur trade before they delivered up the posts, and expressed a strong sense of the importance of that commerce to us. I told him I really could not foresee what would be the event of this detention, that the situation of the British funds, & desire of their minister to begin to reduce the national debt seemed to indicate that they could not wish a war. He thought so, but that neither were we in a condition to go to war. I told him I was yet uninformed what Congress proposed to do on this subject, but that we should certainly always count on the good offices of France, and I was sure that the offer of them would suffice to induce Gr. Britain to do us justice. He said that surely we might always count on the friendship of France. I added that by the treaty of alliance, she was bound to guarantee our limits to us, as they should be established at the moment of peace. He said they were so “mais qu’il nous etoit necessaire de les constater.” I told him there was no question what our boundaries were, that the English themselves admitted they were clear beyond all question. I feared however to press this any further lest a reciprocal question should be put to me, & therefore diverted the conversation to another object. This is a sketch only of a conference which was lengthy. I have endeavored to give the substance, & sometimes the expressions where they were material. I supposed it would be agreeable to Congress to have it communicated to them, in the present undecided state in which these subjects are. I should add that an explanation of the transaction of Monsieur de Massaic with the Algerines, before hinted at, will be found in the enclosed letter from the Count d’Estaing to me, wherein he gives also his own opinion. The whole is submitted to Congress, as I conceive it my duty to furnish them with whatever information I can gather which may throw any light on the subjects depending before them. I have the honour to be with the most perfect esteem & respect Sir your most obedient and most humble servt.
TO THE SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Paris, May 27, 1786.
—In my letter of January 2, I had the honour of stating to you what had passed here on the subject of the commerciable articles between this country & the United States. I beg leave now to resume that subject. I therein informed you that this government had agreed to receive our fish oils on the footing on which they receive those of the Hanseatic towns, which gave us a reduction of duty from — on the barrique to — amounting to about on the English ton, according to a statement by Monsr. Sangrain inclosed in that letter. This was true, but there was another truth which neither that statement, nor any other evidence I then had, enabled me to discover, and which it is but lately I could be ascertained of; which is that there is another duty called the Droit des huiles et savons to which the Hans towns are subject, as we are also of consequence. This is of 6. deniers on the nett pound, and 10. sous per livre on that, amounting to — on the nett hundred, French weight, or to —— the English ton. This with the reduced duty makes about ——, or very nearly four guineas according to the present exchange, on the English ton. Tho this be still advantageous when compared with the English duty of 18 guineas, yet it is less so than we had expected, and it will remain, when we apply for a renewal of the indulgence, to see whether we can obtain further reduction.
The fur trade is an object of desire in this country. London is at present their market for furs. They pay for them there in ready money. Could they draw their furs into their own ports from the U. S. they would pay us for them in productions. Nor should we lose by the change of market, since, tho the French pay the London merchants in cash, those merchants pay us with manufactures. A very wealthy & well connected company is proposing here to associate themselves with an American company, each to possess half the interest, & to carry on the fur trade between the two countries. The company here expect to make the principal part of the advances; they also are solliciting considerable indulgencies from this government from which the part of the company on our side of the water will reap half the advantage. As no exclusive idea enters into this scheme, it appears to me worthy of encouragement. It is hoped the government here will interest themselves for it’s success. If they do, one of two things may happen: either the English will be afraid to stop the vessels of a company consisting partly of French subjects & patronized by the Court; in which case the commerce will be laid open generally; or if they stop the vessels, the French company, which is strongly connected with men in power, will complain in form to their government, who may thus be interested as principals in the rectification of this abuse. As yet, however, the proposition has not taken such a form, as to assure us that it will be prosecuted to this length.
As to the article of tobacco, which had become an important branch of remittance to almost all the states, I had the honour of communicating to you my proposition to the court to abolish the monopoly of it in their farm; that the Ct. de Vergennes was, I thought, thoroughly sensible of the expediency of this proposition, and disposed to befriend it, that the renewal of the lease of the farms had been consequently suspended six months and was still in suspence, but that so powerful were the Farmers general and so tottering the tenure of the Minister of finance in his office that I despaired of preventing the renewal of the farm at that time. Things were in this state when the M. de la Fayette returned from Berlin. On communicating to him what was on the carpet, he proposed to me a conference with some persons well acquainted with the commercial system of this country. We met. They proposed the endeavoring to have a committee appointed to enquire into the subject. The proposition was made to the Ct. de Vergennes who befriended it & had the M. de la Fayette named a member of the committee. He became of course the active and truly zealous member for the liberty of commerce, others, tho’ well disposed, not chusing to oppose the farm openly. This committee has met from time to time. It shewed an early and decisive conviction that the measure taken by the farm to put the purchase of their tobaccoes into monopoly on that side the water, as the sale of them was on this, tended to the annihilation of commerce between the two countries. Various palliatives were proposed from time to time. I confess that I met them all with indifference; my object being a radical cure of the evils by discontinuing the farm, and not a mere assuagement of it for the present moment, which rendering it more bearable, might lessen the necessity of removing it totally, & perhaps prevent that removal. In the mean time the other branches of the farm rendered the renewal of the lease necessary and it being said to be too far advanced to have the article of tobacco separated from it & suspended, it was signed in the month of March while I was in England, with a clause, which is usual, that the King may discontinue when he pleases on certain conditions. When I returned I found here a Memorial from the merchants of l’Orient complaining of their having 6000 hhds of tobo on hand, and of the distresses they were under from the loss of this medium of remittance. I enclosed it to the Count de Vergennes and asked his interference. I saw him on the 23d inst and spoke to him on the subject. He told me there was to be a committee held the next day at Berni, the seat of the Comptroller general & that he would attend it himself to have something done. I asked him if I was to consider the expunging that article from the farm as desperate. He said that the difficulty of changing so antient an institution was immense. That the King draws from it a revenue of 29 millions of livres. That the interruption of this revenue at least, if not a diminution, would attend a change, that their finances were not in a condition to bear even an interruption, and in short that no minister could venture to take upon himself so hazardous an operation. This was only saying explicitly, what I had long been sensible of, that the comptroller general’s continuance in office was too much on a poise to permit him to shift this weight out of his own scale into that of his adversaries; and that we must be contented to await the completion of the public expectation that there will be a change in this office, which change may give us another chance for effecting this desirable reformation. Incidents enough will arise to keep this object in our view, and to direct the attention to it as the only point on which the interests & harmony of the two countries (so far as this article of their commerce may influence) will ultimately find repose. The committee met the next day. The only question agitated was how best to relieve the trade under its double monopoly. The committee found themselves supported by the presence and sentiments of the Count de Vergennes. They therefore resolved that the contract with Mr. Morris, if executed on his part, ought not to be annulled here, but that no similar one should ever be made hereafter: that, so long as it continued, the farmers should be obliged to purchase from twelve to 15,000 hhds. of tobacco a year, over and above what they should receive from Mr. Morris, from such merchants as should bring it in French or American vessels, on the same conditions contracted with Mr. Morris; providing however that where the cargo shall not be assorted, the prices shall be 38♯. 36♯ & 34♯ for the 1st. 2d. & 3d qualities of whichsoever the cargo may consist. In case of dispute about the quality, specimens are to be sent to the council, who will appoint persons to examine and decide on it. This is indeed the least bad of all the palliatives which have been proposed: but it contains the seeds of perpetual trouble: it is easy to foresee that the farmers will multiply difficulties and vexations on those who shall propose to sell to them by force and that these will be making perpetual complaints, so that both parties will be kept on the fret. If, without fatiguing the friendly dispositions of the ministry, this should give them just so much trouble as may induce them to look to the demolition of the monopoly as a desirable point of rest, it may produce a permanent as well as temporary good. This determination of the committee needs the Kings order to be carried into effect. I have been in hourly expectation of receiving official information that it is ultimately confirmed by him. But as yet it is not come, and the post will set out to-day. Should it arrive in time I will enclose it. Should it not arrive as I do not apprehend any danger of its being rejected. or even altered materially (seeing that M. de Vergennes approved of it & M. de Calonne acquiesced) I have supposed you would wish to be apprized of its substance for a communication of which I am indebted to the M. de la Fayette. Tho’ you cannot publish it formally till you know it is confirmed by the King yet an authoritative kind of notice may be given to the merchants to put them on their guard. Otherwise the merchants here, having first knowledge of it, may by their agents purchase up all the tabaccoes they have on hand, at a low price & thus engross to themselves all the benefit.
In the same letter of January 2d I mentioned that the rice of Carolina compared with that of the Mediterranean was better & dearer. This was my own observation, having examined both in the shops here where they are retailed. Further enquiries gave me reason to believe that the rice of Carolina, on it’s arrival is fouler & cheaper; and that it is obliged to be cleaned here before it is saleable. That this advances the price, but at the same time the quality also, beyond that of the Mediterranean. Whether the trouble of this operation discourages the merchant, or the price the consumer, or whether the merchants of Carolina have not yet learnt the way to this market, I cannot tell. I find in fact that but a small proportion of the rice consumed here is from the American market, but the consumption of this article here is immense. If the makers of American rice would endeavour to adapt the preparation of it to the taste of this country so as to give it over the mediterranean rice the advantage of which it seems susceptible, it would very much increase the quantity for which they may find sale. As far as I have been able to find it is received here on a favourable footing. I shall reserve my letter open to the last moment in hopes of being able to put into it the order of the King to the Farmers general. I have the honor of enclosing a copy of their contract with Mr. Morris to which the resolution of the Committee refers & to be with sentiments &c. &c., &c.
TO M. LA MORLEINE
Paris, June 3, 1786.
—It is six years since the paper money of New England has ceased to circulate as money. It is considered at present as making a part of the national debt, and that the holders of it will be entitled to receive from the public as much gold or silver as the paper money could have brought at the time it was received by the holder with an interest of 6 per cent. per annum. But as yet no precise arrangements have been taken for the paiment either of principal or interest. Most of the subjects of France, having paper money, have deposited it in the hands of the French Minister or Consul at New York, that paiment may be demanded whenever it shall be provided by Congress. There are even speculators in America who will purchase it. But they will give much less than it is worth. As for myself I do not deal in it. I am Sir your very humble servt.
TO THE SWEDISH AMBASSADOR AT PARIS
Paris June 12, 1786.
—In compliance with your Excellency’s desire I will throw on paper such considerations as occur to me on the question “How may the island of St. Bartholomews be rendered instrumental for promoting commerce between Sweden and the United States.” They will be rapid, undigested & incomplete: but a desire of contributing to bind the two Countries together in interest, and a respect for your commands will induce me to hazard them. I shall make the interests of Sweden the basis of my theory because we have no right to expect her to depart from them in order to promote ours.
Antient nations considered Colonies principally as Receptacles for a too numerous population, and as natural & useful allies in times of war: but modern nations, viewing commerce as an object of first importance, value Colonies chiefly as Instruments for the increase of that. This is principally effected by their taking commodities from the mother State, whether raised within herself, or obtained elsewhere in the course of her trade & furnishing in return Colonial productions necessary for her consumption or for her commerce of exchange with other nations. In this way the colonies of Spain, Portugal, France and England have been chiefly subservient to the advantages of their Mother Country. In this way too in a smaller degree has Denmark derived utility from her American Colonies and so also Holland, except as to the Island of St. Eustatius. This is by nature a rock, barren and unproductive in itself, but its owners became sensible that what Nature had denied it, Policy could more than supply. It was conveniently situated for carrying on contraband trade with both the continents & with the islands of America. They made it therefore an entrepot for all nations. Hither are brought the productions of every other part of America and the Dutch give in exchange such articles as in the course of their commerce they can most advantageously gather up. And it is a question, on which they will not enable us to decide, whether by furnishing American productions to the commerce of Holland & by finding vent for such productions of the old world as the Dutch merchants obtain to advantage, the barren rock of saint Eustatius does not give more activity to their commerce & leave with them greater profits, than their more fertile possessions on the continent of South America. The Danes finding that their islands were capable of yielding but moderate advantages by their native productions, have also laid them open to foreign commerce, in order to draw thro’ them articles which they do not produce in themselves, or not in great quantities. But these nations, only half emancipated from the fetters of commercial prejudicies, have taken only half a step towards placing these institutions on their best footing. Both the Dutch & Danish free ports are under restrictions which discourage very much the operations of exchange in them.
The island of St. Bartholomew, lately ceded to Sweden, is, if I am rightly informed, capable of furnishing little of its own productions to that country. It remains then to make it the instrument for obtaining through its intermediation such American productions as Sweden can consume or dispose of, and for finding in return a vent for the native productions of Sweden. Let us suppose it then made a free port without a single restriction. These consequences will follow: 1. It will draw to itself that tide of commerce which at present sets towards the Dutch and Danish islands, because vessels going to these are often obliged to negotiate a part of their cargoes at saint Eustatius, and to go to saint Thomas’s to negotiate the residue, whereas when they shall know that there is a port where all articles are free both for importation and exportation, they will go to that port which enables them to perform by one voiage the exchanges which hitherto they could only effect by two. 2. Every species of American produce, whether of the precious metals or commodities, which Sweden may want for its own consumption or as aliment for its own commerce with other nations, will be collected either fairly or by contraband into the magazines of Saint Bartholomew. 3. All the productions which Sweden can furnish from within itself or obtain to advantage from other nations, will in like manner be deposited in the magazines of St. Bartholomew, and will be carried to the several ports of America in paiment for what shall be taken from them.
If it be objected that this unrestrained license will give opportunity to the subjects of other nations to carry on exchanges there in which Sweden will be no ways interested: I say, 1. That there will be few of these operations into which the Swedish merchants will not be taken in the beginning or in the long run. 2. That there will be few of these exchanges into which Swedish productions will not enter, when productions of that nature are wanted in return. 3. But suppose neither Swedish merchants nor productions enter into the operation, what objections can Sweden have to other people’s meeting in one of her ports to carry on their commercial exchanges? On the contrary, would not every enlightened nation be glad if all others would come to her as a common center for commercial operations? If all the merchants who make the exchanges of commerce in Amsterdam, London, Lisbon, Leghorn, etc would go by common consent to perform these operations in Stockholm, would that wise Government obstruct such an assembly? If all the exchanges now made in the several parts of the two continents, & of the islands, of America, in Philadelphia for instance, Charlestown, St. Eustatius, Porto-bello, Rio Janeiro, were proposed to be transferred to the island of St. Bartholomew would that island be rendered thereby less able to promote the commerce of the mother country?
These general observations have anticipated the answer to our question, How may the island of St. Bartholomew be rendered instrumental to the particular commerce between Sweden and the United States? The United States have much occasion for the productions of Sweden, particularly for it’s iron. For a part of this they can furnish indigo, rice, tobacco: and so far the exchange may be effected by the merchants of the two countries in the ports of the United States or of Sweden. The surplus of the want they cannot take at all unless Sweden will administer to them the means of paying for it. This she may do by receiving at St. Bartholomew whatever productions they will bring. They will of course send there flour, saltfish, & other things wanting in the other ports of America, which by the Swedish merchants at St. Bartholomew, will run into those ports and exchanged for precious metals or commercial commodities: or the American merchant taking on himself those operations will run his flour or salt fish into those ports himself, take cash or such commercial articles as suit Sweden, & go with these to St. Bartholomew to pay for the iron he wants.
The interest of the United States then is that St. Bartholomew be made a port of unlimited freedom, & such too is evidently the interest of Sweden. If it be freed by halves, the freeports of other nations, at present in possession of the commerce, will retain it against any new port offering no superior advantages. The situation of St. Bartholomew is very favorable to these views, as it is among the most Windward, and therefore the most accessible, of the West Indian Islands. How far they may be seconded by the character of its port, the government of Sweden will best know, as they have taken the necessary informations on that point.
Unacquainted with the details of commerce I am able to present only general views of this subject, they are such however as experience seems to have approved. They may appear founded on a want of attention to the laws of society, inconsistent with sound morality—but first let the line be drawn between the just and equal regulations of associated states, and the partial and oppressive rescripts of Metropolitan cupidity, & we shall see whether the Interloper, or the Legislator of Chili & Peru is on the right side of that line. They will need apology for another cause where it will be more difficult to be found; that is as they offer nothing but what would have occurred, & in a better form, to yourself. Nobody is more sensible of this than myself: and I can expect your indulgence only by praying you to consider them, not as pretending to any information which you do not already possess, but as the offerings of that perfect esteem & respect with which I have the honor to be your hble servt.
TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL
Paris June 20 1786.
—* * * I find that all the states had come into the impost except N. York whose assembly were then sitting & it was thought would adopt it. N. Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rho. isld. New Jersey, Delaware & Virginia have agreed to confer on Congress the regulation of their trade, & lest this disjointed method of proceeding should fail of it’s effect, the latter has appointed commissioners & invited the other states to do the same to meet & settle an article of Confederation for this purpose. Virginia has declared Kentucky an independent state, provided it’s inhabitants consent to it, & Congress will receive them into a union. Massachusetts has repealed so much of her navigation act as respected any foreign nation except Gr. Britain. Contributions of money come slowly to the public treasury. A committee of Congress have drawn a strong report on that subject, which has produced a good effect in the states.
In a letter of Mar. 20, from Dr. Franklin to me is this passage: “As to public affairs the Congress has not been able to assemble more than 7 or 8 states during the whole winter, so the treaty with Prussia remains still unratified, tho’ there is no doubt of its being done so soon as a full Congress assembles which is expected next month. The disposition to furnish Congress with ample powers augments daily, as people become more enlightened, & I do not remember ever to have seen, during my long life, more signs of public felicity than appear at present throughout these states; the cultivators of the earth who make the bulk of our nation, have made good crops, which are paid for at high prices, with ready money; the artisans too receive high wages, & the value of all real estates is augmented greatly. Merchants & shopkeepers indeed complain that there is not business enough. But this is evidently not owing to the fewness of buyers, but to the too great number of sellers; for the consumption of goods was never greater, as appears by the dress, furniture & manner of living of all ranks of the people.” His health is good, except as to the stone which does not grow worse. I thank you for your attention to my request about the books which Mr. Barclay writes me he has forwarded from Cadiz.
