Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1787 - TO ALEXANDER McCAUL 1 - The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789)
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1787 - TO ALEXANDER McCAUL 1 - 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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TO ALEXANDER McCAUL1
Paris, Jan. 4, 1787.
—In the letter which I had the honor of addressing you from London on the 19th of April 1786, I informed you that I had left my estate in the hands of a Mr. Eppes & a Mr. Lewis, who were first to clear off some debts which had been necessarily contracted during the war, & afterwards to apply the whole profits to the paiment of my debt to you (by which I mean that to the several firms with which you were connected) and of my part of a debt due from Mr. Wayles’s estate to Farrell & Jones of Bristol. Being anxious to begin the paiment of these two debts, & finding that it would be too long postponed if the residuary one’s were to be paid merely from the annual profits of the estate, a number of slaves have been sold, & I have lately received information from Messrs. Eppes & Lewis that the proceeds of that sale with the profits of the estate to the end of 1786 would pay off the whole of the residuary debts. As we are now therefore clear of embarrasments to pursue our principal object, I am desirous of arranging with you such just & practicable conditions as will ascertain to you the receipt of your debt, & give me the satisfaction of knowing that you are contented. What the laws of Virginia are or may be, will in no wise influence my conduct. Substantial justice is my object, as decided by reason, & not by authority or compulsion.
The article of interest may make a difficulty. I had the honour of observing to you, in my former letter that I thought it just I should pay it for all the time preceding the war, & all the time subsequent to it, but that for the time during the war I did not consider myself as bound in justice to pay. This includes the period from the commencement of hostilities Apr. 19, 1775, to their cessation April 19, 1783, being exactly eight years. To the reasons against this paiment which apply in favor of the whole mass of American debtors, I added the peculiar circumstance of having already lost the debt, principal & interest, by endeavoring to pay it by the sale of lands, & by the depreciation of their price; & also a second loss of an equal sum by Ld. Cornwallis’s barbarous & useless depredations. I will therefore refer you to that letter, to save the repetition here of those reasons which absolve me in justice from the paiment of this portion of interest. In law, our courts have uniformly decided that the treaty of peace stipulates the paiment of the principal only & not of any interest whatever.
This article being once settled, I would propose to divide the clear proceeds of my estate (in which there are from 80 to 100 labouring slaves) between yourself & Farrell & Jones, one third to you and two thirds to them: & that the crop of this present year 1787 shall constitute the first payment. That crop you know cannot be got to the warehouse completely till May of the next year, & I presume, that three months more will be little enough to send it to Europe or to sell it in Virginia & remit the money. So that I could not safely answer for placing the proceeds in your hands till the month of August, & so annually every August afterwards till the debt shall be paid. It will always be both my interest and my wish to get it to you as much sooner as possible & probably a part of it may always be paid some months sooner. If the assigning the profits in general terms may seem to you too vague, I am willing to fix the annual paiment at a sum certain. But that I may not fall short of my engagement, I shall name it somewhat less than I suppose may be counted on. I shall fix your part at two hundred pounds sterling annually, and as you know our crops of tobacco to be incertain, I should reserve a right, if they should fall short one year, to make it up the ensuing one, without being supposed to have failed in my engagement, but I would be obliged every second year to pay any arrearages of the preceding one together with the full sum for the current year: so that once in every two years the annual paiment should be fully paid up.
I do not know what the balance is: having for a long time before the war had no settlement, yet there can be no difficulty in making that settlement, & in the mean while the paiments may proceed without affecting the right of either party to have a just settlement.
If you think proper to accede to these propositions, be so good as to say so at the foot of a copy of this letter, on my receipt of that, I will send you an acknowledgement of it, which shall render this present letter obligatory on me for the paiment of the debt before mentioned & interest at the epochs & in the proportions before mentioned excepting always the interest during the war. This done, you may count on my faithful execution of it.
I avail myself of this, as of every other occasion of recalling myself to your friendly recollection, & of assuring you of the sentiments of perfect esteem and attachment with which I am, &c.
TO WILLIAM JONES
Paris, Jan. 5, 1787.
—When I had the pleasure of seeing you in London, I mentioned to you that the Affairs of Mr. Wayles’s estate were left to be ultimately settled by Mr. Eppes, the only acting executor; that I had left in his hands also & in those of a Mr. Lewis the part of Mr. Wayles’s estate which came to me, together with my own: that they were first to clear off some debts which had been necessarily contracted during the war, & would after that apply the whole profits to the paiment of my part of Mr. Wayles’s debt to you, & to a debt of mine to Kippen & Co., of Glasgow. Being anxious to begin the paiment of these two debts & finding that it would be too long postponed if the residuary ones were to be paid merely from the annual profits of the estate, a number of slaves have been sold, & I have lately received information from Messrs. Eppes & Lewis that the proceeds of that sale, with the profits of the estate to the end of 1786 would pay off the whole of the residuary debts. As we are now therefore clear of embarrassment to pursue our principal object, I am desirous of arranging with you, such just & practicable conditions as will ascertain to you the terms at which you will receive my part of your debt, & give me the satisfaction of knowing that you are contented. What the laws of Virginia are, or may be, will in no wise influence my conduct. Substantial justice is my object, as decided by reason, & not by authority or compulsion.
The first question which arises is as to the article of interest. For all the time preceding the war, & all subsequent to it, I think it reasonable that interest should be paid; but equally unreasonable during the war. Interest is a compensation for the use of money. Your money in my hands is in the form of lands & negroes, from these, during the war, no use, no profits could be derived, tobacco is the article they produce. That can only be turned into money at a foreign market. But the moment it went out of our ports for that purpose, it was captured either by the king’s ships or by those of individuals. The consequence was that tobacco, worth from twenty to thirty shillings the hundred, sold generally in Virginia during the War for five shillings. This price it is known will not maintain the labourer & pay his taxes. There was no surplus of profit then to pay an interest, in the mean while we stood insurers of the lives of the labourers & of the ultimate issue of the war. He who attempted during the war to remit either his principal or interest, must have expected to remit three times to make one paiment; because it is supposed that two out of three parts of the shipments were taken. It was not possible then for the debtor to derive any profit from the money which might enable him to pay an interest, nor yet to get rid of the principal by remitting it to his creditor. With respect to the Creditors in Great Britain they mostly turned their attention to privateering, and arming the vessels they had before emploied in trading with us. They captured on the seas, not only the produce of the farms of their debtors, but of those of the whole state. They thus paid themselves by capture more than their annual interest, and we lost more. Some merchants indeed did not engage in privateering. These lost their interest. But we did not gain it. It fell into the hands of their countrymen. It cannot therefore be demanded of us. As between these merchants & their debtors it is a case where, a loss being incurred, each party may justifiably endeavor to shift it from himself, each has an equal right to avoid it, one party can never expect the other to yield a thing to which he has as good a right as the demander, we even think he has a better right than the demander in the present instance. This loss has been occasioned by the fault of the nation which was Creditor. Our right to avoid it then stands on less exceptionable ground than theirs, but it will be said that each party thought the other the aggressor. In these disputes there is but one umpire & that has decided the question where the world in general thought the right laid.
Besides these reasons in favor of the general mass of debtors, I have some peculiar to my own case. In the year 1776, before a shilling of paper money was issued I sold lands to the amount of £4200. In order to pay these two debts I offered the bonds of the purchasers to your agent Mr. Evans, if he would acquit me, & accept of the purchasers as debtors in my place. They were as sure as myself had he done it. These debts, being turned over to you, would have been saved to you by the treaty of peace, but he declined it. Great sums of paper money were afterwards issued. This depreciated, and paiment was made me in this money when it was but a shadow. Our laws do not entitle their own citizens to require repaiment in these cases, tho’ the treaty authorizes the British creditor to do it. Here then I lost the principal and interest once. Again, Ld. Cornwallis encamped 10 days on an estate of mine at Elk island, having his headquarters in my house he burned all the tobacco houses and barns on the farm. With the produce of the former year in them, he burnt all the enclosures, & wasted the fields in which the crop of that year was growing: (it was the month of June) he killed or carried off every living animal, cutting the throats of those which were too young for service. Of the slaves he carried away thirty. The useless & barbarous injury he did me in that instance was more than would have paid your debt, principal & interest. Thus I lost it a second time. Still I lay my shoulder assiduously to the paiment of it a third time. In doing this however I think yourself will be of opinion I am authorized in justice to clear it of every article not demandable in strict right: of this nature I consider interest during the war.
Another question is, as to the paper money I deposited in the treasury of Virginia towards the discharge of this debt. I before observed that I had sold lands to the amount of £4200 before a shilling of paper money was emitted, with a view to pay this debt. I received this money in depreciated paper. The state was then calling on those who owed money to British subjects to bring it into the treasury engaging to pay a like sum to the creditor at the end of the war. I carried the identical money therefore to the Treasury, where it was applied, as all the money of the same description was, to the support of the war. Subsequent events have been such that the state cannot, & ought not to pay the same nominal sum in gold or silver which they received in paper, nor is it certain what they will do. My intention being & having always been, that, whatever the state decides, you shall receive my part of the debt fully, I am ready to remove all difficulty arising from this deposit, to take back to myself the demand against the state, & to consider the deposit as originally made for myself & not for you.
These two articles of interest & paper money being thus settled, I would propose to divide the clear proceeds of the estate (in which there are from 80 to 100 labouring slaves) between yourself & Kippen & Co, two thirds to you and one third to them, & that the crop of this present year 1787 shall constitute the first paiment. That crop you know cannot be got to the warehouse completely till May of the next year, & I suppose that three months more will be little enough to send it to Europe, or to sell it in Virginia & remit the money, so that I could not safely answer for placing the proceeds in your hands till the month of August, and so annually every August afterwards till the debt shall be paid. It will always be both my interest & my wish to get it to you as much sooner as possible, & probably a part of it may always be paid some months sooner. If the assigning of the profits in general terms may seem to you too vague, I am willing to fix the annual paiment at a sum certain, but that I may not fall short of my engagement, I shall name it somewhat less than I suppose may be counted on. I shall fix your part at four hundred pounds sterling annually, and as you know our crops of tobacco to be incertain, I should reserve a right if they fall short one year to make it up the ensuing one, without being supposed to have failed in my engagement. But every other year at least all arrearages shall be fully paid up.
My part of this debt of Mr. Wayles’s estate being one third, I should require that in proportion as I pay my third, I shall stand discharged as to the other two thirds. So that the paiment of every hundred pounds shall discharge me as to three hundred pounds of the undivided debt. The other gentlemen have equal means of paying, equal desires, and more skill in affairs. Their parts of the debt therefore are at least as sure as mine: & my great object is, in case of any accident to myself, to leave my family uninvolved with any matters whatever.
I do not know what the balance of this debt is. The last acct. current I saw was before the war, making the whole balance, principal & interest somewhere about nine thousand pounds: & after this there were upwards of four hundred hogshead of tobacco & some paiments in money to be credited. However this settlement can admit of no difficulty: & in the mean time the payments may proceed without affecting the right of either party to have a just settlement.
Upon the whole then I propose that on your part you relinquish the claim to interest during the war, say from the commencement of hostilities, April 19, 1775 to their cessation April 19, 1783. being exactly eight years; and that in proportion as I pay my third I shall be acquitted as to the other two thirds. On my part, I take on myself the loss of the paper money deposited in the Treasury, I agree to pay interest previous & subsequent to the war, and oblige myself to remit to you for that & the principal four hundred pounds sterling annually till my third of the whole debt shall be fully paid; & I will begin these paiments in August of the next year.
If you think proper to accede to these propositions, be so good as to say so at the foot of a copy of this letter. On my receipt of that I will send you an acknowledgement of it, which shall render this present letter obligatory on me. In which case you may count on my faithful execution of this undertaking.
TO EDWARD CARRINGTON1
Paris, Jan. 16, 1787.
—Uncertain whether you might be at New York at the moment of Colo. Franks’s arrival, I have inclosed my private letters for Virginia under cover to our delegation in general, which otherwise I would have taken the liberty to inclose particularly to you, as best acquainted with the situation of the persons to whom they are addressed. Should this find you at New York, I will still ask your attention to them. The two large packages addressed to Colo. N. Lewis contain seeds, not valuable enough to pay postage, but which I would wish to be sent by the stage, or any similar quick conveyance. The letters to Colo. Lewis & Mr. Eppes (who take care of my affairs) are particularly interesting to me. The package for Colo. Richd. Cary our judge of Admiralty near Hampton, contains seeds & roots, not to be sent by Post. Whether they had better go by the stage, or by water, you will be the best judge. I beg your pardon for giving you this trouble. But my situation & your goodness will I hope excuse it. In my letter to Mr. Jay, I have mentioned the meeting of the Notables appointed for the 29th inst. It is now put off to the 7th or 8th of next month. This event, which will hardly excite any attention in America, is deemed here the most important one which has taken place in their civil line during the present century. Some promise their country great things from it, some nothing. Our friend de La Fayette was placed on the list originally. Afterwards his name disappeared; but finally was reinstated. This shews that his character here is not considered as an indifferent one; and that it excites agitation. His education in our school has drawn on him a very jealous eye from a court whose principles are the most absolute despotism. But I hope he has nearly passed his crisis. The King, who is a good man, is favorably disposed towards him: & he is supported by powerful family connections, & by the public good will. He is the youngest man of the Notables except one whose office placed him on the list.
The Count de Vergennes has within these ten days had a very severe attack of what is deemed an unfixed gout. He has been well enough however to do business to-day. But anxieties for him are not yet quieted. He is a great & good minister, and an accident to him might endanger the peace of Europe.
The tumults in America, I expected would have produced in Europe an unfavorable opinion of our political state. But it has not. On the contrary, the small effect of these tumults seems to have given more confidence in the firmness of our governments. The interposition of the people themselves on the side of government has had a great effect on the opinion here. I am persuaded myself that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them. I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments. Among the former, public opinion is in the place of law, & restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere. Among the latter, under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves & sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you & I, & Congress & Assemblies, judges & governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor. The want of news has led me into disquisition instead of narration, forgetting you have every day enough of that. I shall be happy to hear from you sometimes, only observing that whatever passes thro’ the post is read, & that when you write what should be read by myself only, you must be so good as to confide your letter to some passenger or officer of the packet. I will ask your permission to write to you sometimes, and to assure you of the esteem & respect with which I have honour to be Dear Sir your most obedient & most humble servt.
TO JAMES MADISON1
Paris, Jan 30, 1787.
—My last to you was of the 16th of Dec, since which I have received yours of Nov 25, & Dec 4, which afforded me, as your letters always do, a treat on matters public, individual & œconomical. I am impatient to learn your sentiments on the late troubles in the Eastern states. So far as I have yet seen, they do not appear to threaten serious consequences. Those states have suffered by the stoppage of the channels of their commerce, which have not yet found other issues. This must render money scarce, and make the people uneasy. This uneasiness has produced acts absolutely unjustifiable; but I hope they will provoke no severities from their governments. A consciousness of those in power that their administration of the public affairs has been honest, may perhaps produce too great a degree of indignation: and those characters wherein fear predominates over hope may apprehend too much from these instances of irregularity. They may conclude too hastily that nature has formed man insusceptible of any other government but that of force, a conclusion not founded in truth, nor experience. Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our Indians. 2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states, in a great one. 3. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the first condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty & happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, & as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions indeed generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government. If these transactions give me no uneasiness, I feel very differently at another piece of intelligence, to wit, the possibility that the navigation of the Mississippi may be abandoned to Spain. I never had any interest Westward of the Alleghaney; & I never will have any. But I have had great opportunities of knowing the character of the people who inhabit that country. And I will venture to say that the act which abandons the navigation of the Mississippi is an act of separation between the Eastern & Western country. It is a relinquishment of five parts out of eight of the territory of the United States, an abandonment of the fairest subject for the paiment of our public debts, & the chaining those debts on our own necks in perpetuum. I have the utmost confidence in the honest intentions of those who concur in this measure; but I lament their want of acquaintance with the character & physical advantages of the people who, right or wrong, will suppose their interests sacrificed on this occasion to the contrary interests of that part of the confederacy in possession of present power. If they declare themselves a separate people, we are incapable of a single effort to retain them. Our citizens can never be induced, either as militia or as souldiers, to go there to cut the throats of their own brothers & sons, or rather to be themselves the subjects instead of the perpetrators of the parricide. Nor would that country requite the cost of being retained against the will of it’s inhabitants, could it be done. But it cannot be done. They are able already to rescue the navigation of the Mississippi out of the hands of Spain, & to add New Orleans to their own territory. They will be joined by the inhabitants of Louisiana. This will bring on a war between them & Spain; and that will produce the question with us whether it will not be worth our while to become parties with them in the war, in order to reunite them with us, & thus correct our error? & were I to permit my forebodings to go one step further, I should predict that the inhabitants of the U S would force their rulers to take the affirmative of that question. I wish I may be mistaken in all these opinions.
We have for some time expected that the Chevalier de la Luzerne would obtain a promotion in the diplomatic line, by being appointed to some of the courts where this country keeps an ambassador. But none of the vacancies taking place which had been counted on, I think the present disposition is to require his return to his station in America. He told me himself lately, that he should return in the spring. I have never pressed this matter on the court, tho’ I knew it to be desirable and desired on our part; because if the compulsion on him to return had been the work of Congress, he would have returned in such ill temper with them, as to disappoint them in the good they expected from it. He would forever have laid at their door his failure of promotion. I did not press it for another reason, which is that I have great reason to believe that the character of the Count de Moustier, who would go were the Chevalier to be otherwise provided for, would give the most perfect satisfaction in America.
As you are now returned into Congress it will become of importance that you should form a just estimate of certain public characters: on which therefore I will give you such notes as my knolege of them has furnished me with. You will compare them with the materials you are otherwise possessed of, and decide on a view of the whole. Mr. Carmichael, is, I think, very little known in America. I never saw him, & while I was in Congress I formed rather a disadvantageous idea of him. His letters, received then, showed him vain, & more attentive to ceremony & etiquette than we suppose men of sense should be. I have now a constant correspondence with him, and find him a little hypochondriac and discontented. He possesses very good understanding, tho’ not of the first order. I have had great opportunities of searching into his character, and have availed myself of them. Many persons of different nations, coming from Madrid to Paris, all speak of him as in high esteem, & I think it certain that he has more of the Count de Florida Blanca’s friendship, than any diplomatic character at that court. As long as this minister is in office, Carmichael can do more than any other person who could be sent there. You will see Franks, and doubtless he will be asking some appointment. I wish there may be any one for which he is fit. He is light, indiscreet, active, honest, affectionate. Tho’ Bingham is not in diplomatic office, yet as he wishes to be so, I will mention such circumstances of him, as you might otherwise be deceived in. He will make you believe he was on the most intimate footing with the first characters in Europe, & versed in the secrets of every cabinet. Not a word of this is true. He had a rage for being presented to great men, & had no modesty in the methods by which he could if he attained acquaintance. Afterwards it was with such 90 who were susceptible of impression from the beauty of his wife. I must except the Marquis de Bonclearren who had been an old acquaintance.
