Front Page Titles (by Subject) CORRESPONDENCE AND MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 1788 - The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789)
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CORRESPONDENCE AND MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 1788 - 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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CORRESPONDENCE AND MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS
TO THE COMTE DE GRASSE
Paris, Janvier 19th, 1788.
Monsieur le Comte,
—Par les reglements de l’institution des Cincinnati je crois que ce soit les generaux Français qui ont servi en Amerique qui peuvent seuls donn l’ordre: c’est a dire M. le Comte d’Estaing, M. le Comte de Rochambeau, M. le Marquis de la Fayette. C’est aussi de mon devoir d’observer que le Congrés ayant toujours gardé soigneusement la silence sur cette ordre leurs ministres n’oseroient pas de s’y meler. J’aurois eté charmé, Monsieur, si j’aurois pu—vous etre utile dans cette occasion mais ce n’est pas le cas ou on peut s’adresser au Congrés, agreer donc je vous en prie mes regrets, et les assurances de l’estime et d’attachement avec lesquelles j’as l’honeur d’etre.
Monsieur le Comte votre tres humble et tres obeissant Servieteur.
TO WILLIAM STEPHENS SMITH
Paris Feb. 2, 1788.
— * * * With respect to Mr. Adams’s picture I must again press it to be done by Brown,1 because Trumbul does not paint of the size of the life & could not be asked to hazard himself on it. I have sent to Florence for those of Columbus (if it exists) of Americus Vesputius, Magellan &c., and I must not be disappointed of Mr. Adams’s when done. Mr. Trumbul will receive & forward it to me. Be so good also as to let me know who undertook the Map of S. America, & even to get from him some acknowledgment in writing, of what he is to do. I am glad to learn by letters which come down to the 20th of December that the new Constitution will undoubtedly be received by a sufficiency of the States to set it a going. Were I in America, I would advocate it warmly till nine should have adopted & then as warmly take the other side to convince the remaining four that they ought not to come into it till the declaration of rights is annexed to it. By this means we should secure all the good of it, & procure so respectable an opposition as would induce the accepting states to offer a bill of rights. This would be the happiest turn the thing could take. I fear much the effects of the perpetual re-eligibility of the President. But it is not thought of in America, & have therefore no prospect of a change of that article. But I own it astonishes me to find such a change wrought in the opinions of our countrymen since I left them, as that three fourths of them should be contented to live under a system which leaves to their governors the power of taking from them the trial by jury in civil cases, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce, the habeas corpus laws, & of yoking them with a standing army. This is a degeneracy in the principles of liberty to which I had given four centuries instead of four years. But I hope it will all come about. We are now vibrating between too much and too little government, & the pendulum will rest finally in the middle. Adieu, yours affectionately.
TO WILLIAM RUTLEDGE
Paris, Feb. 2, 1788.
—I should sooner have answered your favor of Jan. 2. but that we have expected for some time to see you here. I beg you not to think of the trifle I furnished you with, nor to propose to return it till you shall have that sum more than you know what to do with. And on every other occasion of difficulty I hope you will make use of me freely. I presume you will now remain at London to see the trial of Hastings. Without suffering yourself to be imposed on by the pomp in which it will be inveloped, I would recommend to you to consider & decide for yourself these questions: If his offence is to be decided by the law of the land, why is he not tried in that court in which his fellow citizens are tried, i. e., the king’s bench? If he is cited before another court that he may be judged, not according to the law of the land, but by the discretion of his judges, is he not disfranchised of his most precious right, the benefit of the laws of his country in common with his other fellow citizens? I think you will find on investigating this subject that every solid argument is against the extraordinary court, & that every one in it’s favor is specious only. It is a transfer from a judicature of learning & integrity to one, the greatness of which is both illiterate & unprincipled. Yet such is the force of prejudice with some, & of the want of reflection in others, that many of our constitutions have copied this absurdity without suspecting it to be one. I am glad to hear that our new constitution is pretty sure of being accepted by states enough to secure the good it contains, & to meet such opposition in some others as to give us hopes it will be accommodated to them by the amendment of it’s most glaring faults, particularly the want of a declaration of rights.—The long expected edict for the protestants at length appears here. It’s analysis is this. It is an acknoledgment (hitherto withheld by the laws) that protestants can beget children and that they can die & be offensive unless buried. It does not give them permission to think, to speak, or to worship. It enumerates the humiliations to which they shall remain subject, & the burthens to which they shall continue to be unjustly exposed. What are we to think of the condition of the human mind in a country where such a wretched thing as this has thrown the state into convulsions, and how must we bless our own situation in a country the most illiterate peasant of which is a Solon compared with the authors of this law. There is modesty often which does itself injury. Our countrymen possess this. They do not know their own superiority. You see it; you are young, you have time & talents to correct them. Study the subject while in Europe in all the instances which will present themselves to you, and profit your countrymen of them by making them to know & value themselves.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris Feb. 6. 1788.