TO JAMES MONROE
Paris, July 9, 1786.
—I wrote you last on the 10th of May, since which your favor of May 11 has come to hand. The political world enjoys great quiet here. The King of Prussia is still living, but like the snuff of a candle which sometimes seems out, & then blazes up again. Some think that his death will not produce any immediate effect in Europe. His kingdom, like a machine will go on for some time with the winding up he has given it. The King’s visit to Cherbourg has made a great sensation in England & here. It proves to the world that it is a serious object to this country, and that the King commits himself for the accomplishment of it. Indeed so many cones have been sunk that no doubt remains of the practicability of it. It will contain, as is said, 80 ships of the line, be one of the best harbours in the world, & by means of two entrances on different sides will admit vessels to come in and go out with every wind. The effect of this in another war with England defies calculation. Having no news to communicate I will recur to the subjects of your letter of May 11.
With respect to the new states were the question to stand simply in this form: How may the ultramontane territory be disposed of so as to produce the greatest & most immediate benefit to the inhabitants of the maritime states of the union? the plan would be more plausible of laying it off into two or three states only. Even on this view however there would still be something to be said against it which might render it at least doubtful. But it is a question which good faith forbids us to receive into discussion. This requires us to state the question in its just form, How may the territories of the Union be disposed of so as to produce the greatest degree of happiness to their inhabitants? With respect to the maritime states nothing or little remains to be done. With respect then to the ultramontane states, will their inhabitants be happiest divided into states of 30,000 square miles, not quite as large as Pennsylvania, or into states of 160,000 square miles each, that is to say three times as large as Virginia within the Alleghany? They will not only be happier in states of a moderate size, but it is the only way in which they can exist as a regular society. Considering the American character in general, that of those people particularly, and the energetic nature of our governments, a state of such extent as 160,000 square miles would soon crumble into little ones. These are the circumstances which reduce the Indians to such small societies. They would produce an effect on our people similar to this. They would not be broken into such small pieces because they are more habituated to subordination, & value more a government of regular law. But you would surely reverse the nature of things in making small states on the ocean & large ones beyond the mountains. If we could in our consciences say that great states beyond the mountains will make the people happiest, we must still ask whether they will be contented to be laid off into large states? They certainly will not; and if they decide to divide themselves, we are not able to restrain them. They will end by separating from our confederacy & becoming it’s enemies. We had better then look forward & see what will be the probable course of things. This will surely be a division of that country into states of a small, or at most of a moderate size. If we lay them off into such, they will acquiesce, and we shall have the advantage of arranging them so as to produce the best combinations of interest. What Congress has already done in this matter is an argument the more in favour of the revolt of those states against a different arrangement, and of their acquiescence under a continuance of that. Upon this plan, we treat them as fellow citizens, they will have a just share in their own government, they will love us, & pride themselves in an union with us. Upon the other we treat them as subjects, we govern them, & not they themselves, they will abhor us as masters, & break off from us in defiance. I confess to you that I can see no other turn that these two plans would take. But I respect your opinion, and your knowledge of the country too much, to be ever confident in my own.
I thank you sincerely for your communication, that my not having sooner given notice of the Arrets relative to fish gave discontent to some persons. These are the most friendly offices you can do me, because they enable me to justify myself if I am right, or correct myself if wrong. If those who thought I might have been remiss would have written to me on the subject, I should have loved them for their candour & thanked them for it: for I have no jealousies nor resentments at things of this kind where I have no reason to believe they have been excited by a hostile spirit, & I suspect no such spirit in a single member of Congress. You know there were two Arrets the first of Aug. 30, 1784, the 2d. of the 18th & 25th of September, 1785. As to the first it would be a sufficient justification of myself to say that it was in the time of my predecessor, nine months before I came into office, & that there was no more reason for my giving information of it when I did come into office than of all the other transactions which preceded that period. But this would seem to lay a blame on Dr. Franklin for not communicating it which I am conscious he did not deserve. This government affects a secrecy in all its transactions whatsoever, tho they be of a nature not to admit a perfect secrecy. Their Arrets respecting the islands go to those islands and are unpublished & unknown in France except in the bureau where they are formed. That of Aug. 1784, would probably be communicated to the merchants of the seaport towns also But Paris having no commercial connections with them, if anything makes it’s way from a seaport town to Paris, it must be by accident. We have indeed agents in these seaports: but they value their offices so little that they do not trouble themselves to inform us of what is passing there. As a proof that these things do not transpire here, nor are easily got at, recollect that Mr. Adams, Dr Franklin and myself were all here on the spot together from Aug. 1784. to June 1785. that is to say 10. months, and yet not one of us knew of the Arret of Aug. 1784. September 18 & 25 1785. the second was passed. & here alone I became responsible. I think it was about 6 weeks before I got notice of it, that is in November. On the 20th of that month writing to Count de Vergennes on another subject I took occasion to remonstrate to him on that. But from early in November when the Fitzhughs went to America, I had never a confidential opportunity of writing to Mr. Jay from hence directly for several months. In a letter of Dec. 14 to Mr. Jay I mentioned to him the want of opportunity to write to him confidentially, which obliged me at that moment to write by post via London & on such things only as both post offices were welcome to see. On the 2d January Mr. Bingham setting out for London, I wrote to Mr. Jay, sending him a copy of my letter to Ct. de Vergennes, and stating something which had passed in conversation on the same subject. I prayed Mr. Bingham to take charge of the letter, & either to send it by a safe hand or carry it himself as circumstances should render most advisable. I believe he kept it to carry himself. He did not sail from London till about the 12th of March, nor arrived in America till about the middle of May. Thus you see what causes had prevented a letter which I had written on the 20th of November from getting to America till the month of May. No wonder then if notice of this Arret came first to you by way of the W. Indies; and in general, I am confident that you will receive notice of the regulations of this country respecting their islands by the way of those islands before you will from hence. Nor can this be remedied but by a system of bribery which would end in the corruption of your own ministers, & produce no good adequate to the expense. Be so good as to communicate these circumstances to the persons who you think may have supposed me guilty of remissness on this occasion.
I will turn to a subject more pleasing to both, and give you my sincere congratulations on your marriage. Your own dispositions and the inherent comforts of that state will insure you a great addition of happiness. Long may you live to enjoy it, & enjoy it in full measure. The interest I feel in every one connected with you will justify my presenting my earliest respects to the lady, and of tendering her the homage of my friendship. I shall be happy at all times to be useful to either of you & to receive your commands. I inclose you the bill of lading of your Encyclopedie. With respect to the remittance for it, of which you make mention, I beg you not to think of it. I know by experience that proceeding to make a settlement in life, a man has need of all his resources, and I should be unhappy were you to lessen them by an attention to this trifle. Let it lie till you have nothing else to do with your money. Adieu my dear Sir and be assured of the esteem with which I am, your friend & servt.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Paris July 9. 1786.
—* * * Have you no news yet of the treaty with Portugal? does it hang with that court? My letters from N York of the 11th of May inform me that there were then 11. states present & that they should ratify the Prussian treaty immediately. As the time for exchange of ratifications is drawing to a close, tell me what is to be done, and how this exchange is to be made. We may as well have this settled between us before the arrival of the ratification, that no time may be lost after that. I learn through the Marechal de Castries that he has information of New York’s having ceded the impost in the form desired by Congress, so as to close this business. Corrections in the acts of Maryland, Pennsylvania &c. will come of course. We have taken up again the affair of whale oil, that they may know in time in America what is to be done in it. I fear we shall not obtain any farther abatement of duties; but the last abatement will be continued for three years. The whole duties payable here are nearly 102 livres on the English ton, which is an atom more than four guineas according to the present exchange.
The monopoly of the purchase of tobacco for this country which had been obtained by Robert Morris had thrown the commerce of that article in agonies. He had been able to reduce the price in America from 40/ to 22/6. lawful the hundred weight, and all other merchants being deprived of that medium of remittance the commerce between America & that country, so far as it depended on that article, which was very capitally too, was absolutely ceasing. An order has been obtained obliging the farmers general to purchase from such other merchants as shall offer, 15,000 hogsheads of tobacco at 34. 36. & 38. livres the hundred according to the quality, and to grant to the sellers in other respects the same terms as they had granted to Robert Morris. As this agreement with Morris is the basis of this order I send you some copies of it which I will thank you to give to any American (not British) merchants in London who may be in that line. During the year this contract has subsisted, Virginia & Maryland have lost 400,000£ by the reduction of the price of their tobacco.
I am meditating what step to take to provoke a letter from Mrs. Adams, from whom my files inform me I have not received one these hundred years. In the meantime present my affectionate respects to her, and be assured of the friendship & esteem with which I have the honour to be Dear Sir your most obedient, and most humble servt.
TO HECTOR ST. JOHN CREVECŒUR
Paris July 11. 1786.
—I have been honored with a letter from M. Delisle Lt. Gl. au bailliage de laën, to which is annexed a postscript from yourself. Being unable to write in French so as to be sure of conveying my true meaning, or perhaps any meaning at all, I will beg of you to interpret what I have now the honor to write.
It is time that the United States, generally, & most of the separate states in particular, are endeavoring to establish means to pay the interest of their public debts regularly, & to sink it’s principal by degrees. But as yet their efforts have been confined to that part of their debts which is evidenced by certificates. I do not think that any state has yet taken measures for paying their paper money debt. The principle on which it shall be paid I take to be settled, tho’ not directly yet virtually, by the resolution of Congress of June 3d. 1784. that is that they will pay the holder or his representatives what the money was worth at the time he received it, with an interest from that time of 6. per cent. per annum. It is not said in the letter whether the money received by Barboutin was Continental money or Virginia money; nor is it said at what time it was received. But that M. Delisle may be enabled to judge what the 5398 dollars were worth in hard money when Barboutin received them, I will state to you what was the worth of one hard dollar both in Continental & Virginia money through the whole of the year 1779 & 1780. within some part of which it was probably received.
Thus you see that in Jan. 1779, 7 dollars & 72. hundreths of a dollar of Continental money were worth one dollar of silver, & at the same time 8 dollars of Virginia paper were worth one dollar of silver &c. After Mar. 18, 1780, Continental paper received in Virginia will be estimated by the table of Virginia paper. I advise all the foreign holders of paper money to lodge it in the office of their consul for the state where it was received, that he may dispose of it for their benefit the first moment that paiment shall be provided by the state or Continent. I had lately the pleasure of seeing the Countess d’Houditot well at Sanois, & have now that of assuring you of the perfect esteem & respect with which I have the honor to be Dear Sir your most obedient humble servt.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE
Paris July 17, 1786.
—I have now the honour of inclosing to you an estimate of the Exports & Imports of the United States. Calculations of this kind cannot pretend to accuracy, where inattention and fraud combine to suppress their objects. Approximation is all that they can aim at. Neither care nor candour have been wanting on my part to bring them as near the truth as my skill and materials would enable me to do. I have availed myself of the best documents from the custom houses which have been given to the public: and have been able to rectify these in many instances by information collected by myself on the spot in many of the states. Still remember however that I call them but approximations and that they must present some errors as considerable as they were unavoidable.
Our commerce divides itself into European & West Indian. I have conformed my statement to this division.
On running over the Catalogue of American imports, France will naturally mark out those articles with which she could supply us to advantage: & she may safely calculate that after a little time shall have enabled us to get rid of our present incumbrances, and of some remains of attachment to the particular forms of manufacture to which we have been habituated we shall take those articles which she can furnish on as good terms as other nations, to whatever extent she will enable us to pay for them. It is her interest therefore, as well as ours, to multiply the means of paiment. These must be found in the catalogue of our Exports, & among these will be seen neither gold nor silver. We have no mines of either of these metals. Produce therefore is all we can offer. Some articles of our produce will be found very convenient to this country for her own consumption. Others will be convenient, as being more commerciable in her hands than those she will give in exchange for them. If there be any which she can neither consume, nor dispose of by exchange, she will not buy them of us, and of course we shall not bring them to her. If American produce can be brought into the ports of France, the articles of exchange for it will be taken in those ports: & the only means of drawing it hither is to let the merchant see that he can dispose of it on better terms here than anywhere else. If the market price of this country does not in itself offer this superiority, it may be worthy of consideration whether it should be obtained by such abatements of duties, and even by such other encouragements as the importance of the article may justify. Should some loss attend this in the beginning, it can be discontinued when the trade shall be well established in this channel.
With respect to the West India commerce, I must apprise you that this estimate does not present it’s present face. No materials have enabled us to say how it stands since the war. We can only shew what it was before that period. New regulations have changed our situation there much for the worse. This is most sensibly felt in the Exports of fish, and flour. The surplus of the former, which these regulations throw back on us, is forced to Europe, where, by increasing the quantity, it lessens the price: the surplus of the latter is sunk: and to what other objects this portion of industry is turned, or turning, I am not able to discover. The Imports too of Sugar & Coffee are thrown under great difficulties. These increase the price: and being articles of food for the poorer class (as you may be sensible on observing the quantities consumed) a small increase of price places them above the reach of this class, which being very numerous, must occasion a great diminution of consumption. It remains to see whether the American will endeavour to baffle these new restrictions in order to indulge his habits; or will adapt his habits to other objects which may furnish emploiment to the surplus of industry formerly occupied in raising that bread which no longer finds a vent in the West Indian market. If, instead of either of these measures, he should resolve to come to Europe for coffee & sugar, he must lessen equivalently his consumption of some other European articles in order to pay for his coffee & sugar, the bread with which he formerly paid for them in the West Indies not being demanded in the European market. In fact the catalogue of Imports offers several articles more dispensable than coffee & sugar. Of all these subjects, the committee and yourself are the more competent judges. To you therefore I trust them with every wish for their improvement, & with sentiments of that perfect esteem & respect with which I have the honour to be, Dear Sir, your most obedient, & most humble servt.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE ST. LAMBERT.
Aug. 8, 1786.
Mr. Jefferson has the honour of presenting his compliments to Monsieur le Marquis de St. Lambert, and of thanking him for his very excellent translation of the act of the Virginia Assembly.1 An opportunity having occurred, before the receipt of it of forwarding the act to some foreign courts where it was thought it would be well received Mr. Jefferson had been obliged to print copies from a translation prepared for the Encyclopedie. He shall endeavour as soon as possible to avail the public of the better one of M. de St. Lambert. He begs leave to present to him and also through him to Madame la Comtesse d’Houditat the homage of his respects.
TO MRS. JOHN (ABIGAIL) ADAMS
Paris Aug. 9, 1786.
—It is an age since I have had the honor of a letter from you, and an age and a half since I presumed to address one to you. I think my last was dated in the reign of King Amri, but under which of his successors you wrote, I cannot recollect, Ocharias Zoachar, Manahem or some such hard name. At length it is resumed; I am honoured with your favor of July 23, and I am at this moment writing an answer to it. And first we will despatch business. The shoes you ordered, will be ready this day and will accompany the present letter, but why send money for them? You know the balance of trade was always against me. You will observe by the inclosed account that it is I who am to export cash always, tho’ the sum has been lessened by the bad bargains I have made for you & the good ones you have made for me. This is a gaining trade, and therefore I shall continue it, begging you will send no more money here. Be so good as to correct the inclosed that the errors of that may not add to your losses in this commerce.—You were right in conjecturing that both the gentlemen might forget to communicate to me the intelligence about Captn. Stanhope. Mr. Adams’ head was full of whale oil, and Colo. Smith’s of German politics. (—but don’t tell them this—) so they left it to you to give me the news. De tout mon coeur, I had rather receive it from you than them. This proposition about the exchange of a son for my daughter puzzles me. I should be very glad to have your son, but I cannot part with my daughter. Thus you see I have such a habit of gaining in trade with you that I always expect it. We have a blind story here of somebody attempting to assassinate your King. No man upon earth has my prayers for his continuance in life more sincerely than him. He is truly the American Messias, the most precious life that ever god gave. And may god continue it. Twenty long years has he been labouring to drive us to our good and he labours and will labour still for it if he can be spared. We shall have need of him for twenty more. The Prince of Wales on the Throne, Lansdown & Fox in the Ministry & we are undone! We become chained by our habits to the tails of those who hate & dispise us. I repeat it then that my anxieties are all alive for the health and long life of the King. He has not a friend on earth who would lament his loss as much & so long as I should.—Here we have singing, dancing, laugh & merriment, no assassinations, no treasons, rebellions nor other dark deeds. When our King goes out, they fall down and kiss the earth where he has trodden; and then they go to kissing one another, and this is the truest wisdom, they have as much happiness in one year as an Englishman in ten. The presence of the Queen’s Sister enlivens the Court, still more the birth of the princess, there are some little bickerings between the King & his parliament, but they end with a sic volo, sic jubes. The bottom of my page tells me it is time for me to end with assurances of the affectionate esteem with which I have the honor to be, Dear Madam, Your most obedient & most humble servant.
TO JAMES MONROE1
Paris, Aug. 11, 1786.