The Marquis de La Fayette is a most valuable auxiliary to me. His zeal is unbounded, & his weight with those in power, great. His education having been merely military, commerce was an unknown field to him. But his good sense enabling him to comprehend perfectly whatever is explained to him, his agency has been very efficacious. He has a great deal of sound genius, is well remarked by the King, & rising in popularity. He has nothing against him, but the suspicion of republican principles. I think he will one day be of the ministry. His foible is, a canine appetite for popularity and fame; but he will get above this. The Count de Vergennes is ill. The possibility of his recovery, renders it dangerous for us to express a doubt of it: but he is in danger. He is a great minister in European affairs, but has very imperfect ideas of our institutions, and no confidence in them. His devotion to the principles of pure despotism, renders him unaffectionate to our governments. But his fear of England makes him value us as a make weight. He is cool, reserved in political conversations, but free and familiar on other subjects, and a very attentive, agreeable person to do business with. It is impossible to have a clearer, better organized head; but age has chilled his heart. Nothing should be spared, on our part, to attach this country to us. It is the only one on which we can rely for support, under every event. Its inhabitants love us more, I think, than they do any other nation on earth. This is very much the effect of the good dispositions with which the French officers returned. In a former letter, I mentioned to you the dislocation of my wrist. I can make not the least use of it, except for the single article of writing, though it is going on five months since the accident happened. I have great anxieties, lest I should never recover any considerable use of it. I shall, by the advice of my surgeons, set out in a fortnight for the waters of Aix, in Provence. I chose these out of several they proposed to me, because if they fail to be effectual, my journey will not be useless altogether. It will give me an opportunity of examining the canal of Languedoc, and of acquiring knowledge of that species of navigation, which may be useful hereafter; but more immediately, it will enable me to make the tour of the ports concerned in commerce with us, to examine, on the spot, the defects of the late regulations respecting our commerce, to learn the further improvements which may be made in it, and on my return, to get this business finished. I shall be absent between two and three months, unless anything happens to recall me here sooner, which may always be effected in ten days, in whatever part of my route I may be. In speaking of characters, I omitted those of Reyneval and Hennin, the two eyes of Count de Vergennes. The former is the most important character, because possessing the most of the confidence of the Count. He is rather cunning than wise, his views of things being neither great nor liberal. He governs himself by principles which he has learned by rote, and is fit only for the details of execution. His heart is susceptible of little passions but not of good ones. He is brother-in-law to M. Gerard, from whom he received disadvantageous impressions of us, which cannot be effaced. He has much duplicity. Hennin is a philosopher, sincere, friendly, liberal, learned, beloved by everybody; the other by nobody. I think it a great misfortune that the United States are in the department of the former. As particulars of this kind may be useful to you, in your present situation, I may hereafter continue the chapter. I know it will be safely lodged in your discretion.
Feb. 5. Since writing thus far, Franks is returned from England. I learn that Mr. Adams desires to be recalled, & that Smith should be appointed chargé des affaires there. It is not for me to decide whether any diplomatic character should be kept at a court, which keeps none with us. You can judge of Smith’s abilities by his letters. They are not of the first order, but they are good. For his honesty, he is like our friend Monroe; turn his soul wrong side outwards, and there is not a speck on it. He has one foible, an excessive inflammability of temper, but he feels it when it comes on, and has resolution enough to suppress it, and to remain silent till it passes over.
I send you by Colo. Franks, your pocket telescope, walking stick & chemical box. The two former could not be combined together. The latter could not be had in the form you referred to. Having a great desire to have a portable copying machine, & being satisfied from some experiments that the principle of the large machine might be applied in a small one, I planned one when in England & had it made. It answers perfectly. I have since set a workman to making them here, & they are in such demand that he has his hands full. Being assured that you will be pleased to have one, when you shall have tried it’s convenience, I send you one by Colo. Franks. The machine costs 96 livres, the appendages 24 livres, and I send you paper & ink for 12 livres; in all 132 livres. There is a printed paper of directions; but you must expect to make many essays before you succeed perfectly. A soft brush, like a shaving brush, is more convenient than the sponge. You can get as much ink & paper as you please from London. The paper costs a guinea a ream.
TO MRS. JOHN (ABIGAIL) ADAMS
Paris Feb. 22. 1787.
—I am to acknowledge the honor of your letter of Jan. 29. and of the papers you were so good as to send me. They were the latest I had seen or have yet seen. They left off too in a critical moment; just at the point where the Malcontents make their submission on condition of pardon, & before the answer of government was known. I hope they pardoned them. The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now & then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere. It is wonderful that no letter or paper tells us who is president of Congress, tho’ there are letters in Paris to the beginning of January. I suppose I shall hear when I come back from my journey, which will be eight months after he will have been chosen, and yet they complain of us for not giving them intelligence. Our Notables assembled to-day, and I hope before the departure of Mr. Cairnes I shall have heard something of their proceedings worth communicating to Mr. Adams. The most remarkable effect of this convention as yet is the number of puns & bon mots it has generated. I think were they all collected it would make a more voluminous work than the Encyclopedie. This occasion, more than any thing I have seen, convinces me that this nation is incapable of any serious effort but under the word of command. The people at large view every object only as it may furnish puns and bon mots; and I pronounce that a good punster would disarm the whole nation were they ever so seriously disposed to revolt. Indeed, Madam, they are gone, when a measure so capable of doing good as the calling the Notables is treated with so much ridicule; we may conclude the nation desperate, & in charity pray that heaven may send them good kings.—The bridge at the place Louis XV is begun, the hotel dieu is to be abandoned & new ones to be built. The old houses on the bridges are in a course of demolition. This is all I know of Paris. We are about to lose the Count d’Arande, who has desired & obtained his recall. Fernand Nunner, before destined for London, is to come here. The Abbes’ Arnoux & Chalut are well. The Dutchess Danville somewhat recovered from the loss of her daughter. Mrs. Barrett very homesick and fancying herself otherwise sick. They will probably remove to Honfleur. This is all our news. I have only to add then that Mr. Cairnes has taken charge of 15 aunes of black lace for you at 9 livres the aune, purchased by Petit & therefore I hope better purchased than some things have been for you; and that I am, dear Madam, your affectionate & humble servant.
TO MARTHA JEFFERSON1
Aix en Provence, March 28, 1787.
I was happy, my dear Patsey, to receive, on my arrival here, your letter, informing me of your good health and occupation. I have not written to you sooner because I have been almost constantly on the road. My journey hitherto had been a very pleasing one. It was undertaken with the hope that the mineral waters of this place might restore strength to my wrist. Other considerations also concurred—instruction, amusement, and abstraction from business, of which I had too much at Paris. I am glad to learn that you are employed in things new and good, in your music and drawing. You know what have been my fears for some time past—that you did not employ yourself so closely as I could wish. You have promised me a more assiduous attention, and I have great confidence in what you promise. It is your future happiness which interests me, and nothing can contribute more to it (moral rectitude always excepted) than the contracting a habit of industry and activity. Of all the cankers of human happiness none corrodes with so silent, yet so baneful an influence, as indolence. Body and mind both unemployed, our being becomes a burthen, and every object about us loathsome, even the dearest. Idleness begets ennui, ennui the hypochondriac, and that a diseased body. No laborious person was ever yet hysterical. Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body and cheerfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends. It is while we are young that the habit of industry is formed. If not then, it never is afterwards. The fortune of our lives, therefore, depends on employing well the short period of youth. If at any moment, my dear, you catch yourself in idleness, start from it as you would from the precipice of a gulf. You are not, however, to consider yourself as unemployed while taking exercise. That is necessary for your health, and health is the first of all objects. For this reason, if you leave your dancing-master for the summer, you must increase your other exercises.
I do not like your saying that you are unable to read the ancient print of your Livy but with the aid of your master. We are always equal to what we undertake with resolution. A little degree of this will enable you to decipher your Livy. If you always lean on your master, you will never be able to proceed without him. It is part of the American character to consider nothing as desperate, to surmount every difficulty by resolution and contrivance. In Europe there are shops for every want; its inhabitants, therefore, have no idea that their wants can be supplied otherwise. Remote from all other aid, we are obliged to invent and to execute; to find means within ourselves, and not to lean on others. Consider, therefore, the conquering your Livy as an exercise in the habit of surmounting difficulties; a habit which will be necessary to you in the country where you are to live, and without which you will be thought a very helpless animal, and less esteemed. Music, drawing, books, invention, and exercise, will be so many resources to you against ennui. But there are others which, to this object, add that of utility. These are the needle and domestic economy. The latter you cannot learn here, but the former you may. In the country life of America there are many moments when a woman can have recourse to nothing but her needle for employment. In a dull company, and in dull weather, for instance, it is ill-manners to read, ill-manners to leave them; no card-playing there among genteel people—that is abandoned to blackguards. The needle is then a valuable resource. Besides, without knowing how to use it herself, how can the mistress of a family direct the work of her servants?
You ask me to write you long letters. I will do it, my dear, on condition you will read them from time to time, and practice what they inculcate. Their precepts will be dictated by experience, by a perfect knolege of the situation in which you will be placed, and by the fondest love for you. This it is which makes me wish to see you more qualified than common. My expectations from you are high, yet not higher than you may attain. Industry and resolution are all that are wanting. Nobody in this world can make me so happy, or so miserable, as you. Retirement from public life will ere long become necessary for me. To your sister and yourself I look to render the evening of my life serene and contented. Its morning has been clouded by loss after loss, till I have nothing left but you. I do not doubt either your affections or dispositions. But great exertions are necessary, and you have little time left to make them. Be industrious then, my child. Think nothing insurmountable by resolution and application, and you will be all that I wish you to be.
You ask if it is my desire that you should dine at the Abbess’s table? It is. Propose it as such to Madame de Frauleinheim, with my respectful compliments, and thanks for her care of you. Continue to love me with all the warmth with which you are beloved by, my dear Patsey, yours affectionately.
TO MARTHA JEFFERSON1
Toulon, April 7th, 1787.
My Dear Patsey
—I received yesterday, at Marseilles, your letter of March 25th, and I received it with pleasure, because it announced to me that you are well. Experience learns us to be always anxious about the health of those whom we love. I have not been able to write to you as often as I expected, because I am generally on the road, and when I stop anywhere I am occupied in seeing what is to be seen. It will be some time now, perhaps, three weeks, before I shall be able to write you again. But this need not slacken your writing to me, because you have leisure and your letters come regularly to me. I have received letters which inform me that our dear Polly will certainly come to us this summer. By the time I return it will be time to expect her. When she arrives she will become a precious charge on your hands. The difference of your age and your common loss of a mother, will put that office on you. Teach her above all things to be good, because without that we can neither be valued by others nor set any value on ourselves. Teach her to be always true; no vice is so mean as the want of truth, and at the same time so useless. Teach her never to be angry; anger only serves to torment ourselves, to divert others, and alienate their esteem. And teach her industry, and application to useful pursuits. I will venture to assure you that if you inculcate this in her mind, you will make her a happy being herself, a most inestimable friend to you, and precious to all the world. In teaching her these dispositions of mind, you will be more fixed in them yourself, and render yourself dear to all your acquaintances. Practice them, then, my dear, without ceasing. If ever you find yourself in difficulty, and doubt how to extricate yourself, do what is right, and you will find it the easiest way of getting out of the difficulty. Do it for the additional incitement of increasing the happiness of him who loves you infinitely, and who is, my dear Patsey, yours affectionately.
TO THE SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Marseilles, May 4, 1787.
—I had the honour of receiving at Aix your letter of Feb. 9, and immediately wrote to the Count de Montmorin, explaining the delay of the answer of Congress to the King’s letter, and desired Mr. Short to deliver that answer with my letter to Monsieur de Montmorin, which he accordingly informs me he has done.
My absence prevented my noting to you in the first moment the revolution which has taken place at Paris in the department of Finance, by the substitution of Monsieur de Fourqueux in the place of Monsieur de Calonnes, so that you will have heard of it through other channels before this will have the honour of reaching you.
Having staid at Aix long enough to prove the inefficacy of the waters, I came on to this place for the purpose of informing myself here, as I mean to do at the other sea-port towns, of whatever may be interesting to our commerce. So far as carried on in our own bottoms, I find it almost nothing; & so it must probably remain till something can be done with the Algerines. Tho’ severely afflicted with the plague, they have come out within these few days, & shewed themselves in force along the coast of Genoa, cannonading a little town & taking several vessels.
Among other objects of inquiry, this was the place to learn something more certain on the subject of rice, as it is a great emporium for that of the Levant & of Italy. I wished particularly to know whether it was the use of a different machine for cleaning which brought European rice to market less broken than ours, as had been represented to me by those who deal in that article in Paris. I found several persons who had passed thro’ the rice country of Italy, but not one who could explain to me the nature of the machine. But I was given to believe that I might see it myself immediately on entering Piedmont. As this would require but about three weeks I determined to go & ascertain this point; as the chance only of placing our rice above all rivalship in quality as it is in colour, by the introduction of a better machine, if a better existed, seemed to justify the application of that much time to it. I found the rice country to be in truth Lombardy, 100 miles further than had been represented, & that tho’ called Piedmont rice, not a grain is made in the country of Piedmont. I passed thro the rice fields of the Venellese & Milanese, about 60 miles, & returned from thence last night, having found that the machine is absolutely the same as ours, and of course that we need not listen more to that suggestion. It is a difference in the species of grain, of which the government of Turin is so sensible, that, as I was informed, they prohibit the exportation of rough rice on pain of death. I have taken measures however for obtaining a quantity of it which I think will not fail & I bought on the spot a small parcel which I have with me. As further details on this subject to Congress would be misplaced, I propose on my return to Paris to communicate them, & send the rice to the society at Charlestown for promoting agriculture, supposing that they will be best able to try the experiment of cultivating the rice of this quality, and to communicate the species to the two states of S Carolina & Georgia if they find it answer. I thought the staple of these two states was entitled to this attention, and that it must be desirable to them to be able to furnish rice of the two qualities demanded in Europe, especially as the greater consumption is in the forms for which the Lombardy quality is preferred. The mass of our countrymen being interested in agriculture, I hope I do not err in supposing that in a time of profound peace as the present, to enable them to adapt their productions to the market, to point out markets for them, and endeavor to obtain favorable terms of reception, is within the line of my duty.
My journey into this part of the country has procured me information which I will take the liberty of communicating to Congress. In October last I received a letter dated Montpelier Octob 2. 1786. announcing to me that the writer was a foreigner who had a matter of very great consequence to communicate to me, and desired I would indicate the channel thro which it might pass safely. I did so.
I received soon after a letter in the following words, omitting only the formal parts.
“Je suis Bresilien et vous savez, que ma malheureuse patrie gemit dans un affreux esclavage, qui devient chaque plus insupportable, depuis l’epoque de votre glorieuse independance, puisque les barbares Portugais n’épargnent rien pour nous rendre malheureux, de crainte que nous suivire vos pat: et comme nous connaissons que ces usurpateurs contre la loi de la nature et de l’humanité ne songent que á nous accabler, nous nous sommes decidés a suivre le frappant exemple que vous venez de nous donner, et par consequence a briser nos chaines, et à faire revivre notre liberté, qui est tout-a-fait morte, et accablé par la force qui est le seul droit qu’ont les Europeans sur l’Amerique. Mais il s’agit d’avoir une puissance qui donne la main aux Bresiliens, attendu que l’Espagne ne manquera pas de se joindre a Portugal; et malgré les avantages que nous avons pour nous defendre, nous ne pourrons pas le faire, ou du moins il se serait pas prudent de nous hazarder sans etre sur d’y reussir. Cela posé, Monsieur, c’est votre nation que nous croyons plus propre pour donner du secours, non seulement parceque c’est elle, qui nous a donné l’exemple, mais aussi parceque la nature nous a fait habitants du meme continent, et par consequence en quelque façon compatriotes. De notre part nous sommes prets a donner tout l’argent qui sera necessaire, et á temoigner en tout temps notre reconnoissance envers nos bienfaisantes. Monsieur, voila á peu prés le precis de mes intentions, et c’est pour m’acquitter de cette commission, que je suis venu en France, puisque je se pourrois pas en Amerique sans donner des soupçons á ceux qui en sçussent. C’est a vous maintenant á juger si elles peuvent avoir lieu, et dans le cas que voulussiez en consulter votre nation, je suis en etat de vous donner toutes les informations que vous trouverez necessaire.
“Montpelier 21. Novembre.”
As by this time I had been advised to try the waters of Aix, I wrote to the gentleman my design, and that I would go off my road as far as Nismes, under the pretext of seeing the antiquities of that place, if he would meet me there. He met me, & the following is the sum of the information I received from him: “Brazil contains as many inhabitants as Portugal. They are 1. Portuguese. 2. Native whites. 3. Black & mulatto slaves. 4. Indians civilized & savage. 1. The Portuguese are few in number, mostly married there, have lost sight of their native country, as well as the prospect of returning to it, & are disposed to become independant. 2. The native whites form the body of their nation. 3. The slaves are as numerous as the free. 4. The civilized Indians have no energy, & the savage would not meddle. There are 20.000 regular troops. Originally these were Portuguese; but as they died off they were replaced by natives, so that these compose at present the mass of the troops & may be counted on by their native country. The officers are partly Portuguese partly Brazilians; their bravery is not doubted, & they understand the parade but not the science of their profession. They have no bias for Portugal, but no energy either for anything. The Priests are partly Portuguese, partly Brazilians, & will not interest themselves much. The Noblesse are scarcely known as such. They will in no manner be distinguished from the people. The men of letters are those most desirous of a revolution. The people are not much under the influence of their priests, most of them read & write, possess arms, & are in the habit of using them for hunting. The slaves will take the side of their masters. In short, as to the question of revolution, there is but one mind in that country. But there appears no person capable of conducting a revolution, or willing to venture himself at its head, without the aid of some powerful nation, as the people of their own might fail them. There is no printing press in Brazil. They consider the North American revolution as a precedent for theirs. They look to the United States as most likely to give them honest support, & from a variety of considerations have the strongest prejudices in our favor. This informant is a native & inhabitant of Rio Janeiro the present metropolis, which contains 50.000 inhabitants, knows well St. Salvador the former one, and the mines d’or which are in the center of the country. These are all for a revolution, &, constituting the body of the nation, the other parts will follow them. The King’s fifth of the mines yields annually 13 millions of crusadoes or half dollars. He has the sole right of searching for diamonds & other precious stones, which yields him about half as much. His income alone then from these two resources is about 10 millions of dollars annually: but the remaining part of the produce of the mines, being 26 millions, might be counted on for effecting a revolution. Besides the arms in the hands of the people, there are public magazines. They have abundance of horses, but only a part of their country would admit the service of horses. They would want cannon, ammunition, ships, sailors, souldiers & officers, for which they are disposed to look to the U. S. always understood that every service & furniture will be well paid. Corn costs about 20 livres the 100 lb. They have flesh in the greatest abundance, insomuch that in some parts they kill beeves for the skin only. The whale fishery is carried on by Brazilians altogether, & not by Portuguese; but in very small vessels, so that the fishermen know nothing of managing a large ship. They would want of us at all times shipping, corn & salt fish. The latter is a great article, & they are at present supplied with it from Portugal. Portugal being without either army or navy, could not attempt an invasion under a twelvemonth. Considering of what it would be composed it would not be much to be feared, and, if it failed, they would probably never attempt a second. Indeed, this source of their wealth being intercepted they are scarcely capable of a first effort. The thinking part of the nation are so sensible of this, that they consider an early separation inevitable. There is an implacable hatred between the Brazilians & Portuguese; to reconcile which a former minister adopted the policy of letting the Brazilians into a participation of public offices; but subsequent administrations have reverted to the antient policy of keeping the administration in the hands of native Portuguese. There is a mixture of natives of the old appointments still remaining in office. If Spain should invade them on their Southern extremities, these are so distant from the body of their settlements that they could not penetrate thence, and Spanish enterprise is not formidable. The mines d’or are among mountains, inaccessible to any army, and Rio Janeiro is considered as the strongest port in the world after Gibraltar. In case of a successful revolution, a republican government in a single body would probably be established.”