— * * * I am glad to hear that the New Constitution is received with favor. I sincerely wish that the 9 first conventions may receive & the 4 last reject it. The former will receive it finally, while the latter will oblige them to offer a declaration of rights in order to complete the union. We shall thus have all it’s good, and cure it’s principal defect. You will of course be so good as to continue to mark to me it’s progress. I will thank you also for as exact a data as you can procure me of the impression made on the sum of our domestic debt by the sale of lands, & by federal & state exertions in any other manner. I have not yet heard whether the law passed in Virginia for prohibiting the importn. of brandies. If it did, the late Arret for encouraging our commerce will be repealed. The Minister will be glad of such a pretext for pacifying the opposition.1 * * *
TO JEAN PIERRE BRISSOT DE WARVILLE
Paris, Feb. 11. 1788.
—I am very sensible of the honour you propose to me of becoming a member of the society for the abolition of the slave trade. You know that nobody wishes more ardently to see an abolition not only of the trade but of the condition of slavery: and certainly nobody will be more willing to encounter every sacrifice for that object. But the influence & information of the friends to this proposition in France will be far above the need of my association. I am here as a public servant; and those whom I serve having never yet been able to give their voice against this practice, it is decent for me to avoid too public a demonstration of my wishes to see it abolished. Without serving the cause here, it might render me less able to serve it beyond the water. I trust you will be sensible of the prudence of those motives therefore which govern my conduct on this occasion, & be assured of my wishes for the success of your undertaking, and the sentiments of esteem & respect with which I have the honour to be Sir your most obedt. humble servt.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON
Paris May 2, 1788.
—I am honoured with your Excellency’s letter by the last packet & thank you for the information it contains on the communication between the Cayahoga & Big beaver. I have ever considered the opening a canal between those two water courses as the most important work in that line which the state of Virginia could undertake. It will infallibly turn thro’ the Patowmack all the commerce of Lake Erie & the country West of that, except what may pass down the Mississippi, and it is important that it be soon done, lest that commerce should in the mean time get established in another channel. Having in the spring of last year taken a journey through the Southern parts of France, & particularly examined the canal of Languedoc through its whole course, I take the liberty of sending you the notes I made on the spot, as you may find in them something perhaps which may be turned to account some time or other in the prosecution of the Patowmack canal. Being merely a copy from my travelling notes they are undigested & imperfect, but may still perhaps give hints capable of improvement in your mind. * * *
I had intended to have written a word to your Excellency on the subject of the new constitution, but I have already spun out my letter to an immoderate length. I will just observe therefore that according to my ideas there is a great deal of good in it. There are two things however which I dislike strongly. 1. The want of a declaration of rights. I am in hopes the opposition of Virginia will remedy this, & produce such a declaration. 2. The perpetual re-eligibility of the President. This I fear will make an office for life first, & then hereditary. I was much an enemy to monarchy before I came to Europe. I am ten thousand times more so since I have seen what they are. There is scarcely an evil known in these countries which may not be traced to their king as it’s source, nor a good which is not derived from the small fibres of republicanism existing among them. I can further say with safety there is not a crowned head in Europe whose talents or merits would entitle him to be elected a vestryman by the people of any parish in America. However I shall hope that before there is danger of this change taking place in the office of President, the good sense & free spirit of our countrymen will make the changes necessary to prevent it. Under this hope I look forward to the general adoption of the new constitution with anxiety, as necessary for us under our present circumstances.