—I wrote you last on the 9th of July & since that have received yours of the 16th of June with the interesting intelligence it contained. I was entirely in the dark as to the progress of that negotiation, and concur entirely in the views you have taken of it.2 The difficulty on which it hangs is a sine qua non with us. It would be to deceive them & ourselves to suppose that an amity can be preserved while this right is withheld. Such a supposition would argue not only an ignorance of the people to whom this is most interesting, but an ignorance of the nature of man, or an inattention to it. Those who see but half way into our true interest will think that that concurs with the views of the other party. But those who see it in all it’s extent will be sensible that our true interest will be best promoted by making all the just claims of our fellow citizens, wherever situated, our own, by urging & enforcing them with the weight of our whole influence, & by exercising in this as in every other instance a just government in their concerns & making common cause even where our separate interest would seem opposed to theirs. No other conduct can attach us together; & on this attachment depends our happiness. The King of Prussia still lives, and is even said to be better. Europe is very quiet at present. The only germ of dissension which shews itself at present is in the quarter of Turkey. The Emperor, the Empress, & the Venetians seem all to be pecking at the Turks. It is not probable however that either of the two first will do anything to bring on an open rupture while the K of Prussia lives. You will perceive, by the letters I inclose to Mr. Jay that Lambe, under the pretext of ill health, declines returning either to Congress, Mr. Adams or myself. This circumstance makes me fear some malversation. The money appropriated to this object being in Holland, & having been always under the care of Mr. Adams, it was concerted between us that all the draughts should be on him. I know not therefore what sums may have been advanced to Lambe. I hope however nothing great. I am persuaded that an angel sent on this business, & so much limited in his terms, could have done nothing. But should Congress propose to try the line of negotiation again, I think they will perceive that Lambe is not a proper agent. I have written to Mr. Adams on the subject of a settlement with Lambe. There is little prospect of accommodation between the Algerines & the Portuguese & Neapolitans. A very valuable capture too, lately made by them on the Empress of Russia, bids fair to draw her on them. The probability is therefore that these three nations will be at war with them, & the possibility that could we furnish a couple of frigates, a convention might be formed with those powers, establishing a perpetual cruise on the coast of Algiers which would bring them to reason.1 Such a convention being left open to all powers willing to come into it, should have for it’s object a general peace, to be guaranteed to each by the whole. Were only two or three to begin a confederacy of this kind, I think every power in Europe would soon fall into it except France, England, & perhaps Spain & Holland. Of these, there is only England who would give any real aid to the Algerines. Morocco, you perceive, will be at peace with us. Were the honour & advantage of establishing such a confederacy out of the question, yet the necessity that the U S should have some marine force, & the happiness of this as the ostensible cause for beginning it, would decide on it’s propriety. It will be said there is no money in the treasury. There never will be money in the treasury till the confederacy shows it’s teeth. The states must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by some one of them. I am persuaded all of them would rejoice to see every one obliged to furnish it’s contributions. It is not the difficulty of furnishing them which beggars the treasury, but the fear that others will not furnish as much. Every rational citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, & should fear to see it on any other element but the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties, nor occasion bloodshed: a land force would do both. It is not in the choice of the states whether they will pay money to cover their trade against the Algerines. If they obtain a peace by negotiation they must pay a great sum of money for it; if they do nothing they must pay a great sum of money in the form of insurance; and in either way as great a one & probably less effectual than in the way of force. I look forward with anxiety to the approaching moment of your departure from Congress. Besides the interest of the Confederacy & of the State I have a personal interest in it. I know not to whom I may venture confidential communications after you are gone. Lee I scarcely know. Grayson is lazy. Carrington is industrious but not always as discreet as well-meaning, yet on the whole I believe he would be the best if you find him disposed to the correspondence. Engage him to begin it. I take the liberty of placing here my respects to Mrs. Monroe and assurances of the sincere esteem with which I am Dear Sir your friend & servant.
TO GEORGE WYTHE
Paris, August 13, 1786.
—Your favors of Jan. 10 & Feb. 10, came to hand on the 20th & 2d of May. I availed myself of the first opportunity which occurred, by a gentleman going to England, of sending to Mr. Joddrel a copy of the Notes on our country, with a line informing him that it was you who had emboldened me to take that liberty. Madison, no doubt, informed you of the reason why I had sent only a single copy to Virginia. Being assured by him that they will not do the harm I had apprehended, but on the contrary may do some good, I propose to send thither the copies remaining on hand, which are fewer than I had intended. But of the numerous corrections they need, there are one or two so essential that I must have them made, by printing a few new leaves & substituting them for the old. This will be done while they are engraving a map which I have constructed of the country from Albemarle sound to Lake Erie, & which will be inserted in the book. A bad French translation which is getting out here, will probably oblige me to publish the original more freely, which it neither deserved nor was ever intended. Your wishes, which are laws to me, will justify my destining a copy for you, otherwise I should as soon have thought of sending you a hornbook; for there is no truth there that which is not familiar to you, and it’s errors I should hardly have proposed to treat you with.
Immediately on the receipt of your letter, I wrote to a correspondent at Florence to inquire after the family of Tagliaferro as you desired. I received his answer two days ago, a copy of which I now inclose. The original shall be sent by some other occasion. I will have the copper-plate immediately engraved. This may be ready within a few days, but the probability is that I shall be long getting an opportunity of sending it to you, as these rarely occur. You do not mention the size of the plate but, presuming it is intended for labels for the inside of books, I shall have it made of a proper size for that. I shall omit the word agisos, according to the license you allow me, because I think the beauty of a motto is to condense much matter in as few words as possible. The word omitted will be supplied by every reader. The European papers have announced that the assembly of Virginia were occupied on the revisal of their code of laws. This, with some other similar intelligence, has contributed much to convince the people of Europe, that what the English papers are constantly publishing of our anarchy, is false; as they are sensible that such a work is that of a people only who are in perfect tranquillity. Our act for freedom of religion is extremely applauded. The ambassadors & ministers of the several nations of Europe resident at this court have asked of me copies of it to send to their sovereigns, and it is inserted at full length in several books now in the press; among others, in the new Encyclopedie. I think it will produce considerable good even in these countries where ignorance, superstition, poverty, & oppression of body & mind in every form, are so firmly settled on the mass of the people, that their redemption from them can never be hoped. If the Almighty had begotten a thousand sons, instead of one, they would not have sufficed for this task. If all the sovereigns of Europe were to set themselves to work to emancipate the minds of their subjects from their present ignorance & prejudices, & that as zealously as they now endeavor the contrary, a thousand years would not place them on that high ground on which our common people are now setting out. Ours could not have been so fairly put into the hands of their own common sense had they not been separated from their parent stock & kept from contamination, either from them, or the other people of the old world, by the intervention of so wide an ocean. To know the worth of this, one must see the want of it here. I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowlege among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of freedom and happiness. If anybody thinks that kings, nobles, or priests are good conservators of the public happiness send them here. It is the best school in the universe to cure them of that folly. They will see here with their own eyes that these descriptions of men are an abandoned confederacy against the happiness of the mass of the people. The omnipotence of their effect cannot be better proved than in this country particularly, where notwithstanding the finest soil upon earth, the finest climate under heaven, and a people of the most benevolent, the most gay and amiable character of which the human form is susceptible, where such a people I say, surrounded by so many blessings from nature, are yet loaded with misery by kings, nobles and priests, and by them alone. Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests & nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance. The people of England, I think, are less oppressed than here. But it needs but half an eye to see, when among them, that the foundation is laid in their dispositions for the establishment of a despotism. Nobility, wealth & pomp are the objects of their adoration. They are by no means the free-minded people we suppose them in America. Their learned men too are few in number, and are less learned and infinitely less emancipated from prejudice than those of this country. An event too seems to be preparing, in the order of things, which will probably decide the fate of that country. It is no longer doubtful that the harbour of Cherburg will be complete, that it will be a most excellent one, & capacious enough to hold the whole navy of France. Nothing has ever been wanting to enable this country to invade that, but a naval force conveniently stationed to protect the transports. This change of situation must oblige the English to keep up a great standing army, and there is no King, who, with sufficient force, is not always ready to make himself absolute. My paper warns me it is time to recommend myself to the friendly recollection of Mrs. Wythe, of Colo. Tagliaferro & his family & particularly of Mr. R. T.; and to assure you of the affectionate esteem with which I am Dear Sir your friend and servt.
TO FRANCIS HOPKINSON
Paris, Aug. 14, 1786.
* * * After the present then I shall still be a letter in your debt. One would think that this balance did not justify a scold. The manner of curing the Essence d’Orient is, as you are apprised, kept secret here. There is no getting at it therefore openly. A friend has undertaken to try whether it can be obtained either by proposing the partnership you mention, or by finding out the process. You shall have the result of these endeavors. I think I sent you in January the 5th & 6th volumes of the Bibliotheque physico-eccononique, which are the last published. I have for yourself and Dr. Franklin the 17th & 18th livraisons of the Encyclopedie, & expect the 19th will come out very soon. These will form a respectable package & shall then be forwarded.
I will send as you propose, copies of my Notes to the Philosophical society and the City library as soon as I shall have received a map which I have constructed for them, & which is now engraving. This will be a map of the Country from Albemarle sound to Lake Erie, as exact as the materials hitherto published would enable me to make it, & brought into a single sheet. I have with great impatience hoped to receive from some of my friends a particular description of the Southern & Western limits of Pennsylvania. Perhaps it might still come in time, if you could send it to me in the moment almost of your receiving this. Indeed it would be very desirable if you could only write me an answer to these two queries, viz. How far Westward of F. Pitt does the Western line of Pennsylvania pass? At what point of the river Ohio does that line strike it? Should this arrive even after they shall have begun to strike off the map, I can have the plate altered so as that the latter copies shall give that line right. Mr. Rittenhouse will have the goodness to furnish you answers to these queries. Could you prevail on him to answer this also. When will the Lunarium be done?—I envy your Wednesday evenings entertainments with him & Dr. Franklin. They would be more valued by me than the whole week at Paris.—Will you be so good as to send me a copy of a Botanical book1 published by some person in the Country not far from Philadelphia, whose name I have not heard? It is a description of the plants of Pennsylvania. I have nothing new to Communicate to you either in the Arts or sciences. Our countryman Trumbul is here, a young painter of the most promising talents. He brought with him his Battle of Bunker’s hill & Death of Montgomery to have them engraved here, & we may add, to have them sold; for like Dr. Ramsey’s history, they are too true to suit the English palate. He returned last night from examining the king’s collection of paintings at Versailles, and acknoleges it surpassed not only every thing he had seen, but every idea he had ever formed of this art. I persuade him to fix himself here awhile, & then proceed to Rome. My daughter is well and joins me in respects to her & your common mother, to your lady & family also, as well as to our friends of the other house, meaning Mr. Rittenhouse’s. Be assured yourself of the perfect esteem with which I am, Dear Sir, your friend and servant.
TO THE FRENCH MINISTER OF FOREIGN RELATIONS
Paris le 15 Aoust 1786.
—Dans l’entretien dont Votre Excellence m’honora il y a quelques jours sur l’importance d’établir dés à present le commerce entre la France et l’Amérique sur le meillure pied possible, entr’ autres objets de ce commerce le tabac fut cité comme susceptible d’un plus grand encouragement & advantage pour les deux nations. Continuellement dans la necessité de rectifier ce que je dis dans une langue que je parle si imparfaitement, je prierai V. E. de me permettre d’établir en Anglais la substance de ce que j’eus l’honneur de lui observer, en ajoutant quelques détails plus particuliers digne de son attention.
Je trouve que la consommation du tabac en France est evaluée de 15. à 30. millions pésant; l’estimation la plus probable la fixe cependant à 24. millions, qui à raison de 8. sols la livre, rendu dans un port de
Ce qui fait à un sixième près, autant que le Roi reçoit, & porté à près d’une moitié les frais de levée de l’autre.
Ce serait une presumption de ma part, ètant etranger, de supposer mes calculs parfaitement exacts; je les ai tirés des meilleurs autorités & les plus désintéressées que j’ai pu trouver. V. E. verra jusqu’a quel point ils peuvent être erronés, & quelque considerable que soit l’erreur, je suis persuadé, qu’après la plus stricte ratification, elle trouvera que la levée de cette branche de revenu absorbe encore trop.
J’espere que V. E. trouvera ma justification de faire ces remarques dans le desir que j’ai, d’améliorer le commerce entre les deux nations, & dans les avantages que mon pays retirera de cette amélioration.
Le monopole de l’echat du tabac en France décourage également les négocians Français & Américains de l’y apporter & de prendre en échange des objèts de manufactures & productions de France. Il n’est pas moins contraire à l’esprit du commerce qu’aux dispositions des négocians, de porter une denrée à un marché ou une seule personne a le droit de l’acheter, & y fixe consequemment un prix dont le vendeur est obligé de se contenter, ou bien de remporter sa denrée en perdant son voyage. D’après cela l’experience fait voir qu’ils la portent à d’autres marchés & qu’ils reçoivent en échange des marchandises du pays ou ils la vendent. Je ne sais pas trop si la France n’a pas eté fournie par une nation voisine de quantités considerables de tabac depuis la paix, & obligée de payer en argent ce qui auroit pu l’être en objèts de manufactures, si les negocians François et Américains avoient apporté le tabac directement ici, je suppose aussi que les achats faits par les fermiers généraux en Amérique sont payés pour la plupart grande partie en argent: que cet argent est remis directement d’ici en Angleterre & fait une partie essentielle de la balance de ce que a fourni par cette nation contra celle-ci. Quand mème pour satisfaire le gouvernement à cet égard, les fermiers généraux, soit par eux mêmes soit par la compagnie qu’ils chargeraient de l’emplette de ces tabacs en Amérique, exiguant l’exportation proportionnée de marchandises de France pour donner en échange, ce serait un expedient inutile, & qui ne ferait que livrer au monopole les exportations ainsi que les importations entre la France & l’Amérique; car assurés de ne point avoir de rivaux dans la vente des marchandises de France, ils ne les vendraient vraisemblablement pas à des prix assez moderés pour en encourager la consommation & les mettres à même de soutenir la concurrence avec des articles semblables venant d’autres pays. Je suis persuadé qu’on peut éviter cette exportation d’argent & y substituer celle des denrées, en laissant les deux opérations aux negocians Français & Américains au lieu des Fermiers généraux. Ils importeront une quantité suffisante de tabac, si on leur accorde une parfaite liberté pour la vente; & ils recevront en payement des vins, des huiles, des eaux de vie & des produits des manufactures au lieu d’argent. Ils se forceront l’un l’autre, par la concurrence à porter des tabacs de la meilleure qualité, à donner aux manufacturiers Français en entier equivalent de leurs marchandises, & à les vendre aux consommateurs Américains au plus bas prix qu’ils pourront accorder, en les encourageant ainsi à les consommer de préférence aux marchandises des autres pays. Il n’est pas necessaire d’encourager cet échange par aucun sacrifice des revenus du Roi. Je n’entends point avancer ici rien qui puisse nuire soit a S. M. soit à son peuple: au contraire, le moyen que j’ai l’honneur de proposer augmentera le revenu du Roi en rendant meilleure la condition des vendeurs & des acheteurs. Il ne m’ apportient point de dire quel système de levée serait plus analogue à l’organisation de ce Gouvernement, ou si l’on ne pourrait pas tirer quelques lumières utiles de la practique du pays qui à eté jusqu’ici le principal entrepôt de cette denrée. Son système est simple & peu dispendieux. Celui qui importe y paye en entier le droit dû au Roi; & comme il serait incommode pour lui de le faire avant d’avoir vendu son tabac, il lui est permis de le déposer dans les magasins du Roi, sous la garde des Officers Royaux, aussitôt qu’il a vendu, il va avec l’acheteur au magasin & l’argent est divisé entre le Roi & lui, chacun ce qui lui revient, & l’acheteur enleve le tabac. Le payement des droits du Roi est ainsi assuré en argent comptant. Je ne scaurais dire quels çont les frais de levée, mais certainement ils ne doivent pas exceder 6♯ par tonneau de 1000♯ peasant. Le Gouvernement y leve un plus fort droit sur le tabac qu’ici; cependant tel est l’attrait et l’avantage d’une entière liberté, pour la vente, que le negociant porte lá son tabac & trouve son compte à l’y porter. Si par une simplification de la levée des droits du Roi sur le tabac, on pouvait en reduire les frais même à 5 p % ou à un million & demi au lieu de 25 millions, le prix pour le consommateur serait reduit de 3♯ à 2♯ la livre, car voici, comme je calcule:
Au moyen de cette réduction d’un tiers du prix, il serait à la portée d’une nouvelle & nombreuse classe du peuple qui ne peut maintenant se procurer cet objet de luxe, & la consommation augmenterait probablement dans une proportion égale à la réduction du prix, si non dans une plus grande, c’est à dire de 24 à 36 millions de livres: et le Roi continuant à recevoir 25s par lb comme à présent, recevrait 45 millions au lieu de 30, tandis que ses sujets ne payeraient que 2♯ ce qui jusqu’ici leur en a coûté 3. Cu si, par évenément, la consommation n’augmentait pas, il ne leverait sur ses peuples que 48 millions au lieu de 72. & laisserait dans leur bourses 24. millions soit pour y rester, soit pour être levés d’une autre manière; si l’état de ses revenus l’exigeait. Il mettrait en même tems ses sujets à même de placer pour 9. à 10. millions de plus de leurs denrées & manufactures, au lieu d’envoyer annuellement à peu près cette somme en argent pour enrichir une nation voisine.
J’ai entendu faire deux objections à la suppression de ce monopole.
1°. Que cela pourrait augmenter l’importation de tabac en contrebande. 2°. Que cela diminuerait les moyens des Fermiers-généraux pour les prêts d’argent qu’ils font occasionellement au trésor public. Ceux qui connoissent mieux que moi les détails & les circonstances de ce pays, répondront sûrement mieux que je ne scaurais le faire à ces deux objections. Quant à la première je remarquerai cependant que la contrebande ne peut pas augmenter par la diminution de ses appas. Elle est presentement encouragée, en ce que pouvant vendre 60s ce qui n’en coûte que 14. elle offre un bénéfice de 46s lorsque le prix sera reduit de 60s. à 40s. ce bénéfice ne sera plus que de 26s. c’est à dire peu plus de la moitié de ce qu’il est actuellement. La conséquence ne paroit donc pas naturelle, que la contrebande doive augmenter par la réduction de près de moitié de ses profits. Quant à la seconde objection, en supposant (pour éclaircissement, & sans prétendre la fixer) la proportion de la ferme sur le tabac à un huitième de la masse entière des fermes, les moyens des fermiers généraux pour prêter seront reduits d’un 8me. c’est à dire qu’ils ne pourront par la suite prêter que sept millions, tandis que par le passé ils en prêtaient huit. Or il reste à considérer si ce 8me. (ou telle autre proportion que ce soit) mérite le sacrifice annuel de 24. millions, ou si un sacrifice beaucoup moindre en faveur de quelqu’ autre capitaliste ne procurerait pas les mêmes prêts d’argent par la voie ordinaire.