I took care to impress on him thro’ the whole of our conversation that I had neither instructions nor authority to say a word to anybody on this subject, and that I could only give him my own ideas as a single individual; which were that we were not in a condition to meddle nationally in any war; that we wished particularly to cultivate the friendship of Portugal, with whom we have an advantageous commerce. That yet a successful revolution in Brazil could not be uninteresting to us. That prospects of lucre might possibly draw numbers of individuals to their aid, and purer motives our officers, among whom are many excellent. That our citizens being free to leave their own country individually without the consent of their governments, are equally free to go to any other.
A little before I received the first letter of the Brazilian a gentleman informed me there was a Mexican in Paris, who wished to have some conversation with me. He accordingly called on me. The substance of the information I drew from him was as follows. He is himself a native of Mexico, where his relations are principally. He left it at about 17 years of age, & seems now to be about 33 or 34. He classes & characterizes the inhabitants of that country as follows: 1. The natives of Old Spain, possessed of most of the offices of government, & firmly attached to it. 2. The clergy equally attached to the government. 3. The natives of Mexico, generally disposed to revolt, but without instruction, without energy, & much under the dominion of their priests. 4. The slaves, mulatto & black; the former enterprising & intelligent, the latter brave & of very important weight, into whatever scale they throw themselves; but he thinks they will side with their masters. 5. The conquered Indians, cowardly, not likely to take any side, nor important which. 6. The free Indians, brave and formidable, should they interfere, but not likely to do so, as being at a great distance. I asked him the numbers of these several classes, but he could not give them. The first he thought very inconsiderable; that the 2d formed the body of the freemen: the 3d equal to the two first: the 4th to all the preceding: & as to the 5th he could form no idea of their proportion. Indeed it appeared to me that his conjectures as to the others were on loose grounds. He said he knew from good information there were 300.000 inhabitants in the city of Mexico. I was still more cautious with him than with the Brazilian, mentioning it as my private opinion (unauthorized to say a word on the subject otherwise) that a successful revolution was still at a distance with them; that I feared they must begin by enlightening & emancipating the minds of their people; that as to us, if Spain should give us advantageous terms of commerce, & remove other difficulties, it was not probable that we should relinquish certain & present advantages tho’ smaller, to incertain & future ones, however great. I was led into this caution by observing that this gentleman was intimate at the Spanish Ambassador’s, & that he was then at Paris, employed by Spain to settle her boundaries with France on the Pyrenees. He had much the air of candour but that can be borrowed; so that I was not able to decide about him in my own mind.
Led by a unity of subject, & a desire to give Congress as general a view of the dispositions of our Southern countrymen as my information enables me, I will add an article which, old & insulated, I did not think important enough to mention at the time I received it. You will remember, Sir, that during the late war, the British papers often gave details of a rebellion in Peru. The character of those papers discredited the information. But the truth was that the insurrections were so general, that the event was long on the poise. Had Commodore Johnson, then expected on that coast, touched & landed there 2,000 men, the dominion of Spain in that country was at an end. They only wanted a point of union which this body would have constituted. Not having this, they acted without concert, & were at length subdued separately. This conflagration was quenched in blood, 200,000 souls on both sides having perished; but the remaining matter is very capable of combustion. I have this information from a person who was on the spot at the time, and whose good faith, understanding, and means of information leave no doubt of the facts. He observed however that the numbers above supposed to have perished, were on such conjectures only as he could collect.
I trouble Congress with these details, because, however distant we may be both in condition & dispositions, from taking an active part in any commotions in that country, nature has placed it too near us to make it’s movements altogether indifferent to our interests or to our curiosity.
I hear of another Arret of this court increasing the duties on foreign stockfish, & the premiums on their own, imported into their islands; but not having yet seen it I can say nothing certain on it. I am in hopes the effect of this policy will be defeated by the practice which I am told takes place on the banks of Newfoundland of putting our fish into the French fishing-boats & the parties sharing the premium, instead of ours paying the duty.
I am in hopes Mr. Short will be able to send you the medals of General Gates, by this packet. I await a general instruction as to these medals. The academies of Europe will be much pleased to receive each a set.
I propose to set out the day after to morrow for Bordeaux (by the canal of Languedoc) Nantes, L’Orient & Paris.
I have the honour to be with sentiments of the most perfect esteem & respect, Sir, your most obedient & most humble servant.
TO MARTHA JEFFERSON1
Marseilles, May 5th, 1787.
My Dear Patsey,
—I got back to Aix the day before yesterday, and found there your letter of the 9th of April—from which I presume you to be well, though you do not say so. In order to exercise your geography, I will give you a detail of my journey. You must therefore take your map and trace out the following places: Dijon, Lyons, Pont St. Esprit, Nismes, Arles, St. Remis, Aix, Marseilles, Toulon, Hières, Fréjus, Antibes, Nice, Col de Tende, Coni, Turin, Vercelli, Milan, Pavia, Tortona, Novi, Genoa, by sea to Albenga, by land to Monaco, Nice, Antibes, Fréjus, Brignolles, Aix, and Marseilles. The day after morrow, I set out hence for Aix, Avignon, Pont du Gard, Nismes, Montpellier, Narbonne, along the canal of Languedoc to Toulouse, Bordeaux, Rochefort, Rochelle, Nantes, L’Orient, Nantes, Tours, Orleans, and Paris—where I shall arrive about the middle of June, after having travelled something upwards of a thousand leagues.
From Genoa to Aix was very fatiguing; the first two days having been at sea, and mortally sick—two more clambering the cliffs of the Apennines, sometimes on foot, sometimes on a mule, according as the path was more or less difficult—and two others travelling through the night as well as day without sleep. I am not yet rested, and shall therefore shortly give you rest by closing my letter, after mentioning that I have received a letter from your sister, which though a year old gave me great pleasure. I inclose for your perusal, as I think it will be pleasure for you also. But take care of it, and return it to me when I shall get back to Paris, for, trifling as it seems, it is precious to me.
When I left Paris I wrote to London to desire that your harpsicord might be sent during the months of April and May, so that I am in hopes it will arrive a little before I shall, and give me an opportunity of judging whether you have got the better of that want of industry which I began to fear would be the rock on which you would split. Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing. And that you may always be doing good, my dear, is the ardent prayer of, yours affectionately.
TO MARTHA JEFFERSON1
May 21st, 1787.
I write you, my dear Patsey, from the canal of Languedoc, on which I am at present sailing, as I have been for a week past, cloudless skies above, limpid waters below, and on each hand a row of nightingales in full chorus. This delightful bird had given me a rich treat before, at the fountain of Vaucluse. After visiting the tomb of Laura at Avignon, I went to see this fountain—a noble one of itself, and rendered famous forever by the songs of Petrarch, who lived near it. I arrived there somewhat fatigued and sat down by the fountain to repose myself. It gushes, of the size of a river, from a secluded valley of the mountains, the ruins of Petrarch’s chateau being perched on a rock two hundred feet perpendicular above. To add to the enchantment of the scene, every tree and bush was filled with nightingales in full song. I think you told me that you had not yet noticed this bird. As you have trees in the garden of the convent, there might be nightingales in them, and this is the season of their song. Endeavor, my dear, to make yourself acquainted with the music of this bird, that when you return to your own country, you may be able to estimate its merit in comparison with that of the mocking-bird. The latter has the advantage of singing through a great part of the year, whereas the nightingale sings about five or six weeks in the spring, and a still shorter term, and with a more feeble voice, in the fall.
I expect to be at Paris about the middle of the next month. By that time we may begin to expect our dear Polly. It will be a circumstance of inexpressible comfort to me to have you both with me once more. The object most interesting to me for the residue of my life, will be to see you both developing daily those principles of virtue and goodness, which will make you valuable to others and happy in yourselves, and acquiring those talents and that degree of science which will guard you at all times against ennui, the most dangerous poison of life. A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity. The idle are only the wretched. In a world which furnishes so many employments which are so useful, so many which are amusing, it is our own fault if we ever know what ennui is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resources of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions, and teaching us a habit of hostility against all mankind. We are now entering the port of Toulouse, where I quit my bark, and of course must conclude my letter. Be good and be industrious, and you will be what I shall most love in the world. Adieu, my dear child. Yours affectionately.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris June 20, 1787.
—I wrote you last on the 30th of Jan. with a postscript of Feb. 5. Having set out the last day of that month to try the waters of Aix, and been journeying since till the 10th inst. I have been unable to continue my correspondence with you. In the meantime I have received your several favors of Feb. 15, Mar. 18 19, & Apr. the 23. The last arrived here about the 25th of May, while those of Mar. 18 & 19, tho’ written five weeks earlier arrived three weeks later. I mention this to shew you how incertain is the conveyance thro’ England.
The idea of separating the executive business of the confederacy from Congress, as the judiciary is already in some degree, is just & necessary. I had frequently pressed on the members individually, while in Congress the doing this by a resolution of Congress for appointing an Executive committee to act during the sessions of Congress, as the Committee of the states was to act during their vacations. But the referring to this Committee all executive business as it should present itself, would require a more persevering self denial than I suppose Congress to possess. It will be much better to make that separation by a federal act. The negative proposed to be given them on all the acts of the several legislatures is now for the first time suggested to my mind. Primâ facie I do not like it. It fails in an essential character that the hole & the patch should be commensurate. But this proposes to mend a small hole by covering the whole garment. Not more than one out of 100 state acts concern the confederacy. This proposition then in order to give them 1. degree of power which they ought to have, gives them 99. more which they ought not to have, upon a presumption that they will not exercise the 99. But upon every act there will be a preliminary question Does this act concern the confederacy? And was there ever a proposition so plain as to pass Congress without a debate? Their decisions are almost always wise; they are like pure metal. But you know of how much dross this is the result. Would not an appeal from the state judicatures to a federal court in all cases where the act of Confederation controlled the question, be as effectual a remedy, & exactly commensurate to the defect? A British creditor, e.g., sues for his debt in Virginia; the defendant pleads an act of the state excluding him from their courts; the plaintiff urges the Confederation & the treaty made under that, as controulling the state law; the judges are weak enough to decide according to the views of their legislature. An appeal to a federal court sets all to rights. It will be said that this court may encroach on the jurisdiction of the state courts. It may. But there will be a power, to wit, Congress, to watch & restrain them. But place the same authority in Congress itself, and there will be no power above them to perform the same office. They will restrain within due bounds a jurisdiction exercised by others much more rigorously than if exercised by themselves. I am uneasy at seeing that the sale of our Western lands is not yet commenced. That precious fund for the immediate extinction of our debt will I fear be suffered to slip thro’ our fingers. Every delay exposes it to events which no human foresight can guard against. When we consider the temper of the people of that country, derived from the circumstances which surround them, we must suppose their separation impossible, at every moment. If they can be retained till their governments become settled & wise, they will remain with us always, and be a precious part of our strength & of our virtue. But this affair of the Mississippi, by shewing that Congress is capable of hesitating on a question, which proposes a clear sacrifice of the western to the maritime States, will with difficulty be obliterated. The proposition of my going to Madrid, to try to recover there the ground which has been lost at New York, by the concession of the vote of seven States, I should think desperate. With respect to myself, weighing the pleasure of the journey & bare possibility of success, in one scale, and the strong probability of failure and the public disappointment directed on me, in the other, the latter preponderates. Add to this that jealousy might be excited in the breast of a person, who could find occasions of making me uneasy.
The late changes in the ministry here excite considerable hopes. I think we gain in them all. I am particularly happy at the re-entry of Malesherbes into the Council. His knolege, his integrity render his value inappreciable, and the greater to me, because while he had no views of office, we had established together the most unreserved intimacy. So far too I am pleased with Montmorin. His honesty proceeds from the heart as well as the head, and therefore may be more surely counted on. The King loves business, economy, order, & justice, and wishes sincerely the good of his people; but he is irascible, rude, very limited in his understanding, and religious, bordering only on bigotry. He has no mistress, loves his queen, and is too much governed by her. She is capricious like her brother, and governed by him; devoted to pleasure and expense; and not remarkable for any other vices or virtues. Unhappily the King shews a propensity for the pleasures of the table, that for drink has increased lately, or at least it is become more known. For European news in general, I will refer you to my letter to Mr. Jay. Is it not possible that the occurrences in Holland may excite a desire in many of fleeing that country & transferring their effects out of it may make an opening for shifting into their hands the debts due to this country, to its officers and Farmers? It would be surely eligible. I believe Dumas, if put on the watch, might alone suffice; but surely, if Mr. Adams should go when the moment offers. Dumas has been in the habit of sending his letters open to me, to be forwarded to Mr. Jay. During my absence they passed through Mr. Short’s hands who made extracts from them by which I see he has been recommending himself and me for the money negotiations in Holland. It might be thought perhaps that I have encouraged him in this. Be assured my dear Sir, that no such idea ever entered my head. On the contrary it is a business which would be the most disagreeable to me of all others, & for which I am the most unfit person living. I do not understand bargaining, nor possess the dexterity requisite to them. On the other hand Mr. Adams, whom I expressly and sincerely recommend, stands already on ground for that business, which I could not gain in years. Pray set me to rights in the minds of those who may have supposed me privy to this proposition. En passant, I will observe with respect to Mr. Dumas, that the death of the Count de Vergennes places Congress more at their ease, how to dispose of him. Our credit has been ill treated here in public debate, and our debt deemed apocryphal. We should try to transfer this debt elsewhere, & leave nothing capable of exciting ill thoughts between us. I shall mention in my letter to Mr. Jay a disagreeable affair in which Mr. Barclay has been thrown into, at Bordeaux. An honester man cannot be found, nor a slower, nor more indecisive one. His affairs, too, are so embarrassed and desperate, that the public reputation is every moment in danger of being compromitted with him. He is perfectly amiable & honest, with all his embarrassments.
By the next packet I shall be able to send you some books as also your watch & pedometer. The two last are not yet done. To search for books and forward them to Havre will require more time than I had between my return & the departure of this packet. You did perfectly right as to the paiment by the Mr. Fitzhughs. Having been a witness heretofore to the divisions in Congress on the subject of their foreign ministers, it would be a weakness in me to suppose none with respect to myself, or to count with any confidence on the renewal of my commission, which expires on the 10th day of March next: and the more so as, instead of requiring the disapprobation of 7. states as formerly, that of one suffices for a recall when Congress consists of only 7. states, 2. when of 8. &c which I suppose to be habitually their numbers at present. Whenever I leave this place, it will be necessary to begin my arrangements 6. months before my departure; and these, once fairly begun and under way, and my mind set homewards, a change of purpose could hardly take place. If it should be the desire of Congress that I should continue still longer, I could wish to know it at farthest by the packet which will sail from New York in September. Because were I to put off longer the quitting my house, selling my furniture &c. I should not have time left to wind up my affairs; and having once quitted, and sold off my furniture, I could not think of establishing myself here again. I take the liberty of mentioning this matter to you not with a desire to change the purpose of Congress, but to know it in time. I have never fixed in my own mind the epoch of my return so far as shall depend on myself, but I never supposed it very distant. Probably I shall not risk a second vote on this subject. Such trifling things may draw on one the displeasure of one or two states & thus submit me to the disgrace of a recall.
I thank you for the Paccan nuts which accompanied your letter of March. Could you procure me a copy of the bill for proportioning crimes & punishments in the form in which it was ultimately rejected by the house of delegates? Young Mr. Bannister desired me to send him regularly the Mercure de France. I will ask leave to do this thro’ you, & that you will adopt such method of forwarding them to him as will save him from being submitted to postage which they would not be worth. As a compensation for your trouble you will be free to keep them till you shall have read them.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Paris July, 1, 1787.
—I returned about three weeks ago from a very useless voyage, useless, I mean, as to the object which first suggested it, that of trying the effect of the mineral waters of Aix en Provence on my hand. I tried these because recommended among six or eight others as equally beneficial, & because they would place me at the beginning of a tour to the seaports of Marseilles, Bordeaux, Nantes & L’Orient which I had long meditated, in hopes that a knolege of the places & persons concerned in our commerce & the information to be got from them might enable me sometimes to be useful. I had expected to satisfy myself at Marseilles of the causes of the difference of quality between the rice of Carolina & that of Piedmont which is brought in quantities to Marseilles. Not being able to do it I made an excursion of three weeks into the rice country beyond the Alps, going through it from Vercelli to Pavia, about 60 miles. I found the difference to be not in the management as had been supposed both here & in Carolina, but in the species of rice, & I hope to enable them in Carolina to begin the cultivation of the Piedmont rice & carry it on hand in hand with their own that they may supply both qualities, which is absolutely necessary at this market. I had before endeavored to lead the depôt of rice from Cowes to Honfleur, and hope to get it received there on such terms as may draw that branch of commerce from England to this country. It is an object of 250.000 guineas a year. While passing thro’ the towns of Turin, Milan & Genoa, I satisfied myself of the practicability of introducing our whale oil for their consumption & I suppose it would be equally so in the other great cities of that country. I was sorry that I was not authorized to set the matter on foot. The merchants with whom I chose to ask conferences, met me freely, and communicated fully, knowing I was in a public character. I could however only prepare a disposition to meet our oil merchants. On the article of tobacco I was more in possession of my ground, and put matters into a train for inducing their government to draw their tobaccos directly from the U. S. & not as heretofore from Gr. B. I am now occupied with the new ministry here to put the concluding hand to the new regulations for our commerce with this country, announced in the letter of M. de Calonnes which I sent you last fall. I am in hopes in addition to those, to obtain a suppression of the duties on Tar, pitch, & turpentine, and an extension of the privileges of American whale oil, to their fish oils in general. I find that the quantity of Codfish oil brought to L’Orient is considerable. This being got off hand (which will be in a few days) the chicaneries & vexations of the farmers on the article of tobacco, and their elusions of the order of Bernis, call for the next attention. I have reason to hope good dispositions in the new ministry towards our commerce with this country. Besides endeavoring on all occasions to multiply the points of contact & connection with this country, which I consider as our surest mainstay under every event, I have had it much at heart to remove from between us every subject of misunderstanding or irritation. Our debts to the King, to the officers, & to the farmers are of this description. The having complied with no part of our engagements in these draws on us a great deal of censure, & occasioned a language in the Assemblée des Notables very likely to produce dissatisfaction between us. Dumas being on the spot in Holland, I had asked of him sometime ago, in confidence, his opinion on the practicability of transferring these debts from France to Holland, & communicated his answer to Congress, pressing them to get you to go over to Holland & try to effect their business. Your knolege of the ground & former successes occasioned me to take this liberty without consulting you, because I was sure you would not weigh your personal trouble against public good. I have had no answer from Congress; but hearing of your journey to Holland have hoped that some money operation had led you there. If it related to the debts of this country I would ask a communication of what you think yourself at liberty to communicate, as it might change the form of my answers to the eternal applications I receive. The debt to the officers of France carries an interest of about 2000 guineas, so we may suppose its principle is between 30 & 40.000. This makes more noise against us than all our other debts put together. * * *
OBSERVATIONS ON THE LETTER OF MONSIEUR DE CALONNES TO MONSIEUR JEFFERSON, DATED FONTAINEBLEAU, OCTOB. 22, 1786
[July 5, 1787.]