TO MRS. WILLIAM BINGHAM
Paris, May 11, 1788.
—A gentleman going to Philadelphia furnishes me the occasion of sending you some numbers of the Cabinet des Modes & some new theatrical pieces. These last have had great success on the stage, where they have excited perpetual applause. We have now need of something to make us laugh, for the topics of the times are sad and eventful. The gay and thoughtless Paris is now become a furnace of Politics. All the world is now politically mad. Men, women, children talk nothing else, & you know that naturally they talk much, loud & warm. Society is spoilt by it, at least for those who, like myself, are but lookers on.—You too have had your political fever. But our good ladies, I trust, have been too wise to wrinkle their foreheads with politics. They are contented to soothe & calm the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political debate. They have the good sense to value domestic happiness above all other, and the art to cultivate it beyond all others. There is no part of the earth where so much of this is enjoyed as in America. You agree with me in this; but you think that the pleasures of Paris more than supply its wants; in other words that a Parisian is happier than an American. You will change your opinion, my dear Madam, and come over to mine in the end. Recollect the women of this capital, some on foot, some on horses, & some in carriages hunting pleasure in the streets, in routs & assemblies, and forgetting that they have left it behind them in their nurseries; compare them with our own countrywomen occupied in the tender and tranquil amusements of domestic life, and confess that it is a comparison of Americans and Angels.—You will have known from the public papers that Monsieur de Buffon, the father, is dead & you have known long ago that the son and his wife are separated. They are pursuing pleasure in opposite directions. Madame de Rochambeau is well: so is Madame de la Fayette. I recollect no other Nouvelles de societé interesting to you. And as for political news of battles & sieges, Turks & Russians, I will not detail them to you, because you would be less handsome after reading them. I have only to add then, what I take a pleasure in repeating, tho’ it will be the thousandth time that I have the honour to be with sentiments of very sincere respect & attachment, dear Madam, your most obedient & most humble servant.
TO THE COMTE DE MOUSTIER
Paris May 17, 1788.
—I have at length an opportunity of acknoledging the receipt of your favors of Feb. & Mar 14., and of congratulating you on your resurrection from the dead among whom you had been confidently entombed by the newsdealers of Paris. I am sorry that your first impressions have been disturbed by matters of etiquette, where surely they should least have been expected to occur. These disputes are the most insusceptible of determination, because they have no foundation in reason. Arbitrary & senseless in their nature, they are arbitrarily decided by every nation for itself. These decisions are meant to prevent disputes, but they produce ten where they prevent one. It would have been better therefore in a new country to have excluded etiquette altogether; or, if it must be admitted in some form or other, to have made it depend on some circumstance founded in nature, such as the age or stature of the parties. However you have got over all this, and I am in hopes have been able to make up a society suited to your own dispositions. Your situation will doubtless be improved by the adoption of the new constitution, which I hope will have taken place before you receive this. I see in this instrument a great deal of good. The consolidation of our government, a just representation, an administration of some permanence and other features of great value will be gained by it. There are indeed some faults which revolted me a good deal in the first moment; but we must be contented to travel on towards perfection, step by step. We must be contented with the ground which this constitution will gain for us, and hope that a favourable moment will come for correcting what is amiss in it. I view in the same light the innovations making here. The new organization of the judiciary department is undoubtedly for the better. The reformation of the criminal code is an immense step taken towards good. The composition of the Plenary court is indeed vicious in the extreme, but the basis of that court may be retained and it’s composition changed. Make of it a representative of the people, by composing it of members sent from the provincial assemblies, and it becomes a valuable member of the constitution. But it is said the court will not consent to do this. The court however has consented to call the States general, who will consider the plenary court but as a canvas for them to work on. The public mind is manifestly advancing on the abusive prerogatives of their governors, and bearing them down. No force in the government can withstand this in the long run. Courtiers had rather give up power than pleasures: they will barter therefore the usurped prerogatives of the king for the money of the people. This is the agent by which modern nations will recover their rights. I sincerely wish that in this country they may be contented with a peaceable & passive opposition. At this moment we are not sure of this, tho’ as yet it is difficult to say what form the opposition will take. It is a comfortable circumstance that their neighboring enemy is under the administration of a minister disposed to keep the peace. * * *
TO JAMES MADISON1
Paris, May 25. 1788.