Tandis qu’une augmentation de revenu pour la couronne, une diminution d’impôt sur le peuple & un paiement en marchandises au lieu d’argent sont les avantages que doivent vraisemblablement résulter pour la France de la suppression du monopole sur le tabac, nous avons aussi lieu d’en espérer quelques avantages de nôtre côté; & ce n’est que cet espoir seul que pourroit me justifier d’entrer dans les présents détails. Je ne m’attends point qu’au nombre de ces avantages soit celui d’une augmentation de prix; les autres marchés d’Europe ont trop d’influence sur cet article, pour pouvoir se flater d’aucune augmentation sensible de prix. Mais le principal avantage que j’en attends est une augmentation de consommation qui, en nous ouvrant un plus grand débouché, procurera en conséquence de l’emploi à un plus grand nombre de cultivateurs; & la même proportion d’augmentation, en notre faveur, de cette denrée, sera infailliblement celle du débouché additionel qui s’ouvrira aux marchandises de France & à l’emploi des bras qui les produisent. J’espère aussi qu’en attirant ici nos negocians, ils pourront prendre en échange plusieurs marchandises de meilleure qualité & a meilleur prix. J’ajoute avec sincérité que mon cœur est vivement touché de l’espoir ultérieur qu’en liant les deux nations d’intérêts ce sera les lier plus étroitement encore d’amitié. Dans le vrai, il n’existe pas deux pays plus propres aux échanges de commerce. La France a besoin de riz, de tabac, de potasse, de fourrures, & de bois de construction. Nous avons besoin de vins, d’huiles, des eaux-de-vie, & d’objets de manufactures. Il règne entre les deux peuples une affection qui les porter à se favoriser l’un l’autre. S’ ils ne se rejoignent donc pas dans leurs propres ports pour faire ces échanges, cela prouve qu’il y a quelque obstacle essentiel dans les moyens. Nous avons reçu trop de preuves des dispositions amicales de S. M. envers les Etats-Unis, & nous connoissons trop bien son zèle affectueux pour ses sujéts, pour douter de sa bonne volonté d’ecarter ces obstacles lorsqu’ils seront clairement démontrés. C’est à sa sagesse à decider si le monopole qui fait le sujèt de cette lettre peut a juste titre être mis au nombre des principaux. C’est une grande consolation pour moi, qu’en soumettant ces observations aux lumieres de S. M. Votre Exce. rectifiera mes idées la, ou une connoissance insuffisante des faits peut m’avoir induit en erreur, & qu’en même tems que les intérêts du Roi & de son peuple soit le principal objet de votre attention, vous en trouverez un de plus dans ces dispositions envers nous qui ont si souvent favorisé notre nation. Nous invoquons ardemment le ciel pour qu’il veille avec un soin particulier sur la vie & le bonheur de S. M. & pour qu’elle soit longtems soulagée par vos sages conseils dans le fardeau du Gouvernement. Permettez moi d’ajouter l’assurance du profond respect & de la considération distinguée avec lesquels j’ai l’honneur d’etre de votre Excellence, le tres humble & tres obeissant serviteur.
TO JEAN PIERRE BRISSOT DE WARVILLE
Paris, Aug. 16, 1786.
—I have read with very great satisfaction the sheets of your work on the commerce of France & the United States which you were so good as to put into my hands. I think you treat the subject, as far as these sheets go, in an excellent manner. Were I to select any particular passages as giving me particular satisfaction, it would be those wherein you prove to the United States that they will be more virtuous, more free & more happy, emploied in agriculture, than as carriers or manufacturers. It is a truth, and a precious one for them, if they could be persuaded of it. I am also particularly pleased with your introduction. You have properly observed that we can no longer be called Anglo-Americans. That appellation now describes only the inhabitants of Nova Scotia, Canada, &c. I had applied that of Federo-Americans to our citizens, as it would not be so decent for us to assume to ourselves the flattering appellation of Free-Americans. There are two passages in this work on which I am able to give information. The first is in page 62; “ils auront le coton quand ils voudront se livrer à ce genre de culture,” and in the note “l’on voit dans la baie de Massachusetts, &c.” The four Southernmost states make a great deal of cotton. Their poor are almost entirely clothed in it in winter & summer. In winter they wear shirts of it, & outer clothing of cotton & wool mixed. In Summer their shirts are linnen but the outer clothing cotton. The dress of the women is almost entirely of cotton manufactured by themselves, except the richer class, and even many of these wear a good deal of home-spun cotton. It is as well manufactured as the calicoes of Europe. These 4 states furnish a great deal of cotton to the states north of them, who cannot make it, as being too cold. There is no neighborhood in any part of the United States without a water-grist-mill for grinding the corn of the neighborhood. Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, abound with large manufacturing mills for the exportation of flour. There are abundance of saw-mills in all the states. Furnaces and forges of iron, I believe, in every state, I know they are in the nine Northernmost. There are many mills for plating & slitting iron. And I think there are many distilleries of rum from Norfolk in Virginia to Portsmouth in New Hampshire. I mention these circumstances because your note seems to imply that these things are only in the particular states you mention.
The second passage is pages 101 & 102 where you speak of the “ravages causés par l’ abus des eaux de vie,” which seems, by the note in page 101, to be taken on authority of Smith. Nothing can be less true than what that author says on this subject; and we may say in general that there are as many falsehoods as facts in his work. I think drunkenness is much more common in all the American States than in France. But it is less common there than in England. You may form an idea from this of the state of it in America. Smith saw everything thro’ the medium of strong prejudice. Besides this, he does not hesitate to write palpable lies, which he was conscious were such. When you proceed to form your table of American exports & imports, I make no doubt you will consult the American traveller,1 the estimates in which are nearer the truth than those of Ld Sheffield & Deane, as far as my knowlege of the facts enables me to judge. I must beg your pardon for having so long detained these sheets. I did not finish my American dispatches till the night before last, & was obliged yesterday to go to Versailles. I have the honour to be with very great respect, Sir, your most obedient & most humble servant.
TO HONORÉ GABRIEL REQUETTI, COMTE DE MIRABEAU
Aug. 20, 1786.
“Il n’est pas un pays sur la terre, je n’en excepte pas les nouvelles republiques Americaines, on il suffix á un homme de pratiquer les vertus sociales pour participer a tous les avantages de la société.” Lettre de M. le comte de Mirabeau sur M. de Cagliostro, pa. 48.
A person who esteems highly the writings and talents of the Count de Mirabeau, and his disposition to exert them for the good of mankind, takes the liberty of inclosing him the original and a translation of an act1 of one of the legislatures of the American republics, with which the Count de Mirabeau was probably not acquainted when he wrote the above paragraph. It is part of that general reformation of their laws on which those republics have been occupied since the establishment of peace and independance among them. The Count de Mirabeau will perhaps be able on some occasion to avail mankind of this example of emancipating human reason.
TO CHARLES GYSBERT, COUNT VAN HOGENDORP
Paris, August 25, 1786.
—Your favour of the 2d instant has been duly received, and I employ the first moment which has been at my disposal to answer it. The author of the part of the new Encyclopedie which relates to Political economy having asked of me materials for the article Etat Unis, stating a number of questions relative to them, I answered them as minutely & exactly as was in my power. He has from these compiled the greater part of that article. I take the liberty of inclosing you one of them, which will give you all the details to which your letter refers. I can even refer you to the pages which answer your several questions.
The Philadelphia bank was incorporated by Congress. This is perhaps the only instance of their having done that, which they had no power to do. Necessity obliged them to give this institution the appearance of their countenance, because in that moment they were without any other resource for money. The legislature of Pennsylvania however passed an act of incorporation for the bank, & declared that the holders of stock should be responsible only to the amount of their stock. Lately that legislature has repealed their act. The consequence is that the bank is now altogether a private institution and every holder is liable for it’s engagements in his whole property. This has had a curious effect. It has given those who deposit money in the bank a greater faith in it, while it has rendered the holders very discontented, as being more exposed to risk, and has induced many to sell out, so that I have heard (I know not how truly) that bank stock sells somewhat below par, it has been said 7½ per cent; but as the publication was from the enemies of the bank, I do not give implicit faith to it. With respect to the article “Etats Unis” of the Encyclopedie now inclosed, I am far from making myself responsible for the whole of the article. The two first sections are taken chiefly from the Abbé Raynal & they are therefore wrong exactly in the same proportion; the other sections are generally right. Even in them however there is here & there an error. But on the whole it is good; and the only thing as yet printed which gives a just idea of the American constitutions. There will be another good work, a very good one, published here soon by Mr. Mazzei who has been many years a resident of Virginia, is well informed, and possessed of a masculine understanding. I should rather have said it will be published in Holland, for I believe it cannot be printed here. I should be happy indeed in an opportunity of visiting Holland; but I know not when it will occur. In the mean time it would give me great pleasure to see you here. I think you would find both pleasure & use in such a trip. I feel a sincere interest in the fate of your country, and am disposed to wish well to either party only as I can see in their measures a tendency to bring on an amelioration of the condition of the people, an increase in the mass of happiness. But this is a subject for conversation. My paper warns me that it is time to assure you of the esteem & respect with which I have the honour to be Dear Sir your most obedient humble servant.
TO MRS. PARADISE
Paris, Aug. 27, 1786.
—I am honored with your letter of the 15th inst. by Mr. Voss. I concur with you in opinion that it is for Mr. Paradise’s interest to go as soon as possible to America and also to turn all his debts into one, which may be to Mr. Gist or any other: upon condition that the person giving him this credit shall be satisfied to receive annually his interest in money, and shall not require consignments of tobacco. This is the usual condition of the tobacco merchants. No other law can be more oppressive to the mind or fortune, and long experience has proved to us that there never was an instance of a man’s getting out of debt who was once in the hands of a tobacco merchant & bound to consign his tobacco to him. It is the most delusive of all snares. The merchant feeds the inclination of his customer to be credited till he gets the burthen of debt so increased that he cannot throw it off at once, he then begins to give him less for his tobacco & ends with giving him what he pleases for it, which is always so little that though the demands of the customer for necessaries be reduced ever so low in order to get himself out of debt, the merchant lowers his price in the same proportion so as always to keep such a balance against his customer as will oblige him to continue his consignments of tobacco. Tobacco always sells better in Virginia than in the hands of a London merchant. The confidence which you have been pleased to place in me induces me to take the liberty of advising you to submit to any thing rather than to an obligation to ship your tobacco. A mortgage of property, the most usurious interest, or any thing else will be preferable to this. If Mr. Paradise can get no single money lender to pay his debts, perhaps those to whom he owes might be willing to wait, on his placing in the hands of trustees in London whom they should approve, certain parts of his property, the profits of which should suffice to pay them within a reasonable time. Mr. Voss gives me hopes of seeing Mr. Paradise here. I shall not fail to give him such information as my knowledge of the country to which he is going may render useful: nor of availing myself of every occasion of rendering him, yourself & family every service in my power, having the honour to be with sentiments of the most perfect esteem & respect, Madam, &c.
TO THOMAS MANN RANDOLPH, JR.
Paris, Aug. 27, 1786.
—I am honoured with your favour of the 16th instant, and desirous, without delay, of manifesting my wishes to be useful to you I shall venture to you some thoughts on the course of your studies, which must be submitted to the better choice with which you are surrounded. A longer race through life may have entitled me to seize some truths which have not yet been presented to your observation & more intimate knowledge of the country in which you are to live & of the circumstances in which you will be placed, may enable me to point your attention to the branches of science which will administer the most to your happiness there. The foundations which you have laid in languages and mathematics are proper for every superstructure. The former exercises our memory while that and no other faculty is yet matured & prevents our acquiring habits of idleness. The latter gives exercise to our reason, as soon as that has acquired a certain degree of strength, and stores the mind with truths which are useful in other branches of science. At this moment then a second order of preparation is to commence. I shall propose to you that it be extensive, comprehending Astronomy, Natural Philosophy (or Physics), Natural History, Anatomy, Botany & Chemistry. No inquisitive mind will be content to be ignorant of any of these branches. But I would advise you to be contented with a course of lectures in most of them, without attempting to make yourself master of the whole. This is more than any genius joined to any length of life is equal to. You will find among them some one study to which your mind will more particularly attach itself. This then I would pursue & propose to attain eminence in. Your own country furnishes the most aliment for Natural History, Botany & Physics & as you express a fondness for the former you might make it your principal object, endeavoring however to make yourself more acquainted with the two latter than with other branches likely to be less useful. In fact you will find botany offering it’s charms to you at every step—during summer & Physics in every season. All these branches of science will be better attained by attending courses of lectures in them. You are now in a place where the best courses upon earth are within your reach and being delivered in your native language—you lose no part of their benefit. Such an opportunity you will never again have. I would therefore strongly press on you to fix no other limit to your stay in Edinborough than your having got thro this whole course. The omission of any one part of it will be an affliction & loss to you as long as you live. Beside the comfort of knowledge, every science is auxiliary to every other. While you are attending these courses you can proceed by yourself in a regular series of historical reading. It would be a waste of time to attend a professor of this. It is to be acquired from books and if you pursue it by yourself you can accommodate it to your other reading so as to fill up those chasms of time not otherwise appropriated. There are portions of the day too when the mind should be eased, particularly after dinner it should be applied to lighter occupation: history is of this kind. It exercises principally the memory. Reflection also indeed is necessary but not generally in a laborious degree. To conduct yourself in this branch of science you have only to consider what æras of it merit a grasp & what a particular attention, & in each æra also to distinguish between the countries the knowledge of whose history will be useful & those where it suffices only to be not altogether ignorant. Having laid down your plan as to the branches of history you would pursue, the order of time will be your sufficient guide. After what you have read in antient history I should suppose Millot’s digest would be useful & sufficient. The histories of Greece and Rome are worthy a good degree of attention, they should be read in the original authors. The transition from antient to modern history will be best effected by reading Gibbon’s. Then a general history of the principal states of Europe, but particular ones of England. Here too the original writers are to be preferred. Kennet published a considerable collection of these in 3 vols. folio, but there are some others not in his collection well worth being read. After the history of England that of America will claim your attention. Here too original authors & not compilers are best. An author who writes of his own times or of times near his own presents in his own ideas & manner the best picture of the moment of which he writes. History need not be hurried but may give way to the other sciences because history can be pursued after you shall have left your present situation as well as while you remain in it. When you shall have got thro this second order of preparation the study of the law is to be begun. This like history is to be acquired from books. All the aid you will want will be a catalogue of the books to be read & the order in which they are to be read. It being absolutely indifferent in what place you carry on this reading I should propose your doing it in France. The advantages of this will be that you will at the same time acquire the habit of speaking French which is the object of a year or two. You may be giving attention to such of the fine arts as your turn may lead you to & you will be forming an acquaintance with the individuals & characters of a nation with whom we must long remain in the closest intimacy & to whom we are bound by the strong ties of gratitude and policy. A nation in short of the most amiable dispositions on earth, the whole mass of which is penetrated with an affection for us. You might before you return to your own country make a visit to Italy also.
I should have performed the office of but half a friend were I to confine myself to the improvement of the mind only. Knowledge indeed is a desirable, a lovely possession, but I do not scruple to say that health is more so. It is of little consequence to store the mind with science if the body be permitted to become debilitated. If the body be feeble, the mind will not be strong—the sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all exercises walking is best. A horse gives but a kind of half exercise, and a carriage is no better than a cradle. No one knows, till he tries, how easily a habit of walking is acquired. A person who never walked three miles will in the course of a month become able to walk 15 or 20 without fatigue. I have known some great walkers & had particular accounts of many more: and I never knew or heard of one who was not healthy & long lived. This species of exercise therefore is much to be advised. Should you be disposed to try it, as your health has been feeble, it will be necessary for you to begin with a little, & to increase it by degrees. For the same reason you must probably at first ascribe to it the hours most precious for study, I mean those about the middle of the day. But when you shall find yourself strong you may venture to take your walks in the evening after the digestion of the dinner is pretty well over. This is making a compromise between health & study. The latter would be too much interrupted were you to take from it the early hours of the day and habit will soon render the evening’s exercise as salutary as that of the morning. I speak this from my own experience having, from an attachment to study, very early in life, made this arrangement of my time, having ever observed it, & still observing it, & always with perfect success. Not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise, and the weather should be little regarded. A person not sick will not be injured by getting wet. It is but taking a cold bath which never gives a cold to any one. Brute animals are the most healthy, & they are exposed to all weather and, of men, those are healthiest who are the most exposed. The recipe of those two descriptions of beings is simple diet, exercise and the open air, be it’s state what it will; and we may venture to say that this recipe will give health & vigor to every other description.—By this time I am sure you will think I have sermonized enough. I have given you indeed a lengthy lecture. I have been led through it by my zeal to serve you; if in the whole you find one useful counsel, that will be my reward, & a sufficient one. Few persons in your own country have started from as advantageous ground as that whereon you will be placed. Nature and fortune have been liberal to you. Every thing honourable or profitable there is placed within your own reach, and will depend on your own efforts. If these are exerted with assiduity, and guided by unswerving honesty, your success is infallible: and that it may be as great as you wish is the sincere desire of Dear Sir, your most affectionate humble servant.
P. S. Be so good as to present me affectionately to your brother & cousin.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Paris, Aug. 27, 1786.