A committee was appointed, in the course of the last year to take a view of the subjects of commerce which might be brought from the United States of America, in exchange for those of France, and to consider what advantages and facilities might be offered to encourage that commerce. The letter of Monsieur de Calonnes was founded on their report. It was conclusive as to the articles on which satisfactory information had been then obtained, and reserved for future consideration certain others needing further enquiry. It is proposed now to review those unfinished articles, that they also may be comprehended in the Arrêt, and the regulations on this branch of commerce be rendered complete.
1. The letter promises to diminish the Droits du roi et d’ amirauté, paiable by an American vessel entering into a port of France, & to reduce what should remain into a single duty, which shall be regulated by the draught of the vessel, or her number of masts. It is doubted whether it will be expedient to regulate the duty in either of these ways. If by the draught of water, it will fall unequally on us as a Nation; because we build our vessels sharp-bottomed, for swift sailing, so that they draw more water than those of other nations, of the same burthen; if by the number of masts it will fall unequally on individuals, because we often see ships of 180 tons, & brigs of 360. This then would produce an inequality among individuals of 6. to 1. The present principle is the most just, to regulate by the burthen.
It is certainly desirable that these duties should be reduced to a single one. Their names and numbers perplex & harass the merchant more than their amount, subject him to imposition, & to the suspicion of it where there is none. An intention of general reformation in this article has been accordingly announced1 with augmentation as to foreigners. We are in hopes that this augmentation is not to respect us; because it is proposed as a measure of reciprocity; whereas in some of our states no such duties exist, & in the others they are extremely light; because we have been made to hope a diminution instead of augmentation; and because this distinction cannot draw on France any just claims from other nations, the Jura gentis amicissimæ conferred by her late treaties having reference expressly to the nations of Europe only, & those conferred by the more ancient ones not being susceptible of any other interpretation, nor admitting a pretension of reference to a nation which did not then exist, and which has come into existence under circumstances distinguishing its commerce from that of all other nations. Merchandise received from them take emploiment from the poor of France; ours give it; theirs is brought in the last stage of manufacture, ours in the first; we bring our tobaccoes to be manufactured into snuff, our flax & hemps into linen and cordage, our furs into hats, skins into saddlery, shoes & clothing; we take nothing till it has received the last hand.
2. Fish-oils. The Hanseatic treaty was the basis on which the diminution of duty on this article was asked & granted. It is expressly referred to as such in the letter of Monsieur de Calonnes. Instead however of the expression “huile et graisse de baleine & d’autres poissons” used in that treaty, the letter uses the terms “huiles de baleine, spermaceti, et tout ce qui est compris sous ces denominations.” And the farmers have availed themselves of this variation to refuse the diminution of duty on the oils of the vache marine, chien de mer, esturgeon & other fish. It is proposed therefore to re-establish in the Arrêt the expressions of the Hanseatic treaty, & to add from the same treaty the articles “baleine coupee et fanon de baleine.”
The letter states these regulations as finally made by the king. The merchants on this supposition entered into speculations. But they found themselves called on for the old duties, not only on other fish oils, but on the whale oil. Monsieur de Calonnes always promised that the Arrêt should be retrospective to the date of the letter, so as to refund to them the duties they had thus been obliged to pay. To this attention is prayed in forming the Arrêt. His majesty having been pleased as an encouragement to the importation of our fish oils, to abolish the Droits de fabrication, it is presumed that the purpose1 announced of continuing those duties on foreign oils will not be extended to us.
3. Rice. The duty on this is only 7½ deniers the Quintal, or about one quarter per cent on its first cost. While this serves to inform the government of the quantities imported, it cannot discourage that importation. Nothing further therefore is necessary on this article.
4. Potashe. This article is of principal utility to France in her bleacheries of linen, glass works, & soap-works; & the potash of America, being made of green wood, is known to be the best in the world. All duty on it was therefore abolished by the king. But the city of Rouen levies on it a duty of 20 sols the Quintal, which is very sensible in its price, brings it dearer to the bleacheries near Paris, to those of Beauvais, Laval &c., & to the glass works, and encourages them to give a preference to the potash or souda of other nations. This is a counteraction of the views of the king expressed in the letter which it is hoped will be prevented.
5. Turpentine, tar, & pitch, were not decided on on the former occasion. Turpentine (Terebenthine) pays 10. sols the Quintal and 10. sols the livre, making 15 sols the quintal; which is 10. per cent. on its prime cost. Tar, (goudron, braigras) pays 8 livres the leth of 12 barrels, & 10. sols the livre, amounting to 20 sols the barrel, which is 12½ per cent. on its prime cost. Pitch (brai sec) pays 10. sols the Quintal & 10 sols the livre, making 15 sols the Quintal, which is 20 per cent. on its prime cost. Duties of from 10 to 20 per cent. on articles of heavy carriage, prevent their importation. They eat up all the profits of the merchants, & often subject him to loss. This has been much the case with respect to turpentine, tar, & pitch, which are a principal article of remittance for the state of North Carolina. It is hoped that it will coincide with the views of government in making the present regulations, to suppress the duties on these articles, which of all others can bear them least.
TO M. CLAVIÈRE
Paris July 6, 1787.
—The load of business which has accumulated during my absence has put it out of my power to answer sooner the letter & observations with which you were pleased to honour me. I have perused those observations with attention, and think them judicious, and well calculated to remedy the evil of public robbers & unsafe highroads. But it is a happy truth for us, Sir, that these evils do not exist, & never did exist in our part of America. That Sieur de Perponcher has suffered himself to be misled probably by the English papers. I attended the bar of the Supreme Court of Virginia ten years as a student, & as a practitioner. There never was during that time a trial for robbery on the high road, nor do I remember ever to have heard of one in that or any other of the states, except in the cities of New York & Philadelphia immediately after the departure of the British army. Some deserters from that army infested those cities for a while; but as I have heard nothing of them for some time past, I suppose the vigilance of the civil magistrate has suppressed the evils.
Mr. Warville was so good as to give me a copy of the book written by himself & M. Clavière on France & the United States but I have not yet had time to read it. The talents & information of those gentlemen leave me without doubt that it is well written. I have the honour of inclosing you your observations with thanks for their perusal and assurances of the sentiments etc.
TO THOMAS MANN RANDOLPH
Paris July 6, 1787.
—Your favor of April 14, came here during my absence on a journey through the Southern parts of France and Northern of Italy, from which I am but lately returned. This cause alone has prevented your receiving a more early answer to it. I am glad to find that among the various branches of science presenting themselves to your mind you have fixed on that of Politics as your principal pursuit. Your country will derive from this a more immediate and sensible benefit. She has much for you to do. For tho’ we may say with confidence that the worst of the American constitutions is better than the best which ever existed before in any other country, & that they are wonderfully perfect for a first essay, yet every human essay must have defects. It will remain therefore to those now coming on the stage of public affairs to perfect what has been so well begun by those going off it. Mathematics, Natural philosophy, Natural history, Anatomy, Chemistry, Botany, will become amusements for your hours of relaxation, and auxiliaries to your principal studies. Precious and delightful ones they will be. As soon as such a foundation is laid in them as you may build on as you please hereafter, I suppose you will proceed to your main objects, Politics, Law, Rhetoric, & History. As to these, the place where you study them is absolutely indifferent. I should except Rhetoric, a very essential member of them and which I suppose must be taught to advantage where you are. You would do well therefore to attend the public exercises in this branch also, and to do it with every particular diligence. This being done, the question arises, where you shall fix yourself for studying Politics, Law, & History? I should not hesitate to decide in favor of France, because you will at the same time be learning to speak the language of that country, become absolutely essential under our present circumstances. The best method of doing this would be to fix yourself in some family where there are women & children, in Passey, Auteuil or some other of the little towns in reach of Paris. The principal hours of the day you will attend to your studies, & in those of relaxation associate with the family. You will learn to speak better from women & children in three months, than from men in a year. Such a situation too will render more easy a due attention to economy of time & money. Having pursued your main studies here about two years, & acquired a facility in speaking French, take a tour of 4 or 5 months through this country & Italy, return then to Virginia & pass a year in Williamsburg under the care of Mr. Wythe, and you will be ready to enter on the public stage, with superior advantages. I have proposed to you to carry on the study of the law with that of Politics & History. Every political measure will forever have an intimate connection with the laws of the land; and he who knows nothing of these will always be perplexed & often foiled by adversaries having the advantage of that knolege over him. Besides it is a source of infinite comfort to reflect that under every change of fortune we have a resource in ourselves from which we may be able to derive an honourable subsistence. I would therefore propose not only the study, but the practice of the law for some time, to possess yourself of the habit of public speaking. With respect to modern languages, French, as I have before observed, is indispensable. Next to this the Spanish is most important to an American. Our connection with Spain is already important & will become daily more so. Besides this the antient part of American history is written chiefly in Spanish. To a person who would make a point of reading & speaking French & Spanish, I should doubt the utility of learning Italian. These three languages, being all degeneracies from the Latin, resemble one another so much that I doubt the possibility of keeping in the head a distinct knolege of them all. I suppose that he who learns them all will speak a compound of the three, & neither perfectly. The journey which I propose to you need not be expensive, and would be very useful. With your talents & industry, with science, and that steadfast honesty which eternally pursues right, regardless of consequences, you may promise yourself everything—but health, without which there is no happiness. An attention to health then should take place of every other object. The time necessary to secure this by active exercises, should be devoted to it in preference to every other pursuit. I know the difficulty with which a studious man tears himself from his studies at any given moment of the day. But his happiness & that of his family depend on it. The most uninformed mind with a healthy body, is happier than the wisest valetudinarian. I need not tell you that if I can be useful to you in any part of this or any other plan you shall adopt, you will make me happy by commanding my services.
Will you be so good, Sir, as to return my most respectful thanks for the diploma with which I am honored by the society instituted with you for the encouragement of the study of Natural history? I am afraid it will never be in my power to contribute anything to the object of the institution. Circumstances have thrown me into a very different line of life; and not choice as I am happy to find in your case. In the year 1781, while confined to my room by a fall from my horse, I wrote some Notes in answer to the inquiries of M. de Marbois as to the natural & political state of Virginia. They were hasty & undigested; yet as some of these touch slightly on some objects of its natural history, I will take the liberty of asking the society to accept a copy of them. For the same reason, & because too they touch on the political condition of our country, I will beg leave to present you with a copy, and ask the favor of you to find a conveyance for them from London to Edinburgh. They are printed by Stockdale, bookseller Piccadilly, and will be ready in 3 or 4 weeks from this time. I will direct him to deliver two copies to your order. Repeating constantly the proffer of my services, I shall only add assurances of the esteem & attachment with which I am Dear Sir your friend & servt.
TO EDWARD RUTLEDGE1
Paris July 14, 1787.
—I received your favor of the 14th of October in the moment I was setting out on a tour of the seaport towns of this country, from which I have been not long returned. I received it too with that kind of heartfelt pleasure which always attends the recollection of antient affections. I was glad to find that the adoption of your rice to this market was considered worth attention as I had supposed it. I set out from hence impressed with the idea the rice-dealers here had given me that the difference between your rice & that of Piedmont proceeded from a difference in the machine for cleaning it. At Marseilles I hoped to know what the Piedmont machine was: but I could find nobody who knew anything of it. I determined therefore to sift the matter to the bottom by crossing the Alps into the rice country. I found the machine exactly such a one as you had described to me in Congress in the year 1775. There was but one conclusion then to be drawn, to wit, that the rice was of a different species, & I determined to take enough to put you in seed:
They informed me however that it’s exportation in the husk was prohibited; so I could only bring off as much as my coat & surtout pockets would hold. I took measures with a muletier to run a couple of sacks across the Appenines to Genoa, but have not great dependance on it’s success. The little therefore which I brought myself must be relied on for fear we should get no more, and because also it is genuine from Vercelli where the best is made of all the Sardinian Lombardy, the whole of which is considered as producing a better rice than the Milanese. This is assigned as the reason of the strict prohibition. Piedmont rice sold at Nice (the port of its exportation) when I was there at 17 livres French, the French hundredweight. It varies from time to time as the price of wheat does with us. The price of Carolina rice at Bordeaux, Nantes, Lorient & Havre varies from 16♯ to 24♯ the French quintal, which is equal to 109 lb. our weight. The best ports to send it to are Bordeaux & Havre (or Rouen which is the same thing as Havre) but it is essential that it arrive here a month before the commencement of Lent, when the principal demand is made for it. Carolina rice after being sorted here into several qualities, sells from 6 sols to 10 sols the French pound, retail, according to the quality. Unsorted and wholesale about 30♯ the French quintal.
Piedmont rice is but of one quality, which sells retail at 10 sous the Fr. pound, & wholesale is about 3 or 4♯ dearer than yours. In order to induce your countrymen to ship their rice here directly, I have proposed to some merchants here to receive consignments allowing the consignor to draw on the moment of shipping for as much as he could sell for on the spot & the balance when it should be sold. But they say that is impossible. They are to consider & inform me what are the most favorable terms on which they can receive it. I am told that freight insurance & commission are about 4♯ the Fr. quintal, to a seaport town. I have written so long a letter on the subject of rice to Mr. Drayton for the society of agriculture, that I will trouble you with no farther particulars but refer you to that. Indeed I am sensible I have written too much on the subject. Being absolutely ignorant of it myself, it was impossible for me to know what particulars merited communication. I thought it best therefore to communicate everything. After writing that letter, I received one from Mr. Izard, by which I found that he had examined the rice-process in Lombardy. He was so much more capable than myself of giving the details that I had at one moment determined to suppress my letter. However observing that he considered the rice of Piedmont to be of the same species with yours, and suspecting myself certainly that it is not, I determinded to hazard my letter and all those criticisms which fall justly on an ignorant person writing on a subject to those much more learned in it than himself. A part of my letter too related to the olive tree & caper, the first of which would surely succeed in your country & would be an infinite blessing after some 15 or 20 years; the caper would also probably succeed & would offer a very great and immediate profit. I thank you for your obliging mention of my worthless Notes on Virginia. Worthless & bad as they are they have been rendered more so, as I am told, by a translation into French. That I may have neither merit nor demerit not my own, I have consented to their publication in England. I advised the bookseller to send 200 copies to Philadelphia & 200 to Richmond, supposing that number might be sold in the United States: but I do not know whether he will do it. If you give me leave I will send you a copy of the original impression.—I congratulate you, my dear friend, on the law of your state for suspending the importation of slaves, and for the glory you have justly acquired by endeavoring to prevent it forever. This abomination must have an end, and there is a superior bench reserved in heaven for those who hasten it. The distractions of Holland thicken apace. They begin to cut one another’s throats heartily. I apprehend the neighboring powers will interfere: but it is not yet clear whether in concert, or by taking opposite sides. It is a poor contest, whether they shall have one, or many masters. Your nephew is arrived here in good health. My first interview with him has impressed me much in his favor. Present me very respectfully to Mrs. Rutledge, as well as to your brother & his house. Accept yourself assurances of the sincere esteem & respect with which I am Dear Sir your most obedient & most humble servt.
TO MRS. JOHN BOLLING1
Paris, July 23d, 1787.
—I received with real pleasure your letter of May 3d, informing me of your health and of that of your family. Be assured it is, and ever has been, the most interesting thing to me. Letters of business claiming their rights before those of affection, we often write seldomest to whom we love most. The distance to which I am removed has given a new value to all I valued before in my own country, and the day of my return to it will be the happiest I expect to see in my life. When it will come is not yet decided, as far as depends on myself. My dear Polly is safely arrived here, and in good health. She had got so attached to Captain Ramsey that they were obliged to decoy her from him. She staid three weeks in London with Mrs. Adams, and had got up such an attachment to her, that she refused to come with the person I sent for her. After some days she was prevailed on to come. She did not know either her sister or myself, but soon renewed her acquaintance and attachment. She is now in the same convent with her sister, and will come to see me once or twice a week. It is a house of education altogether, the best in France, and at which the best masters attend. There are in it as many Protestants as Catholics, and not a word is ever spoken to them on the subject of religion. Patsey enjoys good health, and longs much to return to her friends. We shall doubtless find much change when we get back; many of our older friends withdrawn from the stage, and our younger ones grown out of our knolege. I suppose you are now fixed for life at Chestnut Grove. I take a part of the misfortune to myself, as it will prevent my seeing you as often as would be practicable at Lickinghole. It is still a greater loss to my sister Carr. We must look to Jack for indemnification, as I think it was the plan that he should live at Lickinghole. I suppose he is now become the father of a family, and that we may all hail you as grandmother. As we approach that term it becomes less fearful. You mention Mr. Bolling’s being unwell, so as not to write to me. He has just been sick enough all his life to prevent his writing to any body. My prayer is, therefore, only that he may never be any worse; were he to be so, nobody would feel it more sensibly than myself, as nobody has a more sincere esteem for him than myself. I find as I grow older, that I love those most whom I loved first. Present me to him in the most friendly terms; to Jack also, and my other nephews and nieces of your fireside, and be assured of the sincere love with which I am, dear sister, your affectionate brother.
TO A. DONALD
Paris July 28, 1787.
—I received with infinite satisfaction your letter of the 1st of March: it was the first information I had of your being in America. There is no person whom I shall see again with more cordial joy whenever it shall be my lot to return to my native country; nor any one whose prosperity in the meantime will be more interesting to me. I find as I grow older that I set a higher value on the intimacies of my youth, and am more afflicted by whatever loses one of them to me. Should it be in my power to render any service in your shipment of tobacco to Havre de Grace, I shall do it with great pleasure. The order of Berni has I believe been evaded by the farmers general as much as possible. At this moment I receive information from most of the seaports that they refuse taking any tobacco under pretext that they have purchased their whole quantity. From Havre I have heard nothing, and believe you will stand a better chance there than anywhere else. Being one of the ports of manufacture too it is entitled to a higher price. I have now desired that the farmers may make a distinct return of their purchases which are conformable to the order of Berni. If they have really bought their quantity on those terms, we must be satisfied: if they have not, I shall propose their being obliged to make it up instantly. There is a considerable accumulation of tobacco in the ports.
Among many good qualities which my countrymen possess some of a different character, unhappily mix themselves. The most remarkable are indolence, extravagance, & infidelity to their engagements. Cure the two first, and the last would disappear, because it is a consequence of them, and not proceeding from a want of morals. I know of no remedy against indolence & extravagance but a free course of justice. Everything else is merely palliative; but unhappily the evil has gained too generally the mass of the nation to leave the course of justice unobstructed. The maxim of buying nothing without the money in our pocket to pay for it, would make of our country one of the happiest upon earth. Experience during the war proved this; as I think every man will remember that under all the privations it obliged him to submit to during that period he slept sounder & awaked happier than he can do now. Desperate of finding relief from a free course of justice, I look forward to the abolition of all credit as the only other remedy which can take place. I have seen therefore with pleasure the exaggerations of our want of faith with which the London papers teem. It is indeed a strong medicine for sensible minds, but it is a medicine. It will prevent their crediting us abroad, in which case we cannot be credited at home. I have been much concerned at the losses produced by the fire at Richmond. I hope you have escaped them. It will give me much pleasure to hear from you as often as you can spare a moment to write. Be assured that nobody entertains for you sentiments of more perfect and sincere esteem than Dear Sir your friend & servant.
TO NICHOLAS LEWIS
Paris July 29, 1787.