—The inclosed letter for Mr. Jay being of a private nature, I have thought it better to put it under your cover lest it might be opened by some of his clerks in the case of his absence. But I inclose a press copy of it for yourself as you will perceive the subject of it referred to you as well as to him. I ask your aid in it so far as you think right, and to have done what you think right. If you will now be so good as to cast your eye over the copy inclosed, what follows the present sentence will be some details, supplementary to that only, necessary for your information, but not proper for me to state to Mr. Jay. Mr. Jay tho appointed a minister resident at the court of Madrid he never was received in that character. He was continually passing from Paris to Madrid and Madrid to Paris, so that he had no occasion to establish a household at either. Accordingly, he staid principally in furnished lodgings. Of all our ministers he had the least occasion for an outfit, and I suppose spent almost nothing on that article. He was of a disposition too to restrain himself within any limits of expence whatever, and it suited his recluse turn which is to avoid society. Should he judge of what others should do, by what he did, it would be an improper criterion. He was in Europe as a voyageur only, and it was while the salary was 500 guineas more than at present.
J. Adams. He came over when, instead of outfit & salary, all expences were paid. Of rigorous honesty, and careless of appearances he lived for a considerable time as an œconomical private individual. After he was fixed at the Hague and the salary at a sum certain, he continued his œconomical stile till out of the difference between his expences and his salary, he could purchase furniture for his house. This was the easier as the salary was at 2500 guineas then. He was obliged too to be passing between Paris and the Hague, so as to avoid any regular current of expence. When he established himself, his pecuniary affairs were under the direction of Mistress Adams, one of the most estimable characters on earth, and the most attentive & honourable œconomists. Neither had a wish to lay up a copper, but both wished to make both ends meet. I suspected however, from an expression dropped in conversation, that they were not able to do this, and that a deficit in their accounts appeared in their winding up. If this conjecture be true, it is a proof that the salary, so far from admitting savings, is unequal to a very plain stile of life, for such was theirs. I presume Congress will be asked to allow it, and it is evident to me, from what I saw while in London, that it ought to be done, as they did not expend a shilling which should have been avoided. Would it be more eligible to set the example of making good a deficit, or to give him an Outfit, which will cover it? The impossibility of living on the sum allowed, respectably, was the true cause of his insisting on his recall.
Doct. Franklin. He came over while all expences were paid. He rented a house with standing furniture, such as tables, chairs, presses &c. and bought all other necessaries. The latter were charged in his account, the former was included in the article of houserent and paid during the whole time of his stay here; and as the established rate of hire for furniture is from 30 to 40 per cent. per annum, the standing furniture must have been paid for three times over during the 8. years he stayed here. His salary too was 2500 guineas. When Congress reduced it to less than 2000. he refused to accede to it, asked his recall, and insisted that whenever they chose to alter the conditions on which he came out, if he did not approve of it, they ought to replace him in America on the old conditions. He lived plain, but as decently as his salary would allow. He saved nothing, but avoided debt. He knew he could not do this on the reduced salary & therefore asked his recall with decision.
To him I succeeded. He had established a certain stile of living. The same was expected from me and there were 500 guineas a year less to do it on. It has been aimed at however as far as was practicable. This rendered it constantly necessary to step neither to the right nor to the left to incur any expence which could possibly be avoided & it called for an almost womanly attention to the details of the household, equally perplexing, disgusting, & inconsistent with business. You will be sensible that in this situation no savings could be made for reimbursing the half year’s salary ordered to be advanced under the former commission & more than as much again which was unavoidably so applied, without order, for the purchase of the Outfit. The reason of the thing, the usage of all nations, the usage of our own by paying all expences of preceding ministers, which gave them the outfit as far as their circumstances appeared to them to render it necessary, have made me take for granted all along that it would not be refused to me; nor should I have mentioned it now but that the administration is passing into other hands, and more complicated forms. It would be disagreeable to me to be presented to them in the first instance as a suitor. Men come into business at first with visionary principles. It is practice alone which can correct & conform them to the actual current of affairs. In the meantime those to whom their errors were first applied have been their victims. The government may take up the project of appointing foreign ministers without outfits and they may ruin two or three individuals before they find that that article is just as indispensable as the salary. They must then fall into the current of general usage, which has become general only because experience has established it’s necessity.—Upon the whole, be so good as to reflect on it, and to do, not what your friendship to me, but your opinion of what is right will dictate. Accept, in all cases, assurances of the sincere esteem & respect with which I am Dear Sir your friend & servant.