—Your favour of July 31. was lately delivered me. The papers inform me you are at the Hague, and, incertain what stay you may make there I send this by Mr. Voss who is returned to London by the way of Amsterdam. I inclose you the last letters from Mr. Barclay & Mr. Carmichael by which we may hope our Peace with Morocco is signed, thanks to the good offices of a nation which is honest if it is not wise. This event with the naval cruises of Portugal will I hope quiet the Atlantic for us. I am informed by authority to be depended on, that insurance is made at L’Orient, on American vessels sailing under their own flag, against every event at the price usually paid for risks of the sea alone. Still however the most important of our Marts, the Mediterranean, is shut. I wrote you a proposition to accept Mr. Barclay’s offer of going to Algiers. I have no hope of it’s making peace; but it may add to our information, abate the ardor of those pyrates against us, and shut the mouths of those who might impute our success at Morocco & failure at Algiers to a judicious appointment to the one place & an injudicious one at the other. Let me hear from you as soon as possible on this & if you accede to it send me all the necessary papers ready signed. I inclose you the article “Etats Unis” of one of the volumes of the Encyclopedie, lately published. The author, M. de Meusnier, was introduced to me by the D. de la Rochefoucault. He asked of me information on the subject of our states, & left with me a number of queries to answer. Knowing the importance of setting to rights a book so universally diffused & which will go down to late ages, I answered his queries as fully as I was able, went into a great many calculations for him, and offered to give further explanations when necessary. He then put his work into my hands. I read it, and was led by that into a still greater number of details by way of correcting what he had at first written, which was indeed a mass of errors and misconceptions from beginning to end. I returned him his work & dry details, but he did not communicate it to me after he had corrected it. It has therefore come out with many errors which I would have advised him to correct, & the rather as he was very well disposed. He has still left in a great deal of the Abbé Raynal, that is to say a great deal of falsehood, and he has stated other things on bad information. I am sorry I had not another correction of it. He has paid me for my trouble in the true coin of the country, most unmerciful compliment. This, with his other errors I should surely have struck out had he sent me the work, as I expected, before it went to the press. I find in fact that he is happiest of whom the world sais least, good or bad.—I think if I had had a little more warning, my desire to see Holland, as well as to meet again Mrs. Adams & yourself, would have tempted me to take a flying trip there. I wish you may be tempted to take Paris in your return. You will find many very happy to see you here, & none more so than, Dear Sir, your friend and servant.
TO EZRA STILES
Paris, Sep. 1, 1786.
—I am honoured with your letter of May 8. That which you mention to have written in the winter preceding never came to hand. I return you my thanks for the communications relative to the Western country. When we reflect how long we have inhabited those parts of America which lie between the Alleghaney & the ocean, that no monument has ever been found in them which indicated the use of iron among its’ aboriginal inhabitants, that they were as far advanced in arts, at least, as the inhabitants on the other side the Alleghaney, a good degree of infidelity may be excused as to the new discoveries which suppose regular fortifications of brickwork to have been in use among the Indians on the waters of the Ohio. Intrenchments of earth they might indeed make: but brick is more difficult. The art of making it may have preceded the use of iron, but it would suppose a greater degree of industry than men in the hunter state usually possess. I should like to know whether General Parsons himself saw actual bricks among the remains of fortifications. I suppose the settlement of our continent is of the most remote antiquity. The similitude between its’ inhabitants & those of Eastern parts of Asia renders it probable that ours are descended from them or they from ours. The latter is my opinion, founded on this single fact. Among the red inhabitants of Asia there are but a few languages radically different, but among our Indians the number of languages is infinite which are so radically different as to exhibit at present no appearance of their having been derived from a common source. The time necessary for the generation of so many languages must be immense. A countryman of yours, a Mr. Lediard, who was with Capt. Cook on his last voiage, proposes either to go to Kamschatka, cross from thence to the Western side of America, and penetrate through the Continent to our side of it, or to go to Kentucke, & thence penetrate Westwardly to the South sea, the vent from hence lately to London, where if he finds a passage to Kamschatka or the Western coast of America he would avail himself of it: otherwise he proposes to return to our side of America to attempt that route. I think him well calculated for such an enterprise, & wish he may undertake it. Another countryman of yours Mr. Trumbul has paid us a visit here & brought with him two pictures which are the admiration of the Connoisseurs. His natural talents for this art seem almost unparalleled. I send you the 5th & 6th vols. of the Bibliotheque physico ecconomie erroneously lettered as the 7th & 8th, which are not yet come out. I enclose with them the article “Etats Unis” of the new Encyclopedie. This article is recently published, & a few copies have been printed separate. For this twelvemonth past little new & excellent has appeared either in literature or the arts. An Abbé Rochon has applied the metal called platina to the telescope instead of the mixed metal of which the specula were formerly composed. It is insusceptible of rust, as gold is, and he thinks it’s reflective power equal to that of the mixed metal. He has observed a very curious effect of the natural chrystals, & especially of those of Iceland; which is that lenses made of them have two distinct focuses, and present you the object distinctly at two different distances. This I have seen myself. A new method of copying has been invented here. I called on the inventor, & he presented me a plate of copper, a pen & ink. I wrote a note on the plate, and in about three quarters of an hour he brought me an hundred copies, as perfect as the imagination can conceive. Had I written my name, he could have put it to so many bonds, so that I should have acknoleged the Signature to be my own. The copying of paintings in England is very conceivable. Any number may be taken, which shall give you the true lineaments & colouring of the original without injuring that. This is so like creation, that had I not seen it, I should have doubted it.—The death of the K. of Prussia, which happened on the 17th inst. will probably employ the pens, if not the swords of politicians. We had exchanged the ratifications of our treaty with him. The articles of this which were intended to prevent or miticate wars, by lessening their aliment are so much applauded in Europe that I think the example will be followed. I have the honour to be with very sincere esteem, Dear Sir, your most obedt. humble servant.
ANSWERS TO THE QUERIES OF M. SOULÉS1
I am unable to say what was the number of Americans engaged in the affair of Bunker’s Hill. I am able however to set right a gross falsehood of Andrews. He says that the Americans there engaged were constantly relieved by fresh hands. This is entirely untrue. Bunker Hill, or rather Breed’s hill, whereon the action was, is a peninsular joined to the main land by a neck of land almost level with the water, a few paces wide, & between one & two hundred toises long. On one side of this neck lay a vessel of war, & on the other several gun boats. The body of our army was on the main land; & only a detachment had been sent into the peninsular. When the enemy determined to make the attack, they sent the vessel of war & gun boats to take the position before mentioned to cut off all reinforcements, which they effectually did. Not so much as a company could venture into the relief of the men engaged, who therefore fought thro’ the whole action & at length were obliged to retire across the neck thro’ the cross fire of the vessels before mentioned. Single persons passed along the neck during the engagement, particularly General Putnam.
On the fall of Montgomery & his aids at Quebec, there were present Colo. Campbell & Major Dubois. Campbell, tho’ having the rank of Colo. was only of the staff; Dubois was of the line. The usage of all nations therefore authorized the latter to take the command. But it was a case for which Congress had not yet provided. Campbell availed himself of this, & believing, on the sight of blood, that all was lost, ordered a retreat.
The speech to the Indians, in Andrews page 357 is a little altered & abridged. You will find the genuine one in the Journal of Congress of July 1775.
I do not distinctly enough recollect the anecdote of the Old man’s company related by Andrews, to affirm it in all it’s parts. I think I recollect in general that there was such a company.
The questions relative to General Thomas I could only have answered indistinctly from my own memory; but fortunately there came to Paris a few days ago, & will yet continue there a few days, a Colonel Blackden, an American officer of good understanding & of truth, & who was at the latter part of the affair of Quebec. He was at the surprise of Ticonderoga by Allen, & continued with the army until 1781. I have spoken with him on this subject, and find he possesses treasures of details which will be precious to M. Soulés. Any day that M. Soulés will do me the honour to come & take a famille soupe with me (after the 16th inst.) if he will give me notice in the morning, I will ask Colo. Blackden to meet him here, & will make them acquainted. He is perfectly disposed to give all the information in his power to M. Soulés, & whatever he gives may be relied on. To him then I shall refer M. Soulés for answers to his military questions, & will wait his orders, recommending despatch, as Colo. Blackden has not long to stay.
The Stamp act was passed in Feb, 1765.
What powers the Parliament might rightly exercise over us, & whether any, had never been declared either by them or us. They had very early taken the gigantic step of passing the navigation act. The colonies remonstrated violently against it, and one of them, Virginia, when she capitulated to the Commonwealth of England, expressly capitulated for a free trade. See the articles in the Notes on Virginia, p. 201. This capitulation however was as little regarded as the original right, restored by it, had been. The navigation act was re-enacted by Charles 2 & was enforced. And we had been so long in the habit of seeing them consider us merely as objects for the extension of their commerce, & of submitting to every duty or regulation imposed with that view, that we had ceased to complain of them. But when they proposed to consider us as objects of taxation, all the states took the alarm. Yet so little had we attended to this subject, that our advocates did not at first know on what ground to take their stand. Mr. Dickenson, a lawyer of more ingenuity than sound judgment, and still more timid than ingenious, not daring to question the authority to regulate commerce so as best to answer their own purpose, to which we had so long submitted, admitted that authority in its utmost extent. He acknoledged in his Farmer’s to Manufacture [illegible] that they could levy duties internal or external, paiable in Great Britain or in the States. He only required that these duties should be bonâ fide for the regulation of commerce, & not to raise a solid revenue. He admitted therefore that they might controul our commerce, but not tax us. This mysterious system took for a moment in America as well as in Europe. But sounder heads saw in the first moment that he who could put down the loom, could stop the spinning wheel, and he who could stop the spinning wheel could tie the hands which turned it. They saw that this flimsey fabric could not be supported. Who were to be judges whether duties were imposed with a view to burthen & suppress a branch of manufacture or to raise a revenue? If either party, exclusively of the other, it was plain where that would end. If both parties, it was plain where that would end also. They saw therefore no sure clue to lead them out of their difficulties but reason & right. They dared to follow them, assured that they alone could lead them to defensible ground. The first elements of reason showed that the members of Parliament could have no power which the people of the several counties had not. That these had naturally a power over their own farms, and collectively over all England. That if they had any power over counties out of England it must be founded on compact or force. No compact could be shown, & neither party chose to bottom their pretensions on force. It was objected that this annihilated the navigation act. True, it does. The navigation act therefore becomes a proper subject of treaty between the two nations. Or if Gr. Britain does not chuse to have it’s basis questioned let us go on as we have done. Let no new shackles be imposed, & we will continue to submit to the old. We will consider the restrictions on our commerce now actually existing as compensations yielded by us for the protections & privileges we actually enjoy, only trusting that if Great Britain on a revisal of these restrictions, is sensible that some of them are useless to her & oppressive to us, she will repeal them. But on this she shall be free. Place us in the condition we were when the king came to the throne, let us rest so, & we will be satisfied. This was the ground on which all the states very soon found themselves rallied, and that there was no other which could be defended.
I will now proceed with remarks on the history.
I do not find that M. Soulés mentioned the affair of the Cedars which happened in April, 1776. This was an affair of no small importance. A committee was appointed by Congress to institute inquiries concerning it, as may be seen by the journal of June 14, 1776. The report of that committee is inserted in the journal of July 10. and I can assure M. Soulés that the facts therein stated were proved incontestably to the committee by witnesses present at the transactions, & who were on watch. I have the originals of that inquiry in my possession in America. The Capt. Foster therein mentioned was afterwards taken with Burgoyne’s army, tho permitted to go at large on his parole, he was not received into any American company, nor did the British officers, his fellow prisoners, chuse to be seen in company with him—so detestable had been the transaction &c.
Vol. i., pa. 324. I have been very well informed, that during all the latter part of the defence, the garrison was obliged to return the cannon balls of the enemy, with which indeed the ground was covered, having none of their own left.
Pa. 325. “Il y eut un Serjent” &c. This particular truly related in Andrews.
Vol. 2. pa. 5. “Ils en vinrent le 10. de Juin à cette resolution que ces Colonies” &c. See the Journ of Congr that it was on that day put off to the 1st of July. This was done at the instance of the members opposed to it. The friends of the resolution objected that if it were not agreed to till the 1st of July they would after that have to frame a Declaration of Independance, & that more time would then be lost. It was therefore agreed between the two that the resolution should be put off till the 1st of July, & that a committee should be immediately appointed to draw a declaration of Independance conformable to the resolution, should it be adopted. A committee was accordingly appointed the next day. On the 1st of July the resolution was proposed, & when ready for a vote, a state required it to be put off till the next day. It was done, and was passed the next day, 2d of July. The declaration of Independance was debated during the 2d, 3d & 4th days of July & on the last of these was passed & signed.
Pa. 6. A “se retirerent ensuite du Congres.” I do not remember that the delegates of Maryland retired from Congress, & I think I could not have forgotten such a fact. On the contrary I find by the Journals of Congress that they were present & acting on the 11th, 12th, 17th, 18th & 24th of June.
Pa. 7. A “la plus grande partie.” It should rather be the most important parts.
Pa. 7, 6. “Les etats unis ferrient encore aujourdhui partie de l’empire Britannique.” M. Soulés may be assured that the submission of the states could not have been effected but by a long course of disasters, & such too as were irreparable in their nature. Their resources were great, & their determination so rooted that they would have tried the last of them. I am as satisfied, as I can be of anything, that the conjecture here stated would not have been verified by the event.
Pa. 14. “Provinces unis” should not this always be “etats-unis”?
Pa. 15. “Mais qu’on pouvoir aussi les interpreter” &c. His exact answer was that it was true the &c might include anything, but that might also include nothing.
Pa. 16. “Tant de confiance” &c. Their main confidence was in their own resources. They considered foreign aid as probable & desirable, but not essential. I believe myself, from the whole of what I have seen of our resources & perseverance. 1. That had we never received any foreign aid, we should not have obtained our independance, but that we should have made a peace with Great Britain on any terms we pleased, short of that, which would have been a subjection to the same king, an union of force in war &c. 2. That had France supplied us plentifully with money, suppose about 4 millions of guineas a year, without entering into the war herself at all, we should have established our Independance, but it would have cost more time, & blood, but less money. 3. That France, aiding us as she did, with money & forces, shortened much the time, lessened the expense of blood, but at a greater expense of money to her than would have otherwise been requisite.
Pa. 18. “L’extremité septentrional” &c. I think the word “çoté” would be better adapted than “extremité” to the form of the island.
Pa. 21. “3000 hommes,” inquire of Colo. Blackden.
Perhaps the proposition of Congress to the Hessians may be worth mentioning. See their Journals, 1776, Aug. 14.
I will make a general observation here on the events of Long Island, New York &c. at this time. The maxim laid down by Congress to their generals was that not a foot of territory was to be ceded to their enemies where there was a possibility of defending it. In consequence of these views, and against his own judgment, Genl. Washington was obliged to fortify & attempt to defend the city of New York. But that could not be defended without occupying the heights on Long Island which commanded the city of New York. He was therefore obliged to establish a strong detachment in Long island to defend those heights. The moment that detachment was routed, which he had much expected, his first object was to withdraw them, & his second to evacuate New York—he did this therefore immediately, and without waiting any movement of the enemy. He brought off his whole baggage, stores, & other implements, without leaving a single article except the very heaviest of his cannon & things of little value. I well remember his letter to Congress wherein he expresses his wonder that the enemy had given him this leisure, as, from the heights they had got possession of, they might have compelled him to a very precipitate retreat. This was one of the instances where our commanding officers were obliged to conform to popular views tho’ they foresaw certain loss from it. Had he proposed at first to abandon New York, he might have been abandoned himself. An obedience to popular will cost us an army in Charlestown in the year 1779.
Pa. 30. “Une fuite precipitée.” It was a leisurely retreat as I have before observed.
Pa. 41. “Que je n’ai prie obtener que d’un anglais.” Colo. Blackden can probably give M. Soulés good intelligence on this affair. I think I recollect the slaughter on Kniphausen’s side to have been very great.
Aug. 3, 1786.
Vo [lume] 3. “Si dans son institution chaque individue avoit droit au gouvernement de l’etat, a seulement ceux qui possedoient une certaine etendue de terre.”
This is a luminous idea and worthy of being a little more developed. It places the question between Gr Britain & America in the simplest form possible. No Englishman will pretend that a right to participate in government can be derived from any other source than a personal right, or a right of property. The conclusion is inevitable that he who had neither his person nor property in America could not rightfully assume a participation in it’s government.
Pa. 17. The seeds of the war are here traced to their true source. The tory education of the King was the first preparation for that change in the British government which that party never ceases to wish. This naturally ensured tory administrations during his life. At the moment he came to the throne and cleared his hands of his enemies by the peace of Paris, the assumptions of unwarrantable right over America commenced; they were so signal, and followed one another so close as to prove they were part of a system, either to reduce it under absolute subjection, & thereby make it an instrument for attempts on Britain itself, or to sever it from Britain, so that it might not be a weight in the whig scale. This latter alternative however was not considered as the one which would take place. They knew so little of America that they thought it unable to encounter the little finger of Great Britain. M. de Soulés has well developed this subject. He is best judge whether anything more need be said on this subject.
Pa. 43. “Se le ministere anglais avoit eu la patience d’attendre que ces merchandises fussent consommé” &c. Having seen and intimately known the positions of the Americans at that moment, I am certain that this conjecture would not have been verified. The determined resolution with which they met every effort of the ministry, whether made in the form of force, fraud, or persuasion, gives us a moral certainty they would have been equally immoveable, if tried in the way of privation here proposed.
Pa. 51. “Pour accorder quelque chose” &c. The substitution of Gage for Hutchinson was not intended as a favor, but by putting the civil government into military hands was meant to shew they would enforce their measures by arms. See pa 109, where Congress makes it one of their grievances.
Pa. 78. A grand jury cannot be fewer than 12. nor more than 24. Some authors say it cannot be fewer than 13 nor more than 23.
Pa 102. “Plusieurs criminels” &c. Notwithstanding the laws the English made, I think they never ventured to carry a single person to be tried in England. They knew that reprisals would be made and probably on the person of the governor who ventured on the measure.
Pa. 145. The fact that the English commenced hostilities at Lexington being proved beyond question by us, & even acknowledged by the English, justice requires it should be plainly asserted, & left clear of doubt. Few of the facts which history asserts & relies on, have been so well established.
Pa. 150. “L’humanité des Britons.” I doubt whether this is the character of the nation in general. But this history, and every one which is impartial must in it’s relation of this war shew in such repeated instances, that they conducted it, both in theory & practice, on the most barbarous principles, that the expression here cited will stand in contradiction to the rest of the work. As examples of their Theory recollect the act of parliament for constraining our prisoners taken on the sea to bear arms against their fathers, brothers &c. For their practice, recollect their exciting the savages against us, insurrections of our slaves, sending our prisoners to the East Indies, killing them in prison ships, keeping them on half rations and of the most unwholesome qualities, cruel murders of unarmed individuals of every sex, massacres of those in arms after they had asked quarters &c., &c.