—In my letter of Dec. 19, 1786, I informed you that, as you had supposed in yours of March 14, that the balance of bonds & profits of the estate to that time would pay all the debts then known to you except my sister Nancy’s, I was desirous of laying our shoulder seriously to the paiment of Farrell & Jones’ & McCaul’s debts; & that I should make propositions to them on that subject. I did so. These propositions were, to pay to Jones 400 £ sterl. a year & to McCaul 200£ sterl., or to the former if he preferred it two thirds of the profits of my estate & to the latter one third. 2. That the crop of 1787, should commence these paiments. 3. That no interest should be allowed on their debts from Apr. 19. 1775 to Apr. 19, 1783 (being 8 years.) 4. That their accounts should remain perfectly open to settlement & rectification, notwithstanding the paiments which should be made. McCaul has acceded very contentedly to these proposals; I added some other conditions to Jones, not worth mentioning as he does not accede as yet, I think however he will accede. I consider myself as so much bound in honor to the sacred execution of this agreement that when the profits fall short of enabling us to pay at any time, I would chuse to have made up by a sale of something or another. I mentioned to you in my letter also that I could always get 30/ Virginia money for my tobacco delivered at Havre & proposed your having it sent there. Further reflection and information of the Virginia prices convince me it would be best to send them either to Havre or to Bordeaux, at either of which places I could have them attended to. I find that my old friend A. Donald is settled at Richmond, is concerned in the Tobacco trade, & particularly sends to Havre. I am confident he would take on himself the having my tobaccoes shipped to me. The earlier they would come in the season, the better alwais. So far I had settled in my own mind the plan for extinguishing as fast as we could these two great debts, when I received from Mr. Eppes a letter of May 1. 1787, wherein he tells me he had been with you in Sep. 1786. that you had computed together, all the former debts (except my sister Nancy’s) due from the estate, & all due to it; and that there was still a balance of 1200£ against it, to pay which there would be nothing but the crop of 1786, two thirds of which would be consumed by negroes clothing & taxes. This account threatens a total derangement of my plan for payment of my great debts. I had observed that by a statement in your letter of March 14. of the probable proceeds of the crop of 1785, (about 50 hogsheads of tobacco) that the profits of the few house servants & tradesmen hired out were as much as those of the whole estate, & therefore suggested to you the hiring out the whole estate. The torment of mind I endure till the moment shall arrive when I shall not owe a shilling on earth is such really as to render life of little value. I cannot decide to sell my lands. I have sold too much of them already, and they are the only sure provision for my children, nor would I willingly sell the slaves as long as there remains any prospect of paying my debts with their labor. In this I am governed solely by views to their happiness which will render it worth their while to use extraordinary exertions for some time to enable me to put them ultimately on an easier footing, which I will do the moment they have paid the debts due from the estate, two thirds of which have been contracted by purchasing them. I am therefore strengthened in the idea of renting out my whole estate; not to any one person, but in different parts to different persons, as experience proves that it is only small concerns that are gainful, & it would be my interest that the tenants should make a reasonable gain. The lease I made to Garth & Moseley would be a good model. I do not recollect whether in that there was reserved a right of distraining on the lands for the whole rent. If not, such a clause would be essential, especially in the present relaxed state of the laws, I know there was in that no provision against paper money. This is still more essential, the best way of stating the rent would be in ounces of silver. The rent in that lease, tho’ expressed in current money, was meant to be 11£. sterling a titheable. When we consider the rise in the price of tobacco, it should balance any difference for the worse which may have taken place in the lands in Albemarle, so as to entitle us there to equal terms. In Cumberland, Goochland, Bedford, where the lands are better, perhaps better terms might be expected. Calculating this on the number of working slaves, it holds up to us a clear revenue capable of working off the debts in a reasonable time. Think of it, my dear Sir, & if you do not find it disadvantageous be so good as to try to execute it, by leases of 3, 4 or 5 years; not more, because no dependence can be reposed in our laws continuing the same for any length of time. Indeed 3 years might be the most elegible term. The mill should be separate from the lease, finished, & rented by itself. All the lands reserved to my own use in Garth & Mosley’s lease should still be reserved, and the privileges of that lease in general. House negroes still to be hired separately. The old and infirm, who could not be hired, or whom it would be a pity to hire, could perhaps be employed in raising cotton, or some other easy culture on lands to be reserved; George still to be reserved to take care of my orchards, grasses &c. The lands in Albemarle should be relieved by drawing off a good number of the labourers to Bedford, where a better hire might be expected & more lands be opened there. I feel all the weight of the objection, that we cannot guard the negroes perfectly against the usuage, but in a question between hiring & selling them (one of which is necessary) the hiring will be temporary only, and will end in their happiness; whereas if we sell them, they will be subject to equal ill usuage, without a prospect of change. It is for their good therefore ultimately, and it appears to promise a relief to me within such a term as I would be willing to wait for. I do not mention the rate of hire with a view to tie you up to that, but merely to show that hiring presents a hopeful prospect. I should rely entirely on your judgment for that, for the choice of kind & helpful tenants, & for every other circumstance.
The bacon hams you were so kind as to send to Mr. Buchanan for me, I never heard of. The difficulty of getting them here renders it not worth attempting again. I will put into this letter some more seeds of the Spanish Sainfoin lest those formerly sent should have miscarried. The present situation of Europe threatens a war, which if it breaks out will probably be a very general one. France & England are so little in a condition for war that we may still expect they will do much to avoid it. Should it take place, I fear the scale against this country would be too heavy.
I must pray of you to make all the arrangements possible for enabling me to comply with the first years paiment of my debts, that is to say the paiment for this present year, which is to be made in the city of London the next spring. Apologies for all the trouble I give you would only show you how sensible I am of your goodness. I have proposed the extraordinary trouble of the leases with less reluctance, because it will be taken once for all, & will be a relief in the end. Be so good as to assure Mrs. Lewis of my attachment and my wishes for her health & happiness as well as that of your whole family.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris Aug. 2, 1787.
—My last was of June 20. Your’s received since that date are May 15 and June 6. In mine I acknoleged the receipt of the Paccan nuts which came sealed up. I have reason to believe those in the box are arrived at L’Orient. By the Mary, Capt. Howland lately sailed from Havre to N York I shipped three boxes of books one marked J. M. for yourself, one marked B. F. for Doctr Franklin, & one marked W. H. for William Hay in Richmond. I have taken the liberty of addressing them all to you as you will see by the inclosed bill of lading, in hopes you would be so good as to forward the other two. You will have opportunities of calling on the gentlemen for freight &c. In yours you will find the books noted in the account inclosed herewith. You have now Mably’s works complete except that on Poland, which I have never been able to get, but shall not cease to search for. Some other volumes are wanting to compleat your collection of Chronologies. The 4th vol of D’Albon was lost by the bookbinder, & I have not yet been able to get one to replace it. I shall continue to try. The Memoires sur les droits et impositions en Europe (cited by Smith) was a scarce & excessively dear book. They are now reprinting it. I think it will be in three or four parts of from 9 to 12♯ a volume. When it is finished I shall take a copy for you. Amelot’s travels into China, I can learn nothing of. I put among the books sent you two somewhat voluminous, & the object of which will need explanation; these are the Tableau de Paris & L’espion Anglois. The former is truly a picture of private manners in Paris, but presented on the dark side & a little darkened moreover. But there is so much truth in it’s ground work that it will be well worth your reading. You will then know Paris (& probably the other large cities of Europe) as well as if you had been here years. L’espion Anglois is no caricature. It will give you a just idea of the wheels by which the machine of government is worked here. There are in it also many interesting details of the last war, which in general may be relied on. It may be considered as the small history of great events. I am in hopes when you shall have read them you will not think I have misspent your money for them. My method for making out this assortment was to revise the list of my own purchases since the invoice of 1785, and to select such as I had found worth your having. Besides this I have casually met with & purchased some few curious & cheap things. I have made out the Dr. side of the account, taking for my ground work yours of March 18. 1786. correcting two errors of computation in that which were to your prejudice. The account of Mr. Fitzhughs stood thus: 1785. Sep. 1. cash 600♯. Nov. 10. pd their bill of exchange in favor of Limozin 480♯. making 1080♯. The money they paid you was worth 1050♯. according to our mode of settling at 18♯ for 20/ Virginia money. The difference of 30♯ will never be worth notice unless you were to meet with them by chance, & hardly then. I must trouble you on behalf of a Mr. Thos Burke at Loughburke near Loughrea in Ireland, whose brother James Burke is supposed to have died in 1785 on his passage from Jamaica, or St. Eustatius to New York. His property on board the vessel is understood to have come to the hands of alderman Groom at New York. The inclosed copy of a letter to him will more fully explain it. A particular friend of mine here applies to me for information, which I must ask the favor of you to procure and forward to me.
Writing news to others, much pressed in time & making this letter one of private business, I did not intend to have said anything to you on political subjects. But I must press one subject. Mr. Adams informs me he has borrowed money in Holland, which if confirmed by Congress will enable them to pay not only the interest due here to the foreign officers but the principal. Let me beseech you to reflect on the expediency of transferring this debt to Holland. All our other debts in Europe do not injure our reputation so much as this. These gentlemen have connections both in & out of office, & these again their connections, so that our default on this article is further known, more blamed, & excites worse dispositions against us than you can conceive. If you think as I do, pray try to procure an order for paying off their capital. Mr. Adams adds that if any certain tax is provided for the paiment of interest, Congress may borrow enough in Holland to pay off their whole debts in France, both public & private, to the Crown, to the farmers & to Beaumarchais. Surely it will be better to transfer these debts to Holland. So critical is the state of that country that I imagine the monied men of it would be glad to place their money in foreign countries, & that Mr. Adams could borrow there for us without a certain tax for the interest, & saving our faith too by previous explanations on that subject. This country is really supposed on the eve of a bankruptcy. Such a spirit has risen within a few weeks as could not have been believed. They see the great deficit in their revenues, & the hopes of economy lessen daily. The parliament refuse to register any act for a new tax, & require an assembly of the states. The object of this assembly is evidently to give law to the King, to fix a constitution, to limit expenses. These views are said to gain upon the nation. The King’s passion for drink is diverting him of all respect, the Queen is detested and an explosion of some sort is not impossible. The ministry is alarmed, & the surest reliance at this moment for the public peace is on their two hundred thousand men. I cannot write these things in a public dispatch because they would get into a newspaper and be back here.
A final decision of some sort should be made on Beaumarchais’ affairs.
I am with sentiments of the most perfect esteem Dear Sir your friend and servt.
P. S. The watch and pedometer are not done. In the box of books are some for the colleges of Philadelphia & Williamsburg & two vols of the Encyclopedie for Congress, presented by the author of that part.
TO EDWARD CARRINGTON
Paris Aug 4, 1787.
—Since mine of the 16th of January I have been honoured by your favors of Ap 24 & June 9. I am happy to find that the states have come so generally into the scheme of the Federal convention, from which I am sure we shall see wise propositions. I confess I do not go as far in the reforms thought necessary as some of my correspondents in America; but if the convention should adopt such propositions I shall suppose them necessary. My general plan would be to make the states one as to every thing connected with foreign nations, & several as to everything purely domestic. But with all the imperfections of our present government, it is without comparison the best existing or that ever did exist. It’s greatest defect is the imperfect manner in which matters of commerce have been provided for. It has been so often said, as to be generally believed, that Congress have no power by the confederation to enforce anything, for e. g., contributions of money. It was not necessary to give them that power expressly; they have it by the law of nature. When two parties make a compact, there results to each a power of compelling the other to execute it. Compulsion was never so easy as in our case, where a single frigate would soon levy on the commerce of any state the deficiency of it’s contributions; nor more safe than in the hands of Congress which has always shown that it would wait, as it ought to do, to the last extremities before it would execute any of it’s powers which are disagreeable. I think it very material to separate in the hands of Congress the Executive & Legislative powers, as the Judiciary already are in some degree. This I hope will be done. The want of it has been the source of more evil than we have experienced from any other cause. Nothing is so embarrassing nor so mischievous in a great assembly as the details of execution. The smallest trifle of that kind occupies as long as the most important act of legislation, & takes place of everything else. Let any man recollect, or look over, the files of Congress, he will observe the most important propositions hanging over from week to week & month to month, till the occasions have past them, & the thing never done. I have ever viewed the executive details as the greatest cause of evil to us, because they in fact place us as if we had no federal head, by diverting the attention of that head from great to small objects; and should this division of power not be recommended by the Convention, it is my opinion Congress should make it itself by establishing an Executive committee.
TO BENJAMIN HAWKINS
Paris Aug. 4, 1787.
—I have to acknowlege the receipt of your favors of Mar. 8 & June 9. and to give you many thanks for the trouble you have taken with the Dionasa muscipula. I have not yet heard anything of them, which makes me fear they have perished by the way. I believe the most effectual means of conveying them hither will be by the seed. I must add my thanks too for the vocabularies. This is an object I mean to pursue, as I am persuaded that the only method of investigating the filiation of the Indian nations is by that of their languages.
I look up with you to the Federal convention for an amendment of our federal affairs. Yet I do not view them in so disadvantageous a light at present as some do. And above all things I am astonished at some people’s considering a kingly government as a refuge. Advise such to read the fable of the frogs who solicited Jupiter for a king. If that does not put them to rights, send them to Europe to see something of the trappings of monarchy, and I will undertake that every man shall go back thoroughly cured. If all the evils which can arise among us from the republican form of our government from this day to the day of judgment could be put into a scale against what this country suffers from its monarchical form in a week, or England in a month, the latter would preponderate. Consider the contents of the red book in England, or the Almanac royale of France, and say what a people gain by monarchy. No race of kings has ever presented above one man of common sense in twenty generations. The best they can do is to leave things to their ministers, & what are their ministers but a committee, badly chosen? If the king ever meddles it is to do harm. It is still undecided whether we shall have war or not. If war, I fear it will not be a successful one for our friends against England & Prussia. Such a war by sea, & such a one by land, are too much for this country at this time. Add to this that the condition of her finances threatens bankruptcy, & that the hope of mending them lessens daily. Good will result from other late operations of the government, but as to money matters they have lost more confidence than they have gained. Were it possible for us to borrow money in Holland to pay them the principal of our debt at this time, it would be felt by them with gratitude as if we had given them so much. I think it probable they would do something clever for us in our commerce; & would be very sure to help us again whenever our affairs would require it. Mr. Adams thinks the money could be borrowed in Holland if there was a tax laid to pay the interest. But I think it possible that the present storm in Holland may make the monied men wish to transfer their money any where else. I wish Mr. Adams put on this business before he leaves Europe. Adieu, my dear Sir, & be assured of the esteem of your friend & servt.
TO PETER CARR1
Paris Aug. 10, 1787.
—I have received your two letters of Decemb. 30 and April 18, and am very happy to find by them, as well as by letters from Mr. Wythe, that you have been so fortunate as to attract his notice & good will; I am sure you will find this to have been one of the most fortunate events of your life, as I have ever been sensible it was of mine. I inclose you a sketch of the sciences to which I would wish you to apply in such order as Mr. Wythe shall advise; I mention also the books in them worth your reading, which submit to his correction. Many of these are among your father’s books, which you should have brought to you. As I do not recollect those of them not in his library, you must write to me for them, making out a catalogue of such as you think you shall have occasion for in 18 months from the date of your letter, & consulting Mr. Wythe on the subject. To this sketch I will add a few particular observations.
1. Italian. I fear the learning this language will confound your French and Spanish. Being all of them degenerated dialects of the Latin, they are apt to mix in conversation. I have never seen a person speaking the three languages who did not mix them. It is a delightful language, but late events having rendered the Spanish more useful, lay it aside to prosecute that.
2. Spanish. Bestow great attention on this, & endeavor to acquire an accurate knowlege of it. Our future connections with Spain & Spanish America will render that language a valuable acquisition. The antient history of a great part of America, too, is written in that language. I send you a dictionary.
3. Moral philosophy. I think it lost time to attend lectures in this branch. He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality therefore was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right & wrong merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality, & not the το καλον, truth, &c. as fanciful writers have imagined. The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted indeed in some degree to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman & a professor. The former will decide it as well, & often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules. In this branch therefore read good books because they will encourage as well as direct your feelings. The writings of Sterne particularly form the best course of morality that ever was written. Besides these read the books mentioned in the enclosed paper; and above all things lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous &c. Consider every act of this kind as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties, & increase your worth.
4. Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place divest yourself of all bias in favour of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, & the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand shake off all the fears & servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first the religion of your own country. Read the bible then, as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature does not weigh against them. But those facts in the bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from god. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature in the case he relates. For example in the book of Joshua we are told the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine therefore candidly what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis as the earth does, should have stopped, should not by that sudden stoppage have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time have resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities? You will next read the new testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions 1. of those who say he was begotten by god, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven: and 2. of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, & was punished capitally for sedition by being gibbeted according to the Roman law which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile or death in furcâ. See this law in the Digest Lib. 48. tit. 19. §. 28. 3. & Lipsius Lib. 2. de cruce. cap. 2. These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all. Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of it’s consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort & pleasantness you feel in it’s exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a god, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a god, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love. In fine, I repeat that you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, & neither believe nor reject anything because any other persons, or description of persons have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable not for the rightness but uprightness of the decision. I forgot to observe when speaking of the new testament that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, & not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some however still extant, collected by Fabricius which I will endeavor to get & send you.
5. Travelling. This makes men wiser, but less happy. When men of sober age travel, they gather knolege which they may apply usefully for their country, but they are subject ever after to recollections mixed with regret, their affections are weakened by being extended over more objects, & they learn new habits which cannot be gratified when they return home. Young men who travel are exposed to all these inconveniences in a higher degree, to others still more serious, and do not acquire that wisdom for which a previous foundation is requisite by repeated & just observations at home. The glare of pomp & pleasure is analogous to the motion of their blood, it absorbs all their affection & attention, they are torn from it as from the only good in this world, and return to their home as to a place of exile & condemnation. Their eyes are for ever turned back to the object they have lost, & it’s recollection poisons the residue of their lives. Their first & most delicate passions are hackneyed on unworthy objects here, & they carry home only the dregs, insufficient to make themselves or anybody else happy. Add to this that a habit of idleness, an inability to apply themselves to business is acquired & renders them useless to themselves & their country. These observations are founded in experience. There is no place where your pursuit of knolege will be so little obstructed by foreign objects as in your own country, nor any wherein the virtues of the heart will be less exposed to be weakened. Be good, be learned, & be industrious, & you will not want the aid of travelling to render you precious to your country, dear to your friends, happy within yourself. I repeat my advice to take a great deal of exercise, & on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality. Write to me often & be assured of the interest I take in your success, as well as of the warmth of those sentiments of attachment with which I am, dear Peter, your affectionate friend.
P. S. Let me know your age in your next letter. Your cousins here are well & desire to be remembered to you.
TO DR. GEORGE GILMER
Paris August 12, 1787.
—Your letter of Jan 9, 1787, came safely to hand in the month of June last. Unluckily you forgot to sign it, and your handwriting is so Protean that one cannot be sure it is yours. To increase the causes of incertitude it was dated Penpark, a name which I only know as the seat of John Harmer. The handwriting too being somewhat in his style made me ascribe it hastily to him, indorse it with his name, and let it lie in my bundle to be answered at leisure. That moment of leisure arriving, I set down to answer it to John Harmer, & now for the first time discover marks of its being yours, & particularly those expressions of friendship to myself and family which you have ever been so good as to entertain, and which are to me among the most precious possessions. I wish my sense of this, & my desires of seeing you rich & happy may not prevent my seeing any difficulty in the case you state of George Harmer’s wills; which as you state them are thus:
1. A will dated Dec 26, 1779, written in his own hand & devising to his brother the estates he had received from him.
2. Another will dated June 25, 1782, written also in his own hand, devising his estate to trustees to be conveyed to such of his relations. I. H. I. L. or H. L. as should become capable of acquiring property, or, on failure of that, to be sold & the money remitted them.