Pa. 150. “A cé que l’on dit à 20,000 hommes.” It was of 22,000 men. I was in a situation to know the fact from genl. Washington’s own information.
158. l. 8. Strike out “ét probablement” & insert “mais veritablement.” I remember the fact well and the leading persons of Connecticut, and particularly their delegates in Congress made no secret that their object was to overawe N York into it’s duty.
159. “Il fut resolu de la reduire (i. e., nouvelle York) en cendre.” This was proposed and considered in Congress; but they refused to come to this resolution, nor do I recollect that any other body resolved it.
163. Doctor Franklin has been called by that title as early as 1760, within my own knowledge: I do not know how much longer.
His quality in France was that of Minister plenipotentiary, and not as ambassador. We have never appointed an ambassador. France offered to receive one.
Pa. 166. The English set fire to Charleston. Qu as to the number of their killed.
Pa. 180. 181. Gates was & still is an inhabitant of Virginia. He never lived in any other state.
Pa. 190. “M. Arnold avoit formé une enterprise” &c. I never understood that he formed this enterprise, nor do I believe he did. I heard and saw all General Washington’s letters on this subject. I do not think he mentioned Arnold as author of the proposition; yet he was always just in ascribing to every officer the merit of his own works; and he was disposed particularly in favor of Arnold. This officer is entitled to great merit in the execution, but to ascribe to him that of having formed the enterprise is probably to ascribe to him what belongs to Genl. Washington or some other person.
209. “Et qu’ il ne leur fut plus permis de lever la milice,” &c. They had formerly had a law on the subject of invasions & insurrections which was of a perpetual tenor. They altered this law by one which was to be in force for a certain term of years only. That term of years effluxed at this time, the altering law expired, & therefore the old one resumed it’s vigor. It was very imperfect; yet they chose to act under the colour of that rather than without any colour of law.
216. “Dont elles se plaignerent.” This seems to be the proper place to rectify a small error in the arrangement of facts, and to state the answer to the conciliatory proposition which was in truth the first work of the assembly. I have not here the journals of the assembly, but there are certain circumstances which render it impossible for my memory to lead me astray. I was under appointment to attend the General congress: but knowing the importance of the answer to be given to the conciliatory proposition, and that our leading whig characters were then with Congress, I determined to attend on the assembly, & tho’ a young member, to take on myself the carrying thro’ an answer to the proposition. The assembly met the 1st of June. I drew, and proposed the answer & carried it through the house with very little alteration, against the opposition of our timid members who wish to speak a different language. This was finished before the 11th of June, because on that day I set out from Williamsburg to Philadelphia, and was the bearer of an authenticated copy of this instrument to Congress. The effect it had in fortifying their minds, & in deciding their measures renders it’s true date important; because only Pennsylvania had as yet answered the proposition. Virginia was the second. It was known how Massachusetts would answer it; and the example of these three principal colonies would determine the measures of all the others, & of course the fate of the proposition. Congress received it therefore with much satisfaction. The assembly of Virginia did not deliver the answer to Ld. Dunmore till late in the session. They supposed it would bring on a dissolution of their body whenever they should deliver it to him, and they wished previously to get some important acts passed. For this reason they kept it up. I think that Ld. Dunmore did not quit the metropolis till he knew that the answer framed by the house was a rejection of the proposition, tho’ that answer was not yet communicated to him regularly.
Pa. 231. “Quelques certaines de blancs.” These were composed principally of Scotch merchants & factors, & some few English, who had settled in the country. I doubt whether there was a single native among them. If M. Soulés could therefore characterise more particularly who they were who joined Ld. Dunmore, it would be an agreeable act of justice to the natives.
Pa. 233. “Les Americains qui avoit joint Milord Dunmore.” The same observation applies to this.
Pa. 245. “Pendant l’eté le Congres general avoit eté occupé à dresser un plan pour former une confederation.” It is necessary to set to rights here a fact which has been mistaken by every person who has written on this subject. I will do it from a perfect recollection of facts, but my memory does not enable me to state the date exactly. I was absent from Congress from the beginning of January, 1776, to the middle of May. Either just before I left Congress, or immediately on my return to it (I rather think it was the former) Doctor Franklin put into my hands the draught of a plan of confederation, desiring me to read it & tell him what I thought of it. I approved it highly. He shewed it to others. Some thought as I did; others were revolted at it. We found it could not be passed, and the proposing it to Congress as the subject for any vote whatever would startle many members so much that they would suspect we had lost sight of reconciliation with Great Britain, & that we should lose much more ground than we should gain by the proposition. Yet that the idea that a more firm bond of union than the undefined one under which we then acted might be suggested & permitted to grow, Dr. Franklin informed Congress that he had sketched the outlines of an instrument which might become necessary at a future day, if the ministry continued pertinacious, and would ask leave for it to lay on the table of Congress, that the members might in the meantime be turning the subject in their minds, and have something more perfect prepared by the time it should become necessary. This was agreed to by the timid members, only on condition that no entry whatever should be made in the journals of Congress relative to this instrument. This was to continue in force only till a reconciliation with Great Britain. This was all that ever was done or proposed in Congress on the subject of a Confederation before June 1776, when the proposition was regularly made to Congress, a committee appointed to draw an instrument of Confederation, who accordingly drew one, very considerably differing from the sketch of Doctor Franklin.
Pa. 294. “Il est á croire qu’il y avoit quelque convention.” It is well known there was such a convention. It was never made a secret of on our part. I do not exactly recollect its terms, but I believe they were what M. Soulés states.
Pa. 301. “La petite verole.” I have been informed by officers who were on the spot, & whom I believe myself, that this disorder was sent into our army designedly by the commanding officer at Quebec. It conserved his purpose effectually.
TO MRS. MARIA COSWAY
Paris October 12, 1786.
My Dear Madam,
—Having performed the last sad office of handing you into your carriage at the pavillon de St. Denis, and seen the wheels get actually into motion, I turned on my heel & walked, more dead than alive, to the opposite door, where my own was awaiting me. Mr. Danquerville was missing. He was sought for, found, & dragged down stairs. We were crammed into the carriage, like recruits for the Bastille, & not having soul enough to give orders to the coachman, he presumed Paris our destination, & drove off. After a considerable interval, silence was broke with a “Je suis vraiment afflige du depart de ces bons gens.” This was a signal for a mutual confession of distress. We began immediately to talk of Mr. & Mrs. Cosway, of their goodness, their talents, their amiability; & tho we spoke of nothing else, we seemed hardly to have entered into matter when the coachman announced the rue St. Denis, & that we were opposite Mr. Danquerville’s. He insisted on descending there & traversing a short passage to his lodgings. I was carried home. Seated by my fireside, solitary & sad, the following dialogue took place between my Head & my Heart:
Well, friend, you seem to be in a pretty trim.
I am indeed the most wretched of all earthly beings. Overwhelmed with grief, every fibre of my frame distended beyond its natural powers to bear, I would willingly meet whatever catastrophe should leave me no more to feel or to fear.
These are the eternal consequences of your warmth & precipitation. This is one of the scrapes into which you are ever leading us. You confess your follies indeed; but still you hug & cherish them; & no reformation can be hoped, where there is no repentance.
Oh, my friend! this is no moment to upbraid my foibles. I am rent into fragments by the force of my grief! If you have any balm, pour it into my wounds; if none, do not harrow them by new torments. Spare me in this awful moment! At any other I will attend with patience to your admonitions.
On the contrary I never found that the moment of triumph with you was the moment of attention to my admonitions. While suffering under your follies, you may perhaps be made sensible of them, but, the paroxysm over, you fancy it can never return. Harsh therefore as the medicine may be, it is my office to administer it. You will be pleased to remember that when our friend Trumbull used to be telling us of the merits & talents of these good people, I never ceased whispering to you that we had no occasion for new acquaintance; that the greater their merits & talents, the more dangerous their friendship to our tranquillity, because the regret at parting would be greater.
Accordingly, Sir, this acquaintance was not the consequence of my doings. It was one of your projects which threw us in the way of it. It was you, remember, & not I, who desired the meeting at Legrand & Molinos. I never trouble myself with domes nor arches. The Halle aux bleds might have rotted down before I should have gone to see it. But you, forsooth, who are eternally getting us to sleep with your diagrams & crotchets, must go & examine this wonderful piece of architecture. And when you had seen it, oh! it was the most superb thing on earth! What you had seen there was worth all you had yet seen in Paris! I thought so too. But I meant it of the lady & gentleman to whom we had been presented; & not of a parcel of sticks & chips put together in pens. You then, Sir, & not I, have been the cause of the present distress.
It would have been happy for you if my diagrams & crotchets had gotten you to sleep on that day, as you are pleased to say they eternally do. My visit to Legrand & Molinos had public utility for it’s object. A market is to be built in Richmond. What a commodious plan is that of Legrand & Molinos; especially if we put on it the noble dome of the Halle aux bleds. If such a bridge as they shewed us can be thrown across the Schuylkill at Philadelphia, the floating bridges taken up & the navigation of that river opened, what a copious resource will be added, of wood & provisions, to warm & feed the poor of that city? While I was occupied with these objects, you were dilating with your new acquaintances, & contriving how to prevent a separation from them. Every soul of you had an engagement for the day. Yet all these were to be sacrificed, that you might dine together. Lying messengers were to be despatched into every quarter of the city, with apologies for your breach of engagement. You particularly had the effrontery to send word to the Dutchess Danville that, on the moment we were setting out to dine with her, despatches came to hand which required immediate attention. You wanted me to invent a more ingenious excuse; but I knew you were getting into a scrape, & I would have nothing to do with it. Well, after dinner to St. Cloud, from St. Cloud to Ruggieri’s, from Ruggieri to Krumfoltz, & if the day had been as long as a Lapland summer day, you would still have contrived means among you to have filled it.
Oh! my dear friend, how you have revived me by recalling to my mind the transactions of that day! How well I remember them all, & that when I came home at night & looked back to the morning, it seemed to have been a month agone. Go on then, like a kind comforter & paint to me the day we went to St. Germains. How beautiful was every object! the Port de Reuilly, the hills along the Seine, the rainbows of the machine of Marly, the terrace of St. Germains, the chateaux, the gardens, the statues of Marly, the pavillon of Lucienne. Recollect too Madrid, Bagatelle, the King’s garden, the Dessert. How grand the idea excited by the remains of such a column! The spiral staircase too was beautiful. Every moment was filled with something agreeable. The wheels of time moved on with a rapidity of which those of our carriage gave but a faint idea. And yet in the evening when one took a retrospect of the day, what a mass of happiness had we travelled over! Retrace all those scenes to me, my good companion, & I will forgive the unkindness with which you were chiding me. The day we went to St. Germains was a little too warm, I think; was it not?
Thou art the most incorrigible of all the beings that ever sinned! I reminded you of the follies of the first day, intending to deduce from thence some useful lessons for you, but instead of listening to these, you kindle at the recollection, you retrace the whole series with a fondness which shews you want nothing but the opportunity to act it over again. I often told you during its course that you were imprudently engaging your affections under circumstances that must have cost you a great deal of pain: that the persons indeed were of the greatest merit, possessing good sense, good humour, honest hearts, honest manners, & eminence in a lovely art; that the lady had moreover qualities & accomplishments belonging to her sex, which might form a chapter apart for her: such as music, modesty, beauty, & that softness of disposition which is the ornament of her sex & charm of ours, but that all these considerations would increase the pang of separation: that their stay here was to be short: that you rack our whole system when you are parted from those you love, complaining that such a separation is worse than death, inasmuch as this ends our sufferings, whereas that only begins them: & that the separation would in this instance be the more severe as you would probably never see them again.
But they told me they would come back again the next year.
But in the meantime see what you suffer: & their return too depends on so many circumstances that if you had a grain of prudence you would not count upon it. Upon the whole it is improbable & therefore you should abandon the idea of ever seeing them again.
May heaven abandon me if I do!
Very well. Suppose then they come back. They are to stay two months, & when these are expired, what is to follow? Perhaps you flatter yourself they may come to America?
God only knows what is to happen. I see nothing impossible in that supposition. And I see things wonderfully contrived sometimes to make us happy. Where could they find such objects as in America for the exercise of their enchanting art? especially the lady, who paints landscapes so inimitably. She wants only subjects worthy of immortality to render her pencil immortal. The Falling Spring, the Cascade of Niagara, the Passage of the Potowmac through the Blue Mountains, the Natural bridge. It is worth a voyage across the Atlantic to see these objects; much more to paint, and make them, & thereby ourselves, known to all ages. And our own dear Monticello, where has nature spread so rich a mantle under the eye? mountains, forests, rocks, rivers. With what majesty do we there ride above the storms! How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet! and the glorious sun when rising as if out of a distant water, just gilding the tops of the mountains, & giving life to all nature! I hope in God no circumstance may ever make either seek an asylum from grief! With what sincere sympathy I would open every cell of my composition to receive the effusion of their woes! I would pour my tears into their wounds: & if a drop of balm could be found on the top of the Cordilleras, or at the remotest sources of the Missouri, I would go thither myself to seek & to bring it. Deeply practised in the school of affliction, the human heart knows no joy which I have not lost, no sorrow of which I have not drunk! Fortune can present no grief of unknown form to me! Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself? But Heaven forbid they should ever know a sorrow! Let us turn over another leaf, for this has distracted me.
Well. Let us put this possibility to trial then on another point. When you consider the character which is given of our country by the lying newspapers of London, & their credulous copyers in other countries; when you reflect that all Europe is made to believe we are a lawless banditti, in a state of absolute anarchy, cutting one another’s throats, & plundering without distinction, how can you expect that any reasonable creature would venture among us?
But you & I know that all this is false: that there is not a country on earth where there is greater tranquillity, where the laws are milder, or better obeyed: where every one is more attentive to his own business, or meddles less with that of others: where strangers are better received, more hospitably treated, & with a more sacred respect.
True, you & I know this, but your friends do not know it.
But they are sensible people who think for themselves. They will ask of impartial foreigners who have been among us, whether they saw or heard on the spot any instances of anarchy. They will judge too that a people occupied as we are in opening rivers, digging navigable canals, making roads, building public schools, establishing academies, erecting busts & statues to our great men, protecting religious freedom, abolishing sanguinary punishments, reforming & improving our laws in general, they will judge I say for themselves whether these are not the occupations of a people at their ease, whether this is not better evidence of our true state than a London newspaper, hired to lie, & from which no truth can ever be extracted but by reversing everything it says.
I did not begin this lecture my friend with a view to learn from you what America is doing. Let us return then to our point. I wished to make you sensible how imprudent it is to place your affections, without reserve, on objects you must so soon lose, & whose loss when it comes must cost you such severe pangs. Remember the last night. You knew your friends were to leave Paris to-day. This was enough to throw you into agonies. All night you tossed us from one side of the bed to the other. No sleep, no rest. The poor crippled wrist too, never left one moment in the same position, now up, now down, now here, now there; was it to be wondered at if it’s pains returned? The Surgeon then was to be called, & to be rated as an ignoramus because he could not divine the cause of this extraordinary change. In fine, my friend, you must mend your manners. This is not a world to live at random in as you do. To avoid those eternal distresses, to which you are forever exposing us, you must learn to look forward before you take a step which may interest our peace. Everything in this world is a matter of calculation. Advance then with caution, the balance in your hand. Put into one scale the pleasures which any object may offer; but put fairly into the other the pains which are to follow, & see which preponderates. The making an acquaintance is not a matter of indifference. When a new one is proposed to you, view it all round. Consider what advantages it presents, & to what inconveniences it may expose you. Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it. The art of life is the art of avoiding pain: & he is the best pilot who steers clearest of the rocks & shoals with which he is beset. Pleasure is always before us; but misfortune is at our side: while running after that, this arrests us. The most effectual means of being secure against pain is to retire within ourselves, & to suffice for our own happiness. Those, which depend on ourselves, are the only pleasures a wise man will count on: for nothing is ours which another may deprive us of. Hence the inestimable value of intellectual pleasures. Even in our power, always leading us to something new, never cloying, we ride serene & sublime above the concerns of this mortal world, contemplating truth & nature, matter & motion, the laws which bind up their existence, & that eternal being who made & bound them up by those laws. Let this be our employ. Leave the bustle & tumult of society to those who have not talents to occupy themselves without them. Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies & the misfortunes of others. Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another? Is there so little gall poured into our cup that we must needs help to drink that of our neighbor? A friend dies or leaves us: we feel as if a limb was cut off. He is sick: we must watch over him, & participate of his pains. His fortune is shipwrecked; ours must be laid under contribution. He loses a child, a parent, or a partner: we must mourn the loss as if it were our own.