3. A third will dated Sep 12, 1786, devising all his estate at Marrowbone, & his tracts at Horsepasture & Poisonfield to you, which will is admitted to record & of course has been duly executed. You say the learned are divided on these wills. Yet I see no cause of division, as it requires little learning to decide that “the first deed, & last will must always prevail.” I am afraid therefore the difficulty may arise on the want of words of inheritance in the devise to you: for you state it as a devise to “George Gilmer” (without adding “& to his heirs”) of “all the estate called Marrowbone” “the tract called Horsepasture” and “the tract called Poisonfield.” If the question is on this point, and you have copied the words of the will exactly, I suppose you take an estate in fee simple in Marrowbone, & for life only in Horsepasture & Poisonfield, the want of words of inheritance in the two last cases being supplied as to the first by the word “estate” which has been repeatedly decided to be descriptive of the quantum of interest devised, as well as of its locality. I am in hopes however you have not copied the words exactly, that there are words of inheritance to all the devises, as the testator certainly knew their necessity, & that the conflict only will be between the different wills, in which case I see nothing which can be opposed to the last. I shall be very happy to eat at Pen-park some of the good mutton & beef of Marrowbone, Horse-pasture & Poisonfield, with yourself & Mrs. Gilmer & my good old neighbors. I am as happy nowhere else & in no other society, & all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello. Too many scenes of happiness mingle themselves with all the recollections of my native woods & fields, to suffer them to be supplanted in my affection by any other. I consider myself here as a traveller only, & not a resident. My commission expires next spring, & if not renewed, I shall of course return then. If renewed, I shall remain here some time longer. How much I cannot say; yet my wishes shorten the period. Among the strongest inducements will be that of your society & Mrs. Gilmer’s, which I am glad to find brought more within reach by your return to Pen-park. My daughters are importunate to return also. Patsy enjoys good health, & is growing to my stature. Polly arrived here about a month ago, after a favorable voyage, & in perfect health. My own health has been as good as ever, after the first year’s probation. The accident of a dislocated wrist, badly set, has I fear deprived me for ever of almost every use of my right hand. Nor is the extent of the evil as yet known, the hand withering, the fingers remaining swelled & crooked, & losing rather than gaining in point of suppleness. It is now eleven months since the accident. I am able to write, tho for a long time I was not so. This inability was succeeded by a journey into the Southern parts of France and Northern of of Italy, which added to the length of the chasm in my correspondence with my friends. If you knew how agreeable to me are the details of the small news of my neighborhood, your charity would induce you to write frequently. Your letters lodged in the post office at Richmond (to be forwarded to N York) come with certainty. We are doubtful yet whether there will be war or not. Present me with warm affection to Mrs. Gilmer & be assured yourself of the unvarying sentiments of esteem & attachment with which I am Dear Doctor your sincere friend & servant
TO JOSEPH JONES
Paris Aug. 14, 1787.
—I have never yet thanked you, but with the heart, for the act of assembly confirming the agreement with Maryland, the pamphlet & papers I received from you a twelve month ago. Very soon after their receipt I got my right wrist dislocated which prevented me long from writing & as soon as that was able to bear it I took a long journey from which I am but lately returned. I am anxious to hear what our federal convention recommends & what the states will do in consequence of their recommendation. I wish to see our states made one as to all foreign, & several as to all domestic matters, a peaceable mode of compulsion over the states given to Congress, & the powers of this body divided, as in the states, into three departments legislative, executive, & judiciary. It is my opinion the want of the latter organization has already done more harm than all the other federal defects put together, & that every evil almost may be traced to that source, but with all the defects of our constitutions, whether general or particular, the comparison of our governments with those of Europe, are like a comparison of heaven & hell. England, like the earth, may be allowed to take the intermediate station. And yet I hear there are people among you who think the experience of our governments has already proved that republican governments will not answer. Send those gentry here to count the blessings of monarchy. A king’s sister for instance stopped on the road, & on a hostile journey, is sufficient cause for him to march immediately 20,000 men to revenge this insult, when he had shewn himself little moved by the matter of right then in question.
I apprehend this hasty movement of the King of Prussia may perhaps decide the crisis of Europe to war, when it was before doubtful. The English squadron has sailed Westwardly: the French will doubtless do the same, & they are moving an army into the neighborhood of Holland. Still however the negociations are not broken off, and the desperate state of finances both in England & France give a hope they will yet arrange matters in this country. A great & sudden discontent has arisen, since the separation of the Assemblee des Notables. It is not easy to fix the causes, since it is certain that great improvements of their laws & constitution have actually taken place & others are promised, great reforms in expence have been effected & are effecting. But the investigation of the horrid depredation in the late administration of their finances, some new and inconsiderable expences of the court, and the new taxes have probably excited this discontent. The opposition of the parliament to the new taxes is carried to it’s last point, and their exile is a measure which may very possibly take place. The principal security against it is the mild & patriotic character of the new ministry.
From all these broils we are happily free, and that God may keep us long so, and yourself in health & happiness is the prayer of, dear Sir, your most obedient, & most humble servant.
P. S. Aug. 15. The Parliament is exiled to Troyes this morning.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE JOURNAL DE PARIS
Paris Aug. 29, 1787.
—I am a citizen of the United States of America, and have passed in those states almost the whole of my life. When young, I was passionately fond of reading books of history & travels. Since the commencement of the late revolution which separated us from Great Britain, our country too has been thought worthy to employ the pens of historians & travellers. I cannot paint to you, Sir, the agonies which these have cost me, in obliging me to renounce these favorite branches of reading and in discovering to me at length that my whole life has been employed in nourishing my mind with fables & falsehoods. For thus I reason. If the histories of d’Auberteuil & of Longchamps, and the travels of the Abbé Robin can be published in the face of the world, can be read & believed by those who are cotemporary with the events they pretend to relate, how may we expect that future ages shall be better informed? Will those rise from their graves to bear witness to the truth, who would not, while living, lift their voices against falsehood? If cotemporary histories are thus false, what will future compilations be? And what are all those of preceding times? In your Journal of this day you announce & criticise a book under the title of “les ligues Acheenne, Suisse, & Hollandoise, et revolution des etats unis de l’Amerique par M. de Mayer.” I was no part of the Achaean Swiss or Dutch confederacies, & have therefore nothing to say against the facts related of them. And you cite only one fact from his account of the American revolution. It is in these words. “Monsieur Mayer assure qu’une seule voix, un seul homme, prononça l’independance des Etats unis. Ce fut, dit il, John Dickinson, un des Deputés de la Pensilvanie au Congrés. La veille, il avoit vôté pour la soumission, l’egalité des suffrages avoit suspendu la resolution; s’il eut persisté, le Congrés ne deliberoit point, il fut foible; il ceda aux instances de ceux qui avoient plus d’energie, plus d’eloquence, et plus de lumieres; il donna sa voix: l’Amerique lui doit une reconnaissance eternelle; c’est Dickinson qui l’a affranchie.” The modesty and candour of Mr. Dickinson himself, Sir, would disavow every word of this paragraph, except these—“il avoit voté pour la soumission.” These are true, every other tittle false. I was on the spot, & can relate to you this transaction with precision. On the 7th of June, 1776, the delegates from Virginia moved, in obedience to instructions from their constituents, that Congress should declare the 13 united colonies to be independant of Great Britain, that a Confederation should be formed to bind them together, and measures be taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers. The house ordered a punctual attendance of all their members the next day at ten o’clock, & then resolved themselves into a Committee of the whole and entered on the discussion. It appeared in the course of the debates that 7. states. viz., N Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina & Georgia, were decided for a separation; but that 6. others still hesitated, to wit. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, & South Carolina. Congress, desirous of unanimity, & seeing that the public mind was advancing rapidly to it, referred the further discussion to the 1st of July, appointing in the mean time a Committee to prepare a declaration of independance, a second to form Articles for the confederation of the states, and a third to propose measures for obtaining foreign aid. On the 28th of June, the Declaration of Independance was reported to the house, and was laid on the table for the consideration of the members. On the 1st day of July they resolved themselves into a committee of the whole, and resumed the consideration of the motion of June 7. It was debated through the day, and at length was decided in the affirmative by the vote of 9. states. viz New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode island, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, N. Carolina and Georgia. Pennsylvania and S. Carolina voted against it. Delaware, having but two members present, was divided. The delegates from New York declared they were for it, & their constituents also; but that the instructions against it which had been given them a twelvemonth before, were still unrepealed; that their convention was to meet in a few days, and they asked leave to suspend their vote till they could obtain a repeal of their instructions. Observe that all this was in a committee of the whole Congress, and that according to the mode of their proceedings, the Resolution of that Committee to declare themselves independant was to be put to the same persons reassuming their form as a Congress. It was now evening, the members exhausted by a debate of 9 hours, during which all the powers of the soul had been distended with the magnitude of the object, and the delegates of S. Carolina desired that the final decision might be put off to the next morning that they might still weigh in their own minds their ultimate vote. It was put off, and in the morning of the 2d of July they joined the other nine states in voting for it. The members of the Pennsylvania delegation too, who had been absent the day before, came in & turned the vote of their state in favor of independance, and a 3d member of the state of Delaware, who, hearing of the division in the sentiments of his two colleagues, had travelled post to arrive in time, now came in and decided the vote of that state also for the resolution. Thus twelve states voted for it at the time of its passage, and the delegates of New York, the 13th state, received instructions within a few days to add theirs to the general vote; so that, instead of the “egalité des suffrages” spoken of by M. Mayer, there was not a dissenting voice. Congress proceeded immediately to consider the Declaration of Independence which had been reported by their committee on the 28th of June. The several paragraphs of that were debated for three days, viz. the 2d, 3d, & 4th of July. In the evening of the 4th they were finally closed, and the instrument approved by an unanimous vote and signed by every member, except Mr. Dickinson. Look into the Journal of Congress of that day, Sir, and you will see the instrument, and the name of the signers, and that Mr. Dickinson’s name is not among them. Then read again those words of your paper. “Il (M. Mayer) assure qu’une seule voix, un seul homme, prononça l’independance des etats unis, ce fut John Dickinson.—l’Amerique lui doit une reconnoissance eternelle; c’est Dickinson qui l’a affranchie.” With my regrets, & my Adieus to History, to Travels, to Mayer, & to you, Sir, permit me to mingle assurances of the great respect with which I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient & most humble servant.
TO GEORGE WYTHE
Paris Sep. 16, 1787.
—I am now to acknowlege the receipt of your favors of Dec. 13 & 22 1786 & of Jan. 1787. These should not have been so long unanswered, but that they arrived during my absence on a journey of between 3 & 4 months through the Southern parts of France & northern of Italy. In the latter country my time allowed me to go no further than Turin, Milan, and Genoa: consequently I scarcely got into classical ground. I took with me some of the writings in which endeavors have been made to investigate the passage of Annibal over the Alps, and was just able to satisfy myself, from a view of the country, that the descriptions given of his march are not sufficiently particular to enable us at this day even to guess at his track across the Alps. In architecture, painting, sculpture, I found much amusement: but more than all in their agriculture, many objects of which might be adopted with us to great advantage. I am persuaded there are many parts of our lower country where the olive tree might be raised, which is assuredly the richest gift of heaven. I can scarcely except bread. I see this tree supporting thousands in among the Alps where there is not soil enough to make bread for a single family. The caper too might be cultivated with us. The fig we do raise. I do not speak of the vine, because it is the parent of misery. Those who cultivate it are always poor, and he who would employ himself with us in the culture of corn, cotton, &c. can procure in exchange much more wine, & better than he could raise by its direct culture. I sent you formerly copies of the documents on the Tagliaferro family which I had received from Mr. Febroni. I now send the originals. I have procured for you a copy of Polybius, the best edition; but the best edition of Vitruvius, which is with the commentaries of Ticinus, is not to be got here. I have sent to Holland for it. In the mean time the Polybius comes in a box containing books for Peter Carr & for some of my friends in Williamsburg & it’s vicinities. I have taken the liberty of addressing this box to you. It goes to New York in the packet boat which carries this letter, & will be forwarded to you by water, by Mr. Madison. Its freight to New York is paid here. The transportation from thence to Williamsburgh will be demanded of you, and shall stand as the equivalent to the cost of Polybius & Vitruvius if you please. The difference either way will not be worth the trouble of erecting & transmitting accounts. I send you herewith a state of the contents of the box, and for whom each article is. Among these are some as you will perceive, of which I ask your acceptance. It is a great comfort to me that while here I am able to furnish some amusement to my friends by sending them such productions of genius, antient & modern, as might otherwise escape them; and I hope they will permit me to avail myself of the occasion, while it lasts. This world is going all to war. I hope our’s will remain clear of it. It is already declared between the Turks & Russians, and, considering the present situation of Holland, it cannot fail to spread itself all over Europe. Perhaps it may not be till the next spring that the other powers will be engaged in it: nor is it as yet clear how they will arrange themselves. I think it not impossible that France & the two empires may join against all the rest. The Patriotic party in Holland will be saved by this, and the Turks sacrificed. The only thing which can prevent the union of France & the two empires, is the difficulty of agreeing about the partition of the spoils. Constantinople is the key of Asia. Who shall have it is the question? I cannot help looking forward to the reestablishment of the Greeks as a people, and the language of Homer becoming again a living language, as among possible events. You have now with you Mr. Paradise, who can tell you how easily the modern may be improved into the antient Greek. You ask me in your letter what ameliorations I think necessary in our federal constitution. It is now too late to answer the question, and it would always have been presumption in me to have done it. Your own ideas & those of the great characters who were to be concerned with you in these discussions will give the law, as they ought to do, to us all. My own general idea was that the states should severally preserve their sovereignty in whatever concerns themselves alone, & that whatever may concern another state, or any foreign nation, should be made a part of the federal sovereignty. That the exercise of the federal sovereignty should be divided among three several bodies, legislative, executive, & judiciary, as the state sovereignties are: and that some peaceable means should be contrived for the federal head to enforce compliance on the part of the states.—I have reflected on your idea of wooden or ivory diagrams for the geometrical demonstrations. I should think wood as good as ivory; & that in this case it might add to the improvement of the young gentlemen; that they should make the figures themselves. Being furnished by a workman with a piece of veneer, no other tool than a penknife & a wooden rule would be necessary. Perhaps pasteboards, or common cards might be still more convenient. The difficulty is, how to reconcile figures which must have a very sensible breadth, to our ideas of a mathematical line, which, having neither breadth nor thickness, will revolt more at these than at simple lines drawn on paper or slate. If after reflecting on this proposition you would prefer having them made here, lay your commands on me and they shall be executed.
I return you a thousand thousand thanks for your goodness to my nephew. After my debt to you for whatever I am myself, it is increasing it too much to interest yourself for his future fortune. But I know that, to you, a consciousness of doing good is a luxury ineffable. You have enjoyed it already beyond all human measure, and that you may long live to enjoy it and to bless your country & friends is the sincere prayer of him who is with every possible sentiment of esteem & respect, dear Sir, your most obedient & most humble servant.
TO CHARLES THOMSON
Paris Sep. 20, 1787.
—Your favor of April 28 did not come to my hands till the 1st inst. Unfortunately the boxes of plants, which were a day too late to come by the April packet, missed the packet of June 10 also, & only came by that of July 25. They are not yet arrived at Paris, but I expect them daily. I am sensible of your kind attention to them, and that as you were leaving New York you took the course which bade fair to be the best. That they were forgotten in the hands in which you placed them, was probably owing to too much business & more important. I have desired Mr. Madison to refund to you the money you were so kind as to advance for me. The delay of your letter will apologize for this delay of the repayment. I thank you also for the extract of the letter you were so kind as to communicate to me on the antiquities found in the Western country. I wish that the persons who go thither would make very exact descriptions of what they see of that kind, without forming any theories. The moment a person forms a theory his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory. But it is too early to form theories on those antiquities. We must wait with patience till more facts are collected. I wish your philosophical society would collect exact descriptions of the several monuments as yet known, and insert them naked in their Transactions, and continue their attention to those hereafter to be discovered. Patience & observation may enable us in time to solve the problem whether those who formed the scattering monuments in our Western country, were colonies sent off from Mexico, or the founders of Mexico itself? Whether both were the descendants or the progenitors of the Asiatic redmen. The Mexican tradition mentioned by Dr. Robertson, is an evidence, but a feeble one, in favor of the one opinion. The number of languages radically different, is a strong evidence in favor of the contrary one. There is an American of the name of Ledyard, he who was with Captain Cook on his last voyage & wrote an account of that voyage, who is gone to St. Petersburg, from thence he was to go to Kamschatka, to cross over thence to the northwest coast of America, & to penetrate through the main continent to our side of it. He is a person of ingenuity & information. Unfortunately he has too much imagination. However, if he escapes safely, he will give us new, curious, & useful information. I had a letter from him dated last March, when he was about to leave St. Petersburgh on his way to Kamschatka.
With respect to the information of the strata of rocks, I had observed them between the Blue Ridge & North Mountain in Virginia to be parallel with the pole of the earth. I observed the same thing in most instances in the Alps between Cette & Turin: but in returning along the precipices of the Pyrinees1 where they hang over the Mediterranean, their direction was totally different and various; and you mention that in our Western country they are horizontal. This variety proves they have not been formed by subsidence as some writers of theories of the earth have pretended, for then they should always have been in circular strata, & concentric. It proves too that they have not been formed by the rotation of the earth on its axis, as might have been suspected had all these strata been parallel with that axis. They may indeed have been thrown up by explosions, as Whitehurst supposes, or have been the effect of convulsions. But there can be no proof of the explosion, nor is it probable that convulsions have deformed every spot of the earth. It is now generally agreed that rock grows, and it seems that it grows in layers in every direction, as the branches of trees grow in all directions. Why seek further the solution of this phenomenon? Everything in nature decays. If it were not reproduced then by growth, there would be a chasm. I remember you asked me in a former letter whether the steam mill in London was turned by the steam immediately or by the intermediate agency of water raised by the steam. When I was in London Boulton made a secret of his mill. Therefore I was permitted to see it only superficially. I saw no water wheels, & therefore supposed none. I answered you accordingly that there were none. But when I was at Nismes, I went to see the steam mill there, & they showed it to me in all its parts. I saw that their steam raised water, & that this water turned a wheel. I expressed my doubts of the necessity of the inter-agency of water, & that the London mill was without it. But they supposed me mistaken; perhaps I was so; I have had no opportunity since of clearing up the doubt. * * *
TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL1
Paris Sep. 25, 1787.