And what more sublime delight than to mingle tears with one whom the hand of heaven hath smitten! to watch over the bed of sickness, & to beguile it’s tedious & it’s painful moments! to share our bread with one to whom misfortune has left none! This world abounds indeed with misery: to lighten it’s burthen we must divide it with one another. But let us now try the virtues of your mathematical balance, & as you have put into one scale the burthen of friendship, let me put it’s comforts into the other. When languishing then under disease, how grateful is the solace of our friends! how are we penetrated with their assiduities & attentions! how much are we supported by their encouragements & kind offices! When heaven has taken from us some object of our love, how sweet is it to have a bosom whereon to recline our heads, & into which we may pour the torrent of our tears! Grief, with such a comfort, is almost a luxury! In a life where we are perpetually exposed to want & accident, yours is a wonderful proposition, to insulate ourselves, to retire from all aid, & to wrap ourselves in the mantle of self-sufficiency! For assuredly nobody will care for him who cares for nobody. But friendship is precious, not only in the shade but in the sunshine of life; & thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine. I will recur for proof to the days we have lately passed. On these indeed the sun shone brightly. How gay did the face of nature appear! Hills, valleys, chateaux, gardens, rivers, every object wore it’s liveliest hue! Whence did they borrow it? From the presence of our charming companion. They were pleasing, because she seemed pleased. Alone, the scene would have been dull & insipid: the participation of it with her gave it relish. Let the gloomy monk, sequestered from the world, seek unsocial pleasures in the bottom of his cell! Let the sublimated philosopher grasp visionary happiness while pursuing phantoms dressed in the garb of truth! Their supreme wisdom is supreme folly; & they mistake for happiness the mere absence of pain. Had they ever felt the solid pleasure of one generous spasm of the heart, they would exchange for it all the frigid speculations of their lives, which you have been vaunting in such elevated terms. Believe me then my friend, that there is a miserable arithmetic which could estimate friendship at nothing, or at less than nothing. Respect for you has induced me to enter into this discussion, & to hear principles uttered which I detest & abjure. Respect for myself now obliges me to recall you into the proper limits of your office. When nature assigned us the same habitation, she gave us over it a divided empire. To you she allotted the field of science; to me that of morals. When the circle is to be squared, or the orbit of a comet to be traced; when the arch of greatest strength, or the solid of least resistance is to be investigated, take up the problem; it is yours; nature has given me no cognizance of it. In like manner, in denying to you the feelings of sympathy, of benevolence, of gratitude, of justice, of love, of friendship, she has excluded you from their controul. To these she has adapted the mechanism of the heart. Morals were too essential to the happiness of man to be risked on the incertain combinations of the head. She laid their foundation therefore in sentiment, not in science. That she gave to all, as necessary to all: this to a few only, as sufficing with a few. I know indeed that you pretend authority to the sovereign controul of our conduct in all its parts: & a respect for your grave saws & maxims, a desire to do what is right, has sometimes induced me to conform to your counsels. A few facts however which I can readily recall to your memory, will suffice to prove to you that nature has not organized you for our moral direction. When the poor wearied souldier whom we overtook at Chickahomony with his pack on his back, begged us to let him get up behind our chariot, you began to calculate that the road was full of souldiers, & that if all should be taken up our horses would fail in their journey. We drove on therefore. But soon becoming sensible you had made me do wrong, that tho we cannot relieve all the distressed we should relieve as many as we can, I turned about to take up the souldier; but he had entered a bye path, & was no more to be found; & from that moment to this I could never find him out to ask his forgiveness. Again, when the poor woman came to ask a charity in Philadelphia, you whispered that she looked like a drunkard, & that half a dollar was enough to give her for the ale-house. Those who want the dispositions to give, easily find reasons why they ought not to give. When I sought her out afterwards, & did what I should have done at first, you know that she employed the money immediately towards placing her child at school. If our country, when pressed with wrongs at the point of the bayonet, had been governed by it’s heads instead of it’s hearts, where should we have been now? Hanging on a gallows as high as Haman’s. You began to calculate & to compare wealth and numbers: we threw up a few pulsations of our warmest blood; we supplied enthusiasm against wealth and numbers; we put our existence to the hazard when the hazard seemed against us, and we saved our country: justifying at the same time the ways of Providence, whose precept is to do always what is right, and leave the issue to him. In short, my friend, as far as my recollection serves me, I do not know that I ever did a good thing on your suggestion, or a dirty one without it. I do forever then disclaim your interference in my province. Fill papers as you please with triangles & squares: try how many ways you can hang & combine them together. I shall never envy nor controul your sublime delights. But leave me to decide when & where friendships are to be contracted. You say I contract them at random. So you said the woman at Philadelphia was a drunkard. I receive no one into my esteem till I know they are worthy of it. Wealth, title, office, are no recommendations to my friendship. On the contrary great good qualities are requisite to make amends for their having wealth, title, & office. You confess that in the present case I could not have made a worthier choice. You only object that I was so soon to lose them. We are not immortal ourselves, my friend; how can we expect our enjoyments to be so? We have no rose without it’s thorn; no pleasure without alloy. It is the law of our existence; & we must acquiesce. It is the condition annexed to all our pleasures, not by us who receive, but by him who gives them. True, this condition is pressing cruelly on me at this moment. I feel more fit for death than life. But when I look back on the pleasures of which it is the consequence, I am conscious they were worth the price I am paying. Notwithstanding your endeavours too to damp my hopes, I comfort myself with expectations of their promised return. Hope is sweeter than despair, & they were too good to mean to deceive me. In the summer, said the gentleman; but in the spring, said the lady: & I should love her forever, were it only for that! Know then, my friend, that I have taken these good people into my bosom; that I have lodged them in the warmest cell I could find: that I love them, & will continue to love them through life: that if fortune should dispose them on one side the globe, & me on the other, my affections shall pervade it’s whole mass to reach them. Knowing then my determination, attempt not to disturb it. If you can at any time furnish matter for their amusement, it will be the office of a good neighbor to do it. I will in like manner seize any occasion which may offer to do the like good turn for you with Condorcet, Rittenhouse, Madison, La Cretelle, or any other of those worthy sons of science whom you so justly prize.
I thought this a favorable proposition whereon to rest the issue of the dialogue. So I put an end to it by calling for my night-cap. Methinks I hear you wish to heaven I had called a little sooner, & so spared you the ennui of such a sermon. I did not interrupt them sooner because I was in a mood for hearing sermons. You too were the subject; & on such a thesis I never think the theme long; not even if I am to write it, and that slowly & awkwardly, as now, with the left hand. But that you may not be discouraged from a correspondence which begins so formidably, I promise you on my honour that my future letters shall be of a reasonable length. I will even agree to express but half my esteem for you, for fear of cloying you with too full a dose. But, on your part, no curtailing. If your letters are as long as the bible, they will appear short to me. Only let them be brimful of affection. I shall read them with the dispositions with which Arlequin, in Les deux billets spelt the words “je t’aime,” and wished that the whole alphabet had entered into their composition.
We have had incessant rains since your departure. These make me fear for your health, as well as that you had an uncomfortable journey. The same cause has prevented me from being able to give you any account of your friends here. This voyage to Fontainebleau will probably send the Count de Moustier & the Marquise de Brehan to America. Danquerville promised to visit me, but has not done it as yet. De la Tude comes sometimes to take family soup with me, & entertains me with anecdotes of his five & thirty years imprisonment. How fertile is the mind of man which can make the Bastile & Dungeon of Vincennes yield interesting anecdotes! You know this was for making four verses on Mme de Pompadour. But I think you told me you did not know the verses. They were these: “Sans esprit, sans sentiment, Sans etre belle, ni neuve, En France on peut avoir le premier amant: Pompadour en est l’ epreuve.” I have read the memoir of his three escapes. As to myself my health is good, except my wrist which mends slowly, & my mind which mends not at all, but broods constantly over your departure. The lateness of the season obliges me to decline my journey into the south of France. Present me in the most friendly terms to Mr. Cosway, & receive me into your own recollection with a partiality & a warmth, proportioned, not to my own poor merit, but to the sentiments of sincere affection & esteem with which I have the honour to be, my dear Madam, your most obedient humble servant.
TO MRS. MARIA COSWAY
Paris Octob. 13, 1786.
My Dear Madam,
—Just as I had sealed the enclosed I received a letter of a good length, dated Antwerp with your name at the bottom. I prepared myself for a feast. I read two or three sentences; looked again at the signature to see if I had not mistaken it. It was visibly yours. Read a sentence or two more. Diable! Spelt your name distinctly. There was not a letter of it omitted. Began to read again. In fine after reading a little & examining the signature, alternately, half a dozen times, I found that your name was to four lines only, instead of four pages. I thank you for the four lines however because they prove you think of me little indeed, but better a little than none. To shew how much I think of you I send you the enclosed letter of three sheets of paper, being a history of the evening I parted with you. But how expect you should read a letter of three mortal sheets of paper? I will tell you. Divide it into six doses of half a sheet each, and every day, when the toilette begins, take a dose, that is to say, read half a sheet. By this means it will have the only merit it’s length & dulness can aspire to, that of assisting your coiffeuse to procure you six good naps of sleep. I will even allow you twelve days to get through it, holding you rigorously to one condition only, that is, that at whatever hour you receive this, you do not break the seal of the enclosed till the next toilette. Of this injunction I require a sacred execution. I rest it on your friendship, & that in your first letter you tell me honestly whether you have honestly performed it. I send you the song I promised. Bring me in return it’s subject, Jours heureux! Were I a songster I should sing it all to these words ‘Dans ces lieux qu’elle tarde a se rendre!” Learn it I pray you, & sing it with feeling. My right hand presents it’s devoirs to, and sees with great indignation the left supplanting it in a correspondence so much valued. You will know the first moment it can resume it’s rights. The first exercise of them shall be addressed to you, as you had the first essay of it’s rival. It will yet, however, be many a day. Present my esteem to Mr. Cosway, & believe me to be yours very affectionately.
TO WILLIAM STEPHENS SMITH
Paris, Oct. 22, 1786.
—How the right hand became disabled would be a long story for the left to tell. It was by one of those follies from which good cannot come, but ill may. As yet I have no use of that hand, & as the other is an awkward scribe, I must be sententious & not waste words. Yours of Sep. 18. & 22. & Oct. 1. & 4. have been duly received, as have been also the books from Lackington & Stockdale, & the second parcel from Dilly. The harness is at the Douane of Paris, not yet delivered to me. Dilly’s first parcel of books, & the first copying press are arrived at Rouen. You see how much reason I have to say ‘well done, thou good and faithful servant.’ With Chastellux’s voiages & Latré’s map I took a great deal more trouble than was necessary, such as going myself to the book shop when a servant might as well have gone etc. merely from a desire to do something in return for you, & that I might feel as if I have done something. You desire to know whether the 2d. order for copying paper & ink was meant to be additional to the former? It was, but I had now rather not receive the paper because I have found a better kind here. The ink I shall be glad of. The twelve sheet map I shall send by the first good opportunity, & hope ere long to receive the plate of mine from Mr. Neele. I will trouble you to have the inclosed note to Jones delivered. Will you undertake to prevail on Mr. Adams to set for his picture & on Mr. Brown to draw it for me? I wish to add to those of other principal American characters which I have or shall have: & I had rather it should be original than a copy. We saw a picture of Sr. W. Raleigh at Birmingham, & I do not know whether it was of Mr. Adams or yourself I asked the favor to get it for me. I must pray your taylor to send me a buff casimir waistcoat & breeches with those of cotton, & of my shoemaker to send me two pr. of thin waxed leather slippers. Things of this kind come better by private hands if any such should be coming within any reasonable time. The accident to my wrist has defected my views of visiting the South of France this fall. Present me very affectionately to Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Smith. I hope the former is very well, & that the latter is, or has been very sick, otherwise I would observe to you that it is high time. Adieu.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON
Paris Nov. 14, 1786.
—The house of Le Coulteux, which for some centuries has been the wealthiest of this place, has it in contemplation to establish a great company for the fur trade. They propose that partners interested one half in the establishment should be American citizens, born & residing in the U. S. Yet if I understood them rightly they expect that half of the company which resides here should make the greatest part, or perhaps the whole of the advances, while those on our side of the water should superintend the details. They had at first thought of Baltimore as the center of their American transactions. I pointed out to them the advantages of Alexandria for this purpose. They have concluded to take information as to Baltimore, Philadelphia, & N. York for a principal deposit, & having no correspondent at Alexandria have asked me to procure a state of the advantages of that place, as also to get a recommendation of the best merchant there to be adopted as partner & head of the business there. Skill, punctuality & integrity are the requisites in such a character. They will decide on their whole information as to the place for their principal factory. Being unwilling that Alexandria should lose it’s pretensions, I have undertaken to procure them information as to that place. If they undertake this trade at all, it will be on so great a scale as to decide the current of the Indian trade to the place they adopt. I have no acquaintance at Alexandria or in it’s neighborhood, but believing you would feel an interest in it, from the same motives which I do, I venture to ask the favor of you to recommend to me a proper merchant for their purpose, & to engage some well-informed person to send to me a representation of the advantages of Alexandria as the principal deposit of the fur trade.
The author of the Political part of the Encyclopedie Methodique desired me to examine his article “Etats unis.” I did so. I found it a tissue of errors, for in truth they know nothing about us here. Particularly however the article “Cincinnati” was a mere Philippic against that institution; in which it appears that there was an utter ignorance of facts & motives. I gave him notes on it. He reformed it as he supposed & sent it again to me to revise. In this reformed state Colo. Humphreys saw it. I found it necessary to write that article for him. Before I gave it to him I showed it to the Marq. de la Fayette who made a correction or two. I then sent it to the author. He used the materials, mixing a great deal of his own with them. In a work which is sure of going down to the latest posterity I thought it material to set facts to rights as much as possible. The author was well disposed: but could not entirely get the better of his original bias. I send you the article as ultimately published. If you find any material errors in it & will be so good as to inform me of them, I shall probably have opportunities of setting this author to rights. What has heretofore passed between us on this institution, makes it my duty to mention to you that I have never heard a person in Europe, learned or unlearned, express his thoughts on this institution, who did not consider it as dishonorable & destructive to our governments, and that every writing which has come out since my arrival here, in which it is mentioned, considers it, even as now reformed, as the germ whose development is one day to destroy the fabric we have reared. I did not apprehend this while I had American ideas only. But I confess that what I have seen in Europe has brought me over to that opinion; & that tho’ the day may be at some distance, beyond the reach of our lives perhaps, yet it will certainly come, when a single fibre left of this institution will produce an hereditary aristocracy which will change the form of our governments from the best to the worst in the world. To know the mass of evil which flows from this fatal source, a person must be in France, he must see the finest soil, the finest climate, the most compact state, the most benevolent character of people, & every earthly advantage combined, insufficient to prevent this scourge from rendering existence a curse to 24 out of 25 parts of the inhabitants of this country. With us the branches of this institution cover all the states. The Southern ones at this time are aristocratical in their disposition; and that that spirit should grow & extend itself, is within the natural order of things. I do not flatter myself with the immortality of our governments: but I shall think little also of their longevity unless this germ of destruction be taken out. When the society themselves shall weigh the possibility of evil against the impossibility of any good to proceed from this institution, I cannot help hoping they will eradicate it. I know they wish the permanence of our governments as much as any individuals composing them. An interruption here & the departure of the gentleman by whom I send this obliges me to conclude it, with assurances of the sincere respect & esteem with which I have the honor to be Dear Sir your most obedt. & most humble servt.
TO MRS. ELIZABETH TRIST1
Paris, Dec. 15, 1786.
—I have duly received your friendly letter of July 24 & received it with great pleasure as I do all those you do me the favor to write me. If I have been long in acknowledging the receipt, the last cause to which it should be ascribed would be want of inclination. Unable to converse with my friends in person, I am happy when I do it in black & white. The true cause of the delay has been an unlucky dislocation of my wrist which has disabled me from writing three months. I only begin to write a little now, but with pain. I wish, while in Virginia, your curiosity had led you on to James river. At Richmond you would have seen your old friends mr. & mrs. Randolph, and a little further you would have become acquainted with my friend, mrs. Eppes, whom you would have found among the most amiable women on earth. I doubt whether you would ever have got away from her. This trip would have made you better acquainted too with my lazy & hospitable countrymen, & you would have found that their character has some good traits mixed with some feeble ones. I often wish myself among them, as I am here burning the candle of life without present pleasure, or future object. A dozen or twenty years ago this scene would have amused me, but I am past the age for changing habits. I take all the fault on myself, and it is impossible to be among a people who wish more to make one happy, a people of the very best character it is possible for one to have. We have no idea in America of the real French character, with some true samples we have had many false ones. I am very, very sorry I did not receive your letter three or four months sooner. It would have been absolutely convenient for me while in England to have seen Browse’s relations, and I should have done it with infinite pleasure. At present I have no particular expectation of returning there yet it is among possible events, and the desire of being useful to him would render it a pleasing one. The former journey thither was made at a week’s warning, without the least previous expectation. Living from day to day, without a plan for four & twenty hours to come, I form no catalogue of impossible events. Laid up in port, for life, as I thought myself at one time, I am thrown out to sea, and an unknown one to me. By so slender a thread do all our plans of life hang.—My hand itself further, every letter admonishing me, by a pain, that it is time to finish, but my heart would go on in expressing to you all its friendship. The happiest moments it knows are those in which it is pouring forth its affections to a few esteemed characters. I will pray you to write me often. I wish to know that you enjoy health and that you are happy. Present me in the most friendly terms to your mother & brother, & be assured of the sincerity of the esteem with which I am, dear Madam, your affectionate friend & humble servant.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris Dec. 16, 1786.
—After a very long silence, I am at length able to write to you. An unlucky dislocation of my right wrist has disabled me from using my pen for three months. I now begin to use it a little, but with great pain; so that this letter must be taken up at such intervals as the state of my hand will permit, & will probably be the work of some days. Tho’ the joint seems to well set, the swelling does not abate, nor the use of it return. I am now therefore on the point of setting out to the South of France to try the use of some mineral waters there, by immersion. This journey will be of 2 or 3 months. My last letters to you were of Apr. 25. & May 20. the latter only a letter of recommendation. Yours of Jan. 22. Mar. 18. May 12. June 19. & Aug. 12. remain unacknowledged.
I enclose you herein a copy of the letter from the minister of finance to me making several advantageous regulations for our commerce. The obtaining this has occupied us a twelvemonth. I say us because I find the M. de la Fayette so useful an auxiliary that acknowledgments for his cooperation are always due. There remains still something to do for the articles of rice, turpentine, & ship duties. What can be done for tobacco when the late regulation expires is very uncertain. The commerce between the U. S. and this country being put on a good footing, we may afterwards proceed to try if anything can be done to favour our intercourse with their colonies. Admission into them for our fish & flour, is very desirable: but unfortunately those articles would raise a competition against their own.
I find by the public papers that your Commercial Convention failed in point of representation. If it should produce a full meeting in May and a broader reformation, it will still be well. To make us one nation as to foreign concerns, & keep us distinct in Domestic ones, gives the outline of the proper division of power between the general & particular governments. But to enable the Federal head to exercise the power given it, to best advantage, it should be organized, as the particular ones are into Legislative Executive & Judiciary. The 1st & last are already separated. The 2d should also be. When last with Congress I often proposed to members to do this by making of the Committee of the states, an Executive committee during the recess of Congress and during its sessions to appoint a Committee to receive & despatch all executive business, so that Congress itself should meddle only with what should be legislative. But I question if any Congress (much less all successively) can have self denial enough to go through with this distribution. The distribution should be imposed on them then. I find Congress have reversed their division of the Western states & proposed to make them fewer & larger. This is reversing the natural order of things. A tractable people may be governed in large bodies but in proportion as they depart from this character the extent of their government must be less. We see into what small divisions the Indians are obliged to reduce their societies. This measure, with the disposition to shut up the Mississippi give me serious apprehensions of the severance of the Eastern & Western parts of our confederacy. It might have been made the interest of the Western states to remain united with us, by managing their interests honestly & for their own good. But the moment we sacrifice their interests to our own, they will see it is better to govern themselves. The moment they resolve to do this, the point is settled. A forced connection is neither our interest nor within our power. The Virginia act for religious freedom has been received with infinite approbation in Europe & propagated with enthusiasm. I do not mean by the governments, but by the individuals which compose them. It has been translated into French & Italian, has been sent to most of the courts of Europe, & has been the best evidence of the falsehood of those reports which stated us to be in anarchy. It is inserted in the new Encyclopedie, & is appearing in most of the publications respecting America. In fact it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests & nobles: and it is honorable for us to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions.
I shall be glad when the revisal shall be got thro’. In the criminal law, the principle of retaliation is much criticised here, particularly in the case of Rape. They think the punishment indecent & unjustifiable. I should be for altering it, but for a different reason: that is on account of the temptation women would be under to make it the instrument of vengeance against an inconstant lord, & of disappointment to a rival. Are our courts of justice open for the recovery of British debts according to the Septennial Act? the principles of that act can be justified: but the total stoppage of justice cannot. The removal of the negroes from New York would duly give cause for stopping some of the last paiments, if the British government should refuse satisfaction, which however I think they will not do.
I thank you for your communications in Natural history. The several instances of trees &c found far below the surface of the earth, as in the case of Mr. Hay’s well, seem to set the reason of man at defiance.
Another Theory of the earth has been contrived by one Whitford, not absolutely reasonable, but somewhat more so than any that has yet appeared. It is full of interesting facts, which however being inadequate to his theory, he is obliged to supply them from time to time by begging questions. It is worth your getting from London. If I can be useful to you in ordering books from London you know you may command me. You had better send me the duplicate volume of the Encyclopedie. I will take care to send you the proper one. I have many more livraisons for you, & have made some other inconsiderable purchases for you in this way. But I shall not send them till the spring, as a winter passage is bad for books.
I reserve myself till that time therefore to give you an account of the execution of your several commissions, only observing that the watch will not be finished till the spring & that it will be necessary for me to detain her some time on trial, because it often happens that a watch, looking well to the eye, & faithfully made, goes badly at first on account of some little circumstance which escapes the eye of the workman when he puts her together, & which he could easily rectify.—With respect to the proposition about the purchase of lands, I had just before made the experiment desired. It was to borrow money for aiding the opening of the Potowmac, which was proposed to me by Genl. Washington. I had the benefit of his name, & the foundation of a special Act of Assembly. I lodged the papers in the hands of Mr. Grand to try to obtain Money on loan at 6. per cent, assuring him that the securities should be made compleatly satisfactory to the lenders. After long trial he told me it could not be done. That this government has always occasion to borrow more money than can be lent in this country: that they pay 6. per cent per annum in quarterly paiments, & with a religious punctuality: that besides this they give very considerable douceurs to the lenders: that every one therefore would prefer having his money here rather than on the other side the Atlantic, where distance, want of punctuality, & a habitual protection of the debtor would be against them. There is therefore but one way in which I see any chance of executing your views. Monied men sometimes talk of investing money in American lands. Some such might be willing to ensure an advantageous investiture by interesting trust-worthy characters in the purchase, & to do this, might be willing to advance the whole Money, being properly secured. On this head no satisfaction should be wanting which I could give them: and as persons with these views sometimes advise with me, I shall be attentive to propose to them this plan. I consider it’s success however as only possible, not probable. * * *
TO CHARLES THOMSON1
Paris, Dec. 17th, 1786.
—A dislocation of my right wrist has for three or four months past disabled me from writing except with my left hand, which was too slow and awkward to be employed but in cases of necessity. I begin to have so much use of my wrist as to be able to write, but it is slowly and in pain. I take the first moment I can, however, to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of Aug. 6, July 8, and 30. In one of these you say you have not been able to learn whether in the new mills in London, steam is the immediate mover of the machinery or raises water to move it. It is the immediate mover. The power of this agent, tho’ long known, is but now beginning to be applied to the various purposes of which it is susceptible. You observe that Whitford supposes it to have been the agent which, bursting the earth, threw it up into mountains and vallies. You ask me what I think of his book. I find in it many interesting facts brought together, and many ingenious commentaries on them, but there are great chasms in his facts, and consequently in his reasoning; these he fills up with suppositions which may be as reasonably denied as granted. A sceptical reader, therefore, like myself, is left in the lurch. I acknowledge, however, he makes more use of fact than any other writer of a theory of the earth. But I give one answer to all theorists—that is as follows: they all suppose the earth a created existence; they must suppose a Creator, then, and that he possessed power and wisdom to a great degree. As he intended the earth for the habitation of animals and vegetables, is it reasonable to suppose he made two jobs of his Creation? That he first made a chaotic lump and set it into motion, and then, waiting ages necessary to form itself—that when it had done this he stepped in a second time to create the animals and plants which were to inhabit it? As a hand of a Creator is to be called in it may as well be called in at one stage of the process as another. We may as well suppose he created the earth at once nearly in the state in which we see it—fit for the preservation of the beings he placed on it. But it is said we have a proof that he did not create it in its solid form, but in a state of fluidity, because its present shape of an oblate spheroid is precisely that which a fluid mass revolving on its axis would assume; but I suppose the same equilibrium between gravity and centrifugal force which would determine a fluid mass into the form of an oblate spheroid would determine the wise Creator of that mass if he made it in a solid state, to give it the same spherical form. A revolving fluid will continue to change its shape till it attains that in which its principles of contrary motion are balanced; for if you suppose them not balanced it will change its form. Now the balanced form is necessary for the preservation of a revolving solid. The Creator, therefore, of a revolving solid would make it an oblate spheroid, that figure alone admitting a perfect equilibrium. He would make it in that form for another reason; that is, to prevent a shifting of the axis of rotation. Had he created the earth perfectly spherical its axis might have been perpetually shifting by the influence of the other bodies of the system, and by placing the inhabitants of the earth successively under its poles it might have been depopulated; whereas being spheroidical it has but one axis on which it can revolve in equilibrio. Suppose the axis of the earth to shift 45°, then cut it into 180 slices, making every section in the plane of a circle of latitude perpendicular to the axis: every one of these slices except the equatorial one would be unbalanced, as there would be more matter on one side of its axis than on the other. There would be but one diameter drawn through such a slice which would divide it into two equal parts; on every other possible diameter the parts would hang unequal; this would produce an irregularity in the diurnal rotation. We may therefore conclude it impossible for the poles of the earth to shift if it was made spheroidically, and that it would be made spheroidal, tho’ solid to obtain this end. I use this reasoning only on the supposition that the earth has had a beginning. I am sure I shall read your conjectures on this subject with great pleasure, tho’ I bespeak before hand a right to indulge my natural incredulity and scepticism. The pain in which I write awakens me here from my reverie and obliges me to conclude with compliments to Mrs. Thomson and assurances to yourself of the esteem and affection with which I am, Dear Sir, your friend and servant.
P. S. Since writing the preceding I have had a conversation on the subject of the steam mills with the famous Boulton, to whom those of London belong, and who is here at this time. He compares the effect of steam with that of horses in the following manner: 6 horses, aided with the most advantageous combination of the mechanical powers hitherto tried will grind 6 bushels of flour in an hour, at the end of which time they are all in a foam and must rest. They can work thus 6 horses in the 24, grinding 36 bushels of flour which is six to each horse for the 24 hours. His steam mill in London consumes 120 bushels of coal in 24 hours, turns 10 prs of stones which grind 8 bushels of flour an hour each, which is 1920 bushels in the 24 hours. This makes a peck and a half of coal perform exactly as much as a horse in one day can perform.
TO NICHOLAS LEWIS
Paris, 19 Dec., 1786.
—I have duly received your favors of March 14 & July 16. My last to you was of Apr. 22, from London. I am obliged to you for the particular account you give me of my affairs, and the state of the cash account made out by the steward. His articles however were generally so shortly expressed as to be quite unintelligible to me. Of this kind are the following.
The steward intended this account for my information, but mentioning only names & sums without saying in some general way why those sums were paid to those names, leaves me uninformed. However the account having passed under your eye leaves me also without a doubt that the articles are right. I suppose, in the 1st article for instance, that Carter Braxton (to whom I was indebted for a doz. bottles of oil only) stands in the place of some person to whom I owed £131.10, and so of the rest, as you give me reason to hope that all other debts will now be paid off. I am in hopes the shoulder can be laid solidly to those of Farrell & Jones, & Kippen & Co. to these objects. I would wish to apply the whole profits of the estate, except the maintenance & education of my sister Carr’s two sons, & the interest of my sister Nancy’s debt. I shall propose therefore to Jones & McCaul the paying them an annual sum till their debts shall be discharged, & I have asked the favor of Mr. Eppes, to consult with you & let me know what sum you think I may engage to pay them on an average of one year with another? and that you will be so good as to let me know this as soon as possible that I may arrange the matter by agreement with them. You mention that the price of tobo. is at 22/6. I can always be sure of receiving for it delivered at Havre 36/ Virginia money for the Virginia hundred weight. Whenever therefore the price with you is less than this after deducting freight, insurance, commission & port charges, if a conveiance can be obtained for it to Havre it would be better to ship it to me. You may at the same time draw bills on me for the whole amount taking care that they shall not be presented till the tobacco is arrived at Havre, & that there be such an usence in them as will give me time to sell it & receive the money, or, for so much of the tobacco as can be destined to Jones & McCaul, no bills need be drawn, as I can remit them the proceeds. In all this however you will act according to your own judgment which is much better than mine. I cannot help thinking however that it might be worth the experiment to ship me at any rate a small adventure to see how it will turn out, but Havre is the only port at which I could manage it.
I observe in your letter of March 14. after stating the amount of the crop & deducting Overseer’s & steward’s parts, transportation, negroes clothes, tools, medicine & taxes, the profits of the whole estate would be no more than the hire of the few negroes hired out would amount to. Would it be better to hire more where good masters could be got? Would it be better to hire plantations & all, if proper assurance can be provided for the good usage of everything? I am miserable till I owe not a shilling: the moment that shall be the case I shall feel myself at liberty to do something for the comfort of my slaves. * * * I am much obliged to you for your attention to my trees & grass. The latter is one of the principal pillars on which I shall rely for subsistence when I shall be at liberty to try projects without injury to any body. The negro girl which I sent to Nancy Bolling was not sent as a gift from me. I understood she was claimed under a supposed gift from my mother, which tho’ I thought ill founded I did not chuse to enter into disagreeable discussions about. I meant therefore to abandon my right to her and I have no further pretensions to her. With my letter from London, I send under the care of Mr. Fulwar Skipwith a trunk containing some little matters for Mr. Lewis & my sister Nancy. I hope it got safe to hand. I have long had (as I once wrote you) a pretty little piece of furniture, a clock, which I meant for Mrs. Lewis. Tho it is so small that it might almost be put into a pocket, I have as yet found it impossible to get a safe conveiance for it. The case being of marble, & very slender, it cannot bear transportation but by water. I am obliged therefore to wait till some person shall be going from Havre to Richmond. Monsr. Doradour was to have carried it, but he was not able. He is safely returned to his family & in good humor with our country. He made a considerable tramontane purchase. His trip upon the whole turned out better than I had expected. I am glad on account of Madame de Doradour who is a lady of great merit. I have never seen her since the departure of her husband; but I suppose she will decline further views on America. I shall endeavor to send with this a packet of the seeds of trees which I would wish Anthony to sow in a large nursery noting well their names. There will be a little Spanish St. foin, represented to me as a very precious grass in a hot country. I would have it sowed in one of the vacant lots of my grass ground. I have but just room to render you a thousand thanks for your goodness, to make as many apologies for the details I trouble you with, to recommend myself to the friendly remembrance of Mrs. Lewis & to assure you of the sincere esteem with which I am, Sir &c.
TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL
Paris Decr. 26, 1786.
—* * * My Notes on Virginia, having been hastily written, need abundance of corrections. Two or three of these are so material that I am reprinting a few leaves to substitute for the old. As soon as these shall be ready, I will beg your acceptance of a copy. I shall be proud to be permitted to send a copy, also, to the Count de Campomanes as a tribute to his science & his virtues. You will find in them that the Natural bridge had found an admirer in me also. I should be happy to make with you a tour of the curiosities you will find therein mentioned. That kind of pleasure surpasses much in my estimation whatever I find on this side the Atlantic. I sometimes think of building a little hermitage at the Natural bridge (for it is my property) and of passing there a part of the year at least. I have received American papers to the 1st of November. Some tumultuous meetings of the people have taken place in the Eastern states, i. e. one in Massachusetts, one in Connecticut, & one in N Hampsh. Their principal demand was a respite in the judiciary proceedings. No injury was done however in a single instance to the person or property of any one, nor did the tumult continue 24 hours in any one instance. In Massachusetts this was owing to the discretion which the malcontents still preserved, in Connecticut & N Hampshire, the body of the people rose in support of government & obliged the malcontents to go to their homes. In the last mentioned state they seized about 40, who were in jail for trial. It is believed this incident will strengthen our government. Those people are not entirely without excuse. Before the war those states depended on their whale oil & fish. The former was consumed in England, & much of the latter in the Mediterranean. The heavy duties on American whale oil now required in England exclude it from that market; & the Algerines exclude them from bringing their fish into the Mediterranean. France is opening her port for their oil, but in the meanwhile their antient debts are pressing them & they have nothing to pay with. The Massachusetts assembly too, in their zeal for paying their public debt had laid a tax too heavy to be paid in the circumstances of their state. The Indians seem disposed to make war on us. These complicated causes determined Congress to increase their force to 2000 men. The latter was the sole object avowed, yet the former entered for something into the measure. However I am satisfied the good sense of the people is the strongest army our government can ever have, & that it will not fail them. The Commercial convention at Annapolis was not full enough to do business. They found too their appointments too narrow, being confined to the article of commerce. They have proposed a meeting in Philadelphia in May, and that it may be authorized to propose amendments of whatever is defective in the federal constitution.
Congress have at length determined on a coinage. Their money unit is a dollar & the pieces above & below that are in decimal proportion. You will see their scheme in all the papers, except that the proportion they established between gold & silver is mistated at upwards of 20. to 1. instead of about 15¼ to 1.
It is believed that this court has patched up an accommodation for the moment between Russia & the Porte. In Holland they find greater difficulties. The present King of Prussia is zealous for the Stadholder, & the fear is of driving him into the Austrian scale of the European balance. Such a weight as this, shifted, would destroy all equilibriums and the preponderance once in favor of the restless powers of the north, the peace would soon be disturbed.
When I was in England I formed a portable copying press on the principle of the large one they make there for copying letters. I had a model made there & it has answered perfectly. A workman here has made several from that model. The itinerent temper of your court will, I think, render one of these useful to you. You must therefore do me the favor to accept of one. I have it now in readiness, & shall send it by the way of Bayonne to the care of Mr. Alexander there, unless Don Miguel de Lardizabal can carry it with him.
My hand admonishes me it is time to stop, & that I must defer writing to Mr. Barclay till to-morrow.
[1 ]Supplied by Jefferson to Monsieur de Meusnier, author of that part of the Encyclopédie Politique entitled “Economie Politique et Diplomatique.” See also the two papers immediately following this.
[1 ]In preparing an article for the Encyclopédie Politique, M. Meusnier applied to Jefferson for information (cf. ante p. 3). On the proofs of that article, Jefferson prepared the above notes. This article was separately printed, and for Jefferson’s comments upon it, see his letters of August 25 and 27, 1786, post.
[1 ]A note is omitted here, because the press copy is so faded that it is impossible to make it out. It refers to page 18.
[1 ]An allusion to Lewis Littlepage.
[1 ]From the original in the possession of the Virginia Historical Society.
[1 ]From a copy courteously furnished by Mr. Harold Brown, of Providence.
[1 ]His sister, afterwards (1788) Mrs. Hastings Marks. From S. N. Randolph’s Domestic Life of T. Jefferson, 81.
[1 ]Virginia act for Religious Freedom.
[1 ]Parts in italic are in cipher.
[2 ]With Spain, concerning the navigation of the Mississippi.
[1 ]See vol. i., p. 100.
[1 ]Humphrey Marshall’s Arbustrum Americanum, Philadelphia, 1785.
[1 ]Alexander Cluny’s American Traveller, London: 1769.
[1 ]Virginia act for Religious Freedom.
[1 ]François Soulés wrote a work entitled Histoire des troubles de l’Amérique et Anglaise (Paris 1787), the MSS. or proof-sheets of which he submitted to Jefferson, who made the above comments. In sending them to the author he wrote him:
Paris Septemb. 13th, 1786.
—Before the receipt of your favor of the 11th inst. I had written the inclosed short notes on such parts of your work as I have been yet able to go over. You will perceive that the corrections are very trifling. Such as they are I will continue them, & forward them to you from time to time as I get along. I will endeavour also to answer such of the queries you propose in your letter as my memory will enable me to do with certainty. Some of them I shall be unable to answer, having left in America all my notes, memorandums, &c., which might have enabled me to give you the information you desire. I have the honour to be with the utmost esteem & respect, sir, Your most obedient humble servt.
[1 ]From a copy courteously furnished by Mr. Jules J. Vail of New York.
[1 ]From Collections of the N. Y. Historical Society for 1878, p. 230.