—The copy of your letter of July 9. and that of Aug. 22. came to hand together. The original of the former I never received. My last to you was dated June 14. I heard indirectly that Mr. Grand had refused to pay a bill of yours. But he never said a word to me on the subject, nor mentioned any letter of yours in consequence of it. I have stated the matter to the board of Treasury. I also wrote to Mr. Adams a state of the same fact. There are at Amsterdam 100.000 florins at his disposal. Colo. Smith will endeavor to get for you an order to draw on that fund. The subject of Smith’s mission to Portugal appeared to me so causeless as given out that I imagined it was only the ostensible one, the real cause remaining a secret between him and Congress, yet I never heard any other hinted. With respect to the reimbursement to the Count d’Expilly for the maintenance of our prisoners at Algiers, I wrote to Mr. Jay what you had formerly communicated to me, but am not authorized to give any answer. I think it important to destroy at Algiers every idea that Congress will redeem our captives there, perhaps at any price, much less at that paid by Spain. It seems to be the general opinion that the redeeming them would occasion the capture of greater numbers by increasing the incitements to cruise against us. We must never make it their interest to go out of the straights in quest of us, and we must avoid entering into the straights at least till we are rich enough to arm in that sea. The Spanish consul therefore cannot too soon withdraw himself from all responsibility for our prisoners. As to the affair of the frigate of South Carolina, I communicated to you every thing I knew on the subject, by inclosing you all the papers which had come to my hands. I have received letters & gazettes from America to the 25. of July. The federal convention was likely to sit to the month of October. A thin Congress was sitting at the same time. They had passed an Ordinance dividing the country North of Ohio into three states, & providing both a present and a future form of government for them. The sale of their lands commence this month. An idea had got abroad in the Western country that Congress was ceding to Spain the navigation of the Mississippi for a certain time. They had taken flame at it, & were assembling conventions on the subject, wherein the boldest & most dangerous propositions were to be made. They are said to be now 60.000 strong, and are more formidable from their spirit than numbers. This is the only bone of contention which can arise between Spain & us for ages. It is a pity it could not be settled amicably. When we consider that the Mississippi is the only issue to the ocean for five eights of the territory of the U. S. & how fast that territory peoples, the ultimate event cannot be mistaken. It would be wise then to take arrangements according to what must happen.
There had been a hope that the affairs of Holland might be accomodated without a war. But this hope has failed. The Prussian troops have entered the territories of the republick. The stadtholder is now at the Hague, and there seems to be no force capable of opposing him. England too has notified this court by her envoy, two days ago, that she is arming. In the meantime little provision has been made here against such an event. M. de Segur declares that six weeks ago he proposed in council to march 24,000 men into Holland. The archbp. is charged principally with having prevented this. He seems to have been duped by his strong desire for peace, and by calculating that the K. of Prussia would have acted on principles of common sense. To complicate the game still more, you know of the war which has arisen between Russia & the Turks. You know also that it was excited there, as well as at Berlin by the English. Former alliances thus broke, Prussia having thrown herself into the scale opposed to France, Turkey having abandoned her councils and followed the instigations of her enemies, what remains for this country to do? I know that Russia proposed a confederation with this court, that this court without committing itself wished 1481. 941. I know the final determination of the emperor was that he came into the proposition, has formed a line from the Russian to the Turkish confines by 4. camps of 30,000 men in one, & 50,000 in each of the others. Yet it does not seem that France has closed the proposal in favor of which every principle of common sense enlists itself. The queen, Breteuil and Montmorin have been for some time decidedly for this triple alliance which especially if aided by Spain would give law to the world. The premier is still accused with hesitation. They begin to say that tho’ he is a patriotic Minister and an able one for peace he has not energy enough for war. If this takes place the consequences to Prussia and the Stadtholder may be easily foreseen. Whether it does or not the Turks must quit Europe. Neutrality should be our plan: because no nation should without urgent necessity begin a second war while the debts of the former remain unpaid. The accumulation of debts is a most fearful evil. But ever since the accession of the present King of England, that court has unerringly done what common sense would have dictated not to do. Now common sense dictates that they should avoid forcing us to take part against them, because this brings on them a heavy land war. Therefore they will not avoid it: they will stop our ships, visit and harass them, seize them on the most frivolous pretexts and oblige us to take from them Canada & Nova Scotia, which it is not our interest to possess. Mr. Eden sets out in a few days for Madrid. You will have to oppose in him the most bitter enemy against our country which exists. His late and sudden elevation makes the remembrance of the contempt we shewed to his mission in America rankle the more in his breast. Whether his principle will restrain him to fair modes of opposition, I am not well enough acquainted with him to say. I know nothing of him but his parliamentary history, and that is not in his favor. As he wishes us every possible ill, all the lies of the London papers are true history in his creed, and will be propagated as such, to prejudice against us the mind of the Court where you are. You will find it necessary to keep him well in your eye, and to trace all his foot-steps.—You know doubtless that M. de Brienne has been appointed Minister of War, & the Count de la Luzerne Minister of Marine. He is brother of the Chevalier, & at present in St. Domingo of which he is commandant. The Count de Moustier goes Minister to America, the Chevalier de la Luzerne preferring the promise of the first vacant embassy. Lambert is Comptrolleur general. De la Borde & Cabarus have successively refused the office of Directeur du tresor royale.—Having now got the maps for the Notes on Virginia, I will send by the Count d’Aranda two copies, one for yourself, & one for Monsr. de Campomenes. By the same conveyance I will forward the Ratification of the treaty with Morocco, & ask the favor of you to contrive it to that court. Mr. Barclay is gone to America.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Paris Sep. 28, 1787.
—I received your favor by Mr. Cutting, and thank you sincerely for the copy of your book. The departure of a packet boat, which always gives me full emploiment for sometime before has only permitted me to look into it a little. I judge of it from the first volume which I thought formed to do a great deal of good. The first principle of a good government is certainly a distribution of it’s powers into executive, judiciary & legislative and a subdivision of the latter into two or three branches. It is a good step gained, when it is proved that the English constitution, acknowledged to be better than all which have preceded it, is only better in proportion as it has approached nearer to this distribution of powers. From this the last step is easy, to shew by a comparison of our constitutions with that of England, how much more perfect they are. The article of Confederations is surely worthy of your pen. It would form a most interesting addition to shew what have been the nature of the Confederations which have existed hitherto, what were their excellencies & what their defects. A comparison of ours with them would be to the advantage of ours, and would increase the veneration of our countrymen for it. It is a misfortune that they do not sufficiently know the value of their constitutions & how much happier they are rendered by them than any other people on earth by the governments under which they live.—You know all that has happened in the United Netherlands. You know also that our friends Van Staphorsts will be among the most likely to become objects of severity, if any severities should be exercised. Is the money in their hands entirely safe? If it is not, I am sure you have already thought of it. Are we to suppose the game already up, and that the Stadtholder is to be reestablished, perhaps erected into a monarch, without this country lifting a finger in opposition to it? If so, it is a lesson the more for us. In fact what a crowd of lessons do the present miseries of Holland teach us? Never to have an hereditary officer of any sort: never to let a citizen ally himself with kings: never to call in foreign nations to settle domestic differences, never to suppose that any nation will expose itself to war for us, &c. Still I am not without hopes that a good rod is in soak for Prussia, and that England will feel the end of it. It is known to some that Russia made propositions to the emperor & France for acting in concert, that the emperor consents and has disposed four camps of 180,000 men from the limits of Turkey to those of Prussia. This court hesitates, or rather it’s premier hesitates; for the queen, Montmorin & Breteuil are for the measure. Should it take place, all may yet come to rights, except for the Turks, who must retire from Europe, and this they must do were France Quixotic enough to undertake to support them. We I hope shall be left free to avail ourselves of the advantages of neutrality: and yet much I fear the English, or rather their stupid king, will force us out of it. For thus I reason. By forcing us into the war against them they will be engaged in an expensive land war as well as a sea war. Common sense dictates therefore that they should let us remain neuter: ergo they will not let us remain neuter. I never yet found any other general rule for foretelling what they will do, but that of examining what they ought not to do.
You will have heard doubtless that M. Lambert is Comptroller general, that the office of Directeur general du tresor royal, has been successively refused by Monsr. de la Borde & Monsr. Cabarrus; that the Conte de Brienne, brother of the Archbishop, is Minister of War, and the Count de la Luzerne Minister of Marine. They have sent for him from his government in the West Indies. The Chevalier de la Luzerne has a promise of the vacant Embassy. It will be that of London if Adhemar can be otherwise disposed of. The Chevalier might have had that of Holland if he would. The Count de Moustier will sail about the middle of next month. Count d’Aranda leaves us in a few days. His successor is hourly expected.
I have the honor to be with my best respects to Mrs. Adams, & sentiments of perfect esteem & regard to yourself dear Sir your most obedient & most humble servant.
P. S. Since writing the above, I learn thro a 1547. 1406. 610. 943. 708. 1111. 173. 1363. 1411. 1001. 1246. & is 1250. 501. 1418. 1339. with the 390. 758. 808. 830. Perhaps as a proof of this we may soon 1064. 520. 1506. 773. 1363, 1508. 1268. 1209. 1017. 1128. 1196. 70. 519. 1401.
TO COMTE DE BUFFON
Paris Octob. 1, 1787.
—I had the honour of informing you some time ago that I had written to some of my friends in America, desiring they would send me such of the spoils of the Moose, Caribou, Elk & deer as might throw light on that class of animals; but more particularly to send me the complete skeleton, skin, & horns of the Moose, in such condition as that the skin might be sewed up & stuffed on it’s arrival here. I am happy to be able to present to you at this moment the bones & skin of a Moose, the horns of the Caribou, the elk, the deer, the spiked horned buck, and the Roebuck of America. They all come from New Hampshire & Massachusetts. I give you their popular names, as it rests with yourself to decide their real names. The skin of the Moose was drest with the hair on, but a great deal of it has come off, and the rest is ready to drop off. The horns of the elk are remarkably small. I have certainly seen of them which would have weighed five or six times as much. This is the animal which we call elk in the Southern parts of America, and of which I have given some description in the Notes on Virginia, of which I had the honour of presenting you a copy. I really doubt whether the flat-horned elk exists in America; and I think this may be properly classed with the elk, the principal difference being in the horns. I have seen the Daim, the Cerf, the Chevreuil of Europe. But the animal we call Elk, and which may be distinguished as the Roundhorned elk, is very different from them. I have never seen the Brand-hirtz or Cerf d’Ardennes, nor the European elk. Could I get a sight of them I think I should be able to say to which of them the American elk resembles most, as I am tolerably well acquainted with that animal. I must observe also that the horns of the Deer, which accompany these spoils, are not of the fifth or sixth part of the weight of some that I have seen. This individual has been of age, according to our method of judging. I have taken measures particularly to be furnished with large horns of our elk & our deer, & therefore beg of you not to consider those now sent as furnishing a specimen of their ordinary size. I really suspect you will find that the Moose, the Round horned elk, & the American deer are species not existing in Europe. The Moose is perhaps of a new class. I wish these spoils, Sir, may have the merit of adding anything new to the treasures of nature which have so fortunately come under your observation, & of which she seems to have given you the key: they will in that case be some gratification to you, which it will always be pleasing to me to have procured, having the honor to be with sentiments of the most perfect esteem & respect, Sir, your most obedient, & most humble servant.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Paris Oct. 4, 1787.
—I am informed that the persons having claims against the state of South Carolina on account of the frigate of the same name, have appointed Mr. Cutting their attorney for settling those claims with the state. It becomes my duty therefore to inform you that a claim of the state against the court of Spain for services performed by that frigate was transmitted to me the last spring by Mr. Jay, together with the papers on which it was founded, & that I was instructed to forward the same to Mr. Carmichael at Madrid to be sollicited by him, and at the same time to confer with the Prince of Luxemburg on the subject & engage the assistance of the French ambassador at Madrid in the sollicitation. All this was done, and I have lately received a letter from Mr. Carmichael inclosing the copy of one from the Count de Florida Blanca by which it appears that the court of Spain has referred the adjustment of your claim to Mr. Gardoqui & your delegates at New York, where perhaps the whole business may be most conveniently settled. In my conference with the Prince of Luxemburg I undertook to quiet his mind by assurances which I knew I might make with truth, that the state of South Carolina would settle his claim finally with justice & honor, & would take measures for paying it as soon as their situation would permit. A recent instance of arrangements taken in a like case by the state of Maryland has had a good effect in counteracting those calumnies against us which our enemies on the other side the channel disseminate industriously through all Europe.
TO JAMES MADISON1
Paris Oct. 8, 1787.
—The bearer hereof the Count de Moustier, successor to Monsr de la Luzerne, would from his office need no letter of introduction to you or to anybody. Yet I take the liberty of recommending him to you to shorten those formal approaches which the same office would otherwise expose him to in making your acquaintance. He is a great enemy to formality, etiquette, ostentation & luxury. He goes with the best dispositions to cultivate society without poisoning it by ill example. He is sensible, disposed to view things favorably, & being well acquainted with the constitution of England, it’s manners & language, is the better prepared for his station with us. But I should have performed only the lesser, & least pleasing half of my task, were I not to add my recommendations of Madame de Brehan. She is goodness itself. You must be well acquainted with her. You will find her well disposed to meet your acquaintance & well worthy of it. The way to please her is to receive her as an acquaintance of a thousand years’ standing. She speaks little English. You must teach her more, and learn French from her. She hopes by accompanying Monsieur de Moustier to improve her health which is very feeble, & still more to improve her son in his education & to remove him to a distance from the seductions of this country. You will wonder to be told that there are no schools in this country to be compared to ours, in the sciences. The husband of Madame de Brehan is an officer, & obliged by the times to remain with the army. Monsieur de Moustier brings your watch. I have worn it two months and really find her a most incomparable one. She will not want the little redressing which new watches generally do after going about a year. She cost 600 livres. To open her in all her parts, press the little pin on the edge, with the point of your nail, that opens the chrystel, then open the dial plate in the usual way, then press the stem, at the end within the loop, & it opens the back for winding up or regulating.
De Moustier is remarkably communicative. With adroitness he may be pumped of anything. His openness is from character, not from affectation. An intimacy with him may, on this account be politically valuable.
TO JOHN JAY
Paris Nov 3, 1787.
—I shall take the liberty of confiding sometimes to a private letter such details of the small history of the court or cabinet as may be worthy of being known, and yet not proper to be publicly communicated. I doubt whether the administration is yet in a permanent form. The Count de Montmorin & Baron de Breteuil are I believe firm enough in their places. It was doubted whether they would wait for the count de la Lucerne, if the war had taken place; but at present I suppose they will. I wish it also; because M. de Hector, his only competitor, has on some occasions shewn little value for the connection with us. Lambert, the Comptroller general is thought to be very insecure. I should be sorry also to lose him. I have worked several days with him, the M. de la Fayette, and Monsr. du Pont (father of the young gentleman gone to America with the Count de Moustier) to reduce into one arret whatever concerned our commerce. I have found him a man of great judgment & application, possessing good general principles on subjects of commerce, & friendly dispositions towards us. He passed the arret in a very favorable form, but it has been opposed in the council, & will I fear suffer some alteration in the article of whale oil. That of tobacco, which was put into a separate instrument, experiences difficulties also, which do not come from him. Mr. du Pont has rendered us essential service on these occasions. I wish his son could be so well noticed as to make a favorable report to his father; he would I think be gratified by it, & his good dispositions be strengthened, & rendered further useful to us. Whether I shall be able to send you these regulations by the present packet, will depend on their getting thro’ the council in time. The Archbishop continues well with his patroness. Her object is, a close connection with her brother. I suppose he convinces her that peace will furnish the best occasions of cementing that connection. It may not be uninstructive to give you the origin & nature of his influence with the queen.—When the D. de Choiseul proposed the marriage of the dauphin with this lady, he thought it proper to send a person to Vienna to perfect her in the language. He asked his friend the Archbishop of Toulouse to recommend to him a proper person. He recommended a certain Abbé. The Abbé, from his first arrival at Vienna, either tutored by his patron, or prompted by gratitude, impressed on the queen’s mind the exalted talents and merit of the Archbishop, and continually represented him as the only man fit to be placed at the helm of affairs. On his return to Paris, being retained near the person of the queen, he kept him constantly in her view. The Archbishop was named of the assembly des notables, had occasion enough there to prove his talents, & count de Vergennes his great enemy, dying opportunely, the Queen got him into place. He uses the abbé even yet, for instilling all his notions into her mind. That he has imposing talents, and patriotic dispositions I think is certain. Good judges think him a theorist only, little acquainted with the details of business & spoiling all his plans by a bungled execution. He may perhaps undergo a severe trial. His best actions are exciting against him a host of enemies, particularly the reduction of the pensions & reforms in other branches of economy. Some think the ministers are willing he should stay in till he has effected this odious, yet necessary work, & that they will then make him the scape-goat of the transaction. The declarations too which I send you in my public letter, if they should become public, will probably raise an universal cry. It will all fall on him, because Montmorin & Breteuil say without reserve, that the sacrifice of the Dutch has been against their advice. He will perhaps not permit these declarations to appear in this country. They are absolutely unknown, they were communicated to me by the D. of Dorset, and I believe no other copy has been given here. They will be published, doubtless, in England, as a proof of their triumph, & may thence make their way into this country. If the premier can stem a few months, he may remain long in office & will never make war if he can help it. If he should be removed, the peace will probably be short. He is solely chargeable with the loss of Holland. True they could not have raised money by taxes to supply the necessities of war; but could they do it were their finances ever so well arranged? No nation makes war now-a-days but by the aid of loans: and it is probable that in a war for the liberties of Holland, all the treasures of that country would have been at their service. They have now lost the cow which furnishes the milk of war. She will be on the side of their enemies, whenever a rupture shall take place: & no arrangement of their finances can countervail this circumstance.
I have no doubt, you permit access to the letters of your foreign ministers by persons only of the most perfect trust. It is in the European system to bribe the clerks high in order to obtain copies of interesting papers.—I am sure you are equally attentive to the conveyance of your letters to us, as you know that all are opened that pass thro’ any post office of Europe. Your letters which come by the packet, if put into the mail at New York, or into the post office at Havre, wear proofs that they have been opened. The passenger to whom they are confided, should be cautioned always to keep them in his own hands till he can deliver them personally in Paris.
TO WILLIAM STEPHENS SMITH
Paris. Nov 13, 1787.
—I am now to acknoledge the receipt of your favors of October the 4th, 8th, & 26th. In the last you apologise for your letters of introduction to Americans coming here. It is so far from needing apology on your part, that it calls for thanks on mine. I endeavor to shew civilities to all the Americans who come here, & will give me opportunities of doing it: and it is a matter of comfort to know from a good quarter what they are, & how far I may go in my attentions to them. Can you send me Woodmason’s bills for the two copying presses for the M. de la Fayette, & the M. de Chastellux? The latter makes one article in a considerable account, of old standing, and which I cannot present for want of this article.—I do not know whether it is to yourself or Mr. Adams I am to give my thanks for the copy of the new constitution. I beg leave through you to place them where due. It will be yet three weeks before I shall receive them from America. There are very good articles in it: & very bad. I do not know which preponderate. What we have lately read in the history of Holland, in the chapter on the Stadtholder, would have sufficed to set me against a chief magistrate eligible for a long duration, if I had ever been disposed towards one: & what we have always read of the elections of Polish kings should have forever excluded the idea of one continuable for life. Wonderful is the effect of impudent & persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, & what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen-yard in order. I hope in God this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted.—You ask me if any thing transpires here on the subject of S. America? Not a word. I know that there are combustible materials there, and that they wait the torch only. But this country probably will join the extinguishers.—The want of facts worth communicating to you has occasioned me to give a little loose to dissertation. We must be contented to amuse, when we cannot inform.
TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL
Paris Dec. 15, 1787.
—I am later in acknoledging the receipt of your favors of Oct. 15, Nov. 5 & 15, because we have been long expecting a packet which I hoped would bring communications worth detailing to you, and she arrived only a few days ago, after a very long passage indeed. I am very sorry you have not been able to make out the cypher of my letter of Sept. 25, because it contained things which I wished you to know at that time. They have lost now a part of their merit; but still I wish you could decypher them, there remains a part which it might still be agreeable to you to understand. I have examined the cypher, from which it was written. It is precisely a copy of those given to Messieurs Barclay & Lamb. In order that you may examine whether yours corresponds I will now translate into cypher the three first lines of my letter of June 14.
1420. 1250. 1194. 1307. 1531. 458. 48. 1200. 134. 1140. 1469. 519. 563. 1129. 1057. 1201. 1199. 1531. 1571. 1040. 870. 423. 1001. 855. 521. 1173. 917. 1559. 505. 1196. 51. 1152. 698. 141. 1569. 996. 861. 804. 1337. 1199.
This will serve to show whether your cypher corresponds with mine, as well as my manner of using it. But I shall not use it in future till I know from you the result of your re-examination of it. I have the honor now to return you the letter you had been so good as to enclose to me. About the same time of Liston’s conversation with you, similar ones were held with me by Mr. Eden. He particularly questioned me on the effect of our treaty with France in the case of a war, and what might be our dispositions. I told him without hesitation that our treaty obliged us to receive the armed vessels of France with their prizes into our ports, & to refuse admission to the prizes made on her by her enemies: that there was a clause by which we guaranteed to France her American possessions, and which might perhaps force us into the war if these were attacked. “And it is certain, said he, that they would have been attacked.” I added that our dispositions would have been to be neutral, & that I thought it the interest of both those powers that we should be so, because it would relieve both from all anxiety as to the feeding their West Indian islands, and England would moreover avoid a heavy land war on our continent which would cripple all her proceedings elsewhere. He expected these sentiments from me personally, and he knew them to be analogous to those of our country. We had often before had occasions of knowing each other: his peculiar bitterness towards us had sufficiently appeared, & I had never concealed from him that I considered the British as our natural enemies, and as the only nation on earth who wished us ill from the bottom of their souls. And I am satisfied that were our continent to be swallowed up by the ocean, Great Britain would be in a bonfire from one end to the other. Mr. Adams, as you know, has asked his recall. This has been granted, & Colonel Smith is to return too; Congress having determined to put an end to their commission at that court. I suspect, and hope they will make no new appointment.
Our new constitution is powerfully attacked in the American newspapers. The objections are, that its effect would be to form the 13 states into one; that proposing to melt all down into one general government they have fenced the people by no declaration of right, they have not renounced the power of keeping a standing army, they have not secured the liberty of the press, they have reserved a power of abolishing trials by jury in civil cases, they have proposed that the laws of the federal legislature shall be paramount the laws & constitutions of the states, they have abandoned rotation in office; & particularly their president may be re-elected from 4. years to 4 years for life, so as to render him a king for life, like a King of Poland, & have not given him either the check or aid of a council. To these they add calculations of expense &c. &c. to frighten people. You will perceive that these objections are serious, and some of them not without foundation. The constitution however has been received with a very general enthusiasm, and as far as can be judged from external demonstrations the bulk of the people are eager to adopt it. In the eastern states the printers will print nothing against it unless the writer subscribes his name. Massachusetts & Connecticut have called conventions in January to consider of it. In New York there is a division. The Governor (Clinton) is known to be hostile to it. Jersey it is thought will certainly accept it. Pennsylvania is divided, & all the bitterness of her factions has been kindled anew on it. But the party in favor of it is strongest both in & out of the legislature. This is the party antiently of Morris, Wilson &c. Delaware will do what Pennsylvania shall do. Maryland is thought favorable to it: yet it is supposed Chase & Paca will oppose it. As to Virginia two of her delegates in the first place refused to sign it. These were Randolph, the governor, & George Mason. Besides these, Henry, Harrison, Nelson, & the Lees are against it. Genl. Washington will be for it, but it is not in his character to exert himself much in the case. Madison will be it’s main pillar; but tho an immensely popular one, it is questionable whether he can bear the weight of such a host. So that the presumption is that Virginia will reject it. We know nothing of the disposition of the states South of this. Should it fall thro’, as is possible notwithstanding the enthusiasm with which it was received in the first moment, it is probable that Congress will propose that the objections which the people shall make to it being once known, another Convention shall be assembled to adopt the improvements generally acceptable, & omit those found disagreeable. In this way union may be produced under a happy constitution, and one which shall not be too energetic, as are the constitutions of Europe. I give you these details, because possibly you may not have received them all. The sale of our Western lands is immensely successful. 5. millions of acres had been sold at private sale for a dollar an acre in certificates, and at the public sales some of them had sold as high as 2 dollars the acre. The sale had not been begun two months. By these means, taxes, &c. our domestic debt, originally 28. millions of dollars was reduced by the 1st day of last October to 12. millions & they were then in treaty for 2. millions of acres more at a dollar private sale. Our domestic debt will thus be soon paid off, and that done, the sales will go on for money, at a cheaper rate no doubt, for the payment of our foreign debt. The petite guerre always waged by the Indian seems not to abate the ardor of purchase or emigration. Kentucky is now counted at 60.000. Frankland is also growing fast.
I inclose you a letter from Mr. Littlepage on the subject of money he owes you. The best thing you can do, I think, will be to desire your banker at Madrid to give orders to his correspondent here to receive the money and remit it to you. I shall chearfully lend my instrumentality as far as it can be useful to you. If any sum of money is delivered me for you before you write on the subject I shall place it in Mr. Grand’s hands subject to your order, & give you notice of it.—No money-news yet from our board of treasury.
You ask me if there is any French translation of my notes? There is one by the Abbé Morellet: but the whole order is changed and other differences made, which, with numerous typographical errors, render it a different book, in some respects perhaps a better one, but not mine. I am flattered by the Count de Campomane’s acceptance of the original. I wish I had thought to have sent one to Don Ulloa (for I suppose him to be living, tho’ I have not heard of him lately,) a person so well acquainted with the Southern part of our world, & who has given such excellent information on it, would perhaps be willing to know something of the Northern part.
I have been told that the cutting thro’ the isthmus of Panama, which the world has so often wished & supposed practicable, has at times been thought of by the government of Spain, & that they once proceeded so far as to have a survey & examination made of the ground; but that the result was either impracticability or too great difficulty. Probably the Count de Campomanes or Don Ulloa can give you information on this head. I should be exceedingly pleased to get as minute details as possible on it, and even copies of the survey, report, &c., if they could be obtained at a moderate expense. I take the liberty of asking your assistance in this.
TO JAMES MADISON1
Paris Dec. 20, 1787.
—My last to you was of Oct. 8 by the Count de Moustier. Yours of July 18. Sep. 6. & Oct. 24. have been successively received, yesterday, the day before & three or four days before that. I have only had time to read the letters, the printed papers communicated with them, however interesting, being obliged to lie over till I finish my dispatches for the packet, which dispatches must go from hence the day after tomorrow. I have much to thank you for. First and most for the cyphered paragraph respecting myself. These little informations are very material towards forming my own decisions. I would be glad even to know when any individual member thinks I have gone wrong in any instance. If I know myself it would not excite ill blood in me, while it would assist to guide my conduct, perhaps to justify it, and to keep me to my duty, alert. I must thank you too for the information in Thos. Burke’s case, tho’ you will have found by a subsequent letter that I have asked of you a further investigation of that matter. It is to gratify the lady who is at the head of the Convent wherein my daughters are, & who, by her attachment & attention to them, lays me under great obligations. I shall hope therefore still to receive from you the result of the further enquiries my second letter had asked.—The parcel of rice which you informed me had miscarried accompanied my letter to the Delegates of S. Carolina. Mr. Bourgoin was to be the bearer of both & both were delivered together into the hands of his relation here who introduced him to me, and who at a subsequent moment undertook to convey them to Mr. Bourgoin. This person was an engraver particularly recommended to Dr. Franklin & Mr. Hopkinson. Perhaps he may have mislaid the little parcel of rice among his baggage.—I am much pleased that the sale of Western lands is so successful. I hope they will absorb all the Certificates of our Domestic debt speedily, in the first place, and that then offered for cash they will do the same by our foreign one.
The season admitting only of operations in the Cabinet, and these being in a great measure secret, I have little to fill a letter. I will therefore make up the deficiency by adding a few words on the Constitution proposed by our Convention. I like much the general idea of framing a government which should go on of itself peaceably, without needing continual recurrence to the state legislatures. I like the organization of the government into Legislative, Judiciary & Executive. I like the power given the Legislature to levy taxes, and for that reason solely approve of the greater house being chosen by the people directly. For tho’ I think a house chosen by them will be very illy qualified to legislate for the Union, for foreign nations &c. yet this evil does not weigh against the good of preserving inviolate the fundamental principle that the people are not to be taxed but by representatives chosen immediately by themselves. I am captivated by the compromise of the opposite claims of the great & little states, of the latter to equal, and the former to proportional influence. I am much pleased too with the substitution of the method of voting by persons, instead of that of voting by states: and I like the negative given to the Executive with a third of either house, though I should have liked it better had the Judiciary been associated for that purpose, or invested with a similar and separate power. There are other good things of less moment. I will now add what I do not like. First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly & without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal & unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land & not by the law of nations. To say, as Mr. Wilson does that a bill of rights was not necessary because all is reserved in the case of the general government which is not given, while in the particular ones all is given which is not reserved, might do for the audience to whom it was addressed, but is surely a gratis dictum, opposed by strong inferences from the body of the instrument, as well as from the omission of the clause of our present confederation which had declared that in express terms. It was a hard conclusion to say because there has been no uniformity among the states as to the cases triable by jury, because some have been so incautious as to abandon this mode of trial, therefore the more prudent states shall be reduced to the same level of calamity. It would have been much more just & wise to have concluded the other way that as most of the states had judiciously preserved this palladium, those who had wandered should be brought back to it, and to have established general right instead of general wrong. Let me add that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, & what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences. The second feature I dislike, and greatly dislike, is the abandonment in every instance of the necessity of rotation in office, and most particularly in the case of the President. Experience concurs with reason in concluding that the first magistrate will always be re-elected if the Constitution permits it. He is then an officer for life. This once observed, it becomes of so much consequence to certain nations to have a friend or a foe at the head of our affairs that they will interfere with money & with arms. A Galloman or an Angloman will be supported by the nation he befriends. If once elected, and at a second or third election out voted by one or two votes, he will pretend false votes, foul play, hold possession of the reins of government, be supported by the States voting for him, especially if they are the central ones lying in a compact body themselves & separating their opponents: and they will be aided by one nation of Europe, while the majority are aided by another. The election of a President of America some years hence will be much more interesting to certain nations of Europe than ever the election of a king of Poland was. Reflect on all the instances in history antient & modern, of elective monarchies, and say if they do not give foundation for my fears. The Roman emperors, the popes, while they were of any importance, the German emperors till they became hereditary in practice, the kings of Poland, the Deys of the Ottoman dependances. It may be said that if elections are to be attended with these disorders, the seldomer they are renewed the better. But experience shews that the only way to prevent disorder is to render them uninteresting by frequent changes. An incapacity to be elected a second time would have been the only effectual preventative. The power of removing him every fourth year by the vote of the people is a power which will not be exercised. The king of Poland is removeable every day by the Diet, yet he is never removed.—Smaller objections are the Appeal in fact as well as law, and the binding all persons Legislative Executive & Judiciary by oath to maintain that constitution. I do not pretend to decide what would be the best method of procuring the establishment of the manifold good things in this constitution, and of getting rid of the bad. Whether by adopting it in hopes of future amendment, or, after it has been duly weighed & canvassed by the people, after seeing the parts they generally dislike, & those they generally approve, to say to them ‘We see now what you wish. Send together your deputies again, let them frame a constitution for you omitting what you have condemned, & establishing the powers you approve. Even these will be a great addition to the energy of your government.’—At all events I hope you will not be discouraged from other trials, if the present one should fail of its full effect.—I have thus told you freely what I like & dislike: merely as a matter of curiosity, for I know your own judgment has been formed on all these points after having heard everything which could be urged on them. I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. The late rebellion in Massachusetts has given more alarm than I think it should have done. Calculate that one rebellion in 13 states in the course of 11 years, is but one for each state in a century & a half. No country should be so long without one. Nor will any degree of power in the hands of government prevent insurrections. France, with all it’s despotism, and two or three hundred thousand men always in arms has had three insurrections in the three years I have been here in every one of which greater numbers were engaged than in Massachusetts & a great deal more blood was spilt. In Turkey, which Montesquieu supposes more despotic, insurrections are the events of every day. In England, where the hand of power is lighter than here, but heavier than with us they happen every half dozen years. Compare again the ferocious depredations of their insurgents with the order, the moderation & the almost self extinguishment of ours. —After all, it is my principle that the will of the majority should always prevail. If they approve the proposed Convention in all it’s parts, I shall concur in it chearfully, in hopes that they will amend it whenever they shall find it work wrong. I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe. Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty. I have tired you by this time with my disquisitions & will therefore only add assurances of the sincerity of those sentiments of esteem & attachment with which I am Dear Sir your affectionate friend & servant
P. S. The instability of our laws is really an immense evil. I think it would be well to provide in our constitutions that there shall always be a twelvemonth between the ingrossing a bill & passing it: that it should then be offered to it’s passage without changing a word: and that if circumstances should be thought to require a speedier passage, it should take two thirds of both houses instead of a bare majority.
TO EDWARD CARRINGTON
Paris, Dec. 21, 1787.
—I have just received your two favors of October 23 and that of Nov. 10. I am much obliged to you for your hints in the Danish business. They are the only information I have on that subject except the resolution of Congress, & warn me of a rock on which I should most certainly have split. The vote plainly points out an Agent, only leaving it to my discretion to substitute another. My judgment concurs with that of Congress as to his fitness. But I shall enquire for the surest banker at Copenhagen to receive the money, not because I should have had any doubts, but because I am informed others would have had them. Against the failure of a banker, were such an accident or any similar one to happen, I cannot be held accountable in a case where I act without particular interest. My principal idea in proposing the transfer of the French debt was to obtain in the new loans a much longer day for the reimbursement of the principal, hoping that the resources of the U. S. could have been equal to the article of interest alone. But I shall endeavor to quiet, as well as I can, those interested. A part of them will probably sell at any rate: and one great claimant may be expected to make a bitter attack on our honor. I am very much pleased to hear that our Western lands sell so successfully. I turn to this precious resource as that which will in every event liberate us from our Domestic debt, and perhaps too from our foreign one: and this much sooner than I had expected. I do not think any thing could have been done with them in Europe. Individual speculators & sharpers had duped so many with their unlocated land warrants that every offer would have been suspected. As to the new Constitution I find myself nearly a Neutral. There is a great mass of good in it, in a very desirable form: but there is also to me a bitter pill or two. I have written somewhat lengthily to Mr. Madison on this subject and will take the liberty to refer you to that part of my letter to him. I will add one question to what I have said there. Would it not have been better to assign to Congress exclusively the article of imposts for federal purposes, & to have left direct taxation exclusively to the states? I should suppose the former fund sufficient for all probable events, aided by the land office.
The form which the affairs of Europe may assume is not yet decypherable by those out of the Cabinet. The Emperor gives himself at present the air of a Mediator. This is necessary to justify a breach with the Porte. He has his eye at the same time on Germany, and particularly on Bavaria, the elector of which has for a long time been hanging over the grave. Probably France would now consent to the exchange of the Austrian Netherlands to be created into a kingdom for the Duke de Deuxponts against the electorate of Bavaria. This will require a war. The Empress longs for Turkey; & viewing France as her principal obstacle would gladly negotiate her acquiescence. To spur on this she is coquetting it with England. The king of Prussia too is playing a double game between France & England. But I suppose the former incapable of forgiving him or of ever reposing confidence in him. Perhaps the spring may unfold to us the final arrangement which will take place among the powers of this continent.
I often doubt whether I should trouble Congress or my friends with these details of European politicks. I know they do not excite that interest in America of which it is impossible for one to divest himself here. I know too that it is a maxim with us, and I think it a wise one, not to entangle ourselves with the affairs of Europe. Still, I think, we should know them. The Turks have practiced the same maxim of not medling in the complicated wrangles of this continent. But they have unwisely chosen to be ignorant of them also, and it is this total ignorance of Europe, it’s combinations & it’s movements which exposes them to that annihilation possibly about taking place. While there are powers in Europe which fear our views, or have views on us, we should keep an eye on them, their connections & oppositions, that in a moment of need we may avail ourselves of their weakness with respect to others as well as ourselves, and calculate their designs & movements on all the circumstances under which they exist. Tho’ I am persuaded therefore that these details are read by many with great indifference, yet I think it my duty to enter into them, and to run the risk of giving too much, rather than too little information. I have the honour to be with perfect esteem & respect, Dear Sir, your most obedient & most humble servant.
P. S. The resolution of Congress relative to the prize money received here speaks of that money as paid to me. I hope this matter is properly understood. The treasury board desired me to receive it, and apply it to such & such federal purposes; & that they would pay the dividends of the claimants in America. This would save the expense of remittance. I declined however receiving the money, & ordered it into the hands of their banker, who paid it away for the purposes to which they had destined it. I should be sorry, an idea should get abroad that I had received the money of these poor fellows & applied it to other purposes. I shall in like manner order the Danish & Barbary money into the hands of bankers, carefully avoiding ever to touch a sou of it, or having any other account to make out than what the banker will furnish.
TO COLONEL FORREST
Paris, Dec. 31. 1787.
—Just before I received your favor asking my opinion of our new proposed constitution, I had written my sentiments on the subject fully to my friend Mr. Madison, they concurred so exactly with yours that the communication of them could answer no end but that of showing my readiness to obey you. I therefore extracted that part from my letter to him, & have reserved it for a good private conveiance which has never offered till now by Mr. Parker. Tho I pretend to make no mystery of my opinion, yet my distance from the scene gives me too much diffidence in my views of it to detail them lengthily & publicly. This diffidence is increased by my high opinion of the abilities & honesty of the framers of the Constitution, yet we cannot help thinking for ourselves. I suppose I see much precious improvement in it, but some seeds of danger which might have been kept out of sight of the framers by a consciousness of their own honesty & a presumption that all succeeding rulers would be as honest as themselves. Make what use you please of the contents of the paper, but without quoting its author, who has no pretentions to see what is hidden from others.
[1 ]See letter of Apr. 19, 1786, ante, page 88.
[1 ]See ante, page 150.
[1 ]In this letter, Jefferson employs a cipher of the same kind (numerals) as that already used in his previous letters to Madison, but changed entirely in its detail. A third change was later made, to which attention will be called in the proper place.
[1 ]From S. N. Randolph’s Domestic Life of T. Jefferson, 115.
[1 ]From S. N. Randolph’s Domestic Life of T. Jefferson, 118.
[1 ]From S. N. Randolph’s Domestic Life of T. Jefferson, 120.
[1 ]From S. N. Randolph’s Domestic Life of T. Jefferson, 122.
[1 ]Memoires presentées à l’Assemblée des Notables, pa. 53.
[1 ]Memoires presentées ex. pa. 51, 52.
[1 ]From the original in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
[1 ]From S. N. Randolph’s Domestic Life of T. Jefferson, 130.
[1 ]His nephew.
[1 ]Jefferson meant Apennines.
[1 ]Parts in italic are in cipher in original.
[1 ]Parts in italic are in cipher in original.
[1 ]A comparison of the present text of this letter, with the often quoted version printed in the Washington edition, illustrates the extreme liberties frequently taken by Jefferson’s former editor.