TO JOHN BROWN
Paris May 26, 1788.
—It was with great pleasure I saw your name on the roll of Delegates, but I did not know you had actually come on to New York, till Mr. Paradise informed me of it. Your removal from Carolina to Kentuckey was not an indifferent event to me. I wish to see that country in the hands of people well disposed, who know the value of the connection between that & the Maritime states, and who wish to cultivate it. I consider their happiness as bound up together, and that every measure should be taken which may draw the bands of union tighter. It will be an efficacious one to receive them into Congress, as I perceive they are about to desire. If to this be added an honest & disinterested conduct in Congress as to everything relating to them we may hope for a perfect harmony. The navigation of the Mississippi was perhaps the strongest trial to which the justice of the federal government could be put. If ever they thought wrong about it, I trust they have got to rights. I should think it proper for the Western country to defer pushing their right to that navigation to extremity as long as they can do without it tolerably; but that the moment it becomes absolutely necessary for them, it will become the duty of the maritime states to push it to every extremity to which they would their own right of navigating the Chesapeake, the Delaware, the Hudson or any other water. A time of peace will not be the surest for obtaining this object. Those therefore who have influence in the new country would act wisely to endeavor to keep things quiet till the western parts of Europe shall be engaged in war. Notwithstanding the aversion of the courts of London & Versailles to war, it is not certain that some incident may not engage them in it. England, France, Spain, Russia, Sweden & Denmark will all have fleets at sea, or ready to put to sea immediately. Who can answer for the prudence of all their officers? War is their interest. Even their courts are pacific from impotence only, not from disposition. I wish to heaven that our new government may see the importance of putting themselves immediately into a respectable position. To make provision for the speedy paiment of their foreign debts will be the first operation necessary. This will give them credit. A concomitant one should be magazines & manufactures of arms. This country is at present in a crisis of very uncertain issue. I am in hopes it will be a favourable one to the rights & happiness of the people; and that this will take place quietly. Small changes in the late regulations will render them wholly good. The campaign opens between the Turks & the two empires with an aspect rather favourable to the former. The Russians seem not yet thawed from the winter’s torpitude. They have no army yet in motion, and the Emperor has been worsted in two-thirds of the small actions which they have had as yet. He is said to be rather retiring. I do not think however that the success of the Turks in the partisan affairs which have taken place, can authorize us to presume that they will be superior also in great decisions. Their want of discipline and skill in military manœuvres is of little consequence in small engagements & of great in larger ones. Their grand army was at Adrianople by the last accounts, and to get from thence to Belgrade will require a month. It will be that time at least then before we can have any very interesting news from them. In the meantime the plague rages at Constantinople to a terrible degree. I cannot think but that it would be desireable to all commercial nations to have that nation & all it’s dependencies driven from the sea-coast into the interior parts of Asia & Africa. What a field would thus be restored to commerce! The finest parts of the old world are now dead in a great degree, to commerce, to arts, to science, & to society. Greece, Syria, Egypt & the northern coast of Africa constituted the whole world almost for the Romans, and to us they are scarcely known, scarcely accessible at all. The present summer will enable us to judge what turn this contest will take.—I am greatly anxious to hear that nine states accept our new constitution. We must be contented to accept of it’s good, and to cure what is evil in it hereafter. It seems necessary for our happiness at home; I am sure it is so for our respectability abroad. I shall at all times be glad to hear from you, from New York, from Kentucky or whatever region of the earth you inhabit being with sentiments of very sincere esteem & attachment Dear Sir Your friend & servant.
TO EDWARD CARRINGTON
Paris, May 27, 1788.
—I have received with great pleasure your friendly letter of Apr. 24. It has come to hand after I had written my letters for the present conveiance, and just in time to add this to them. I learn with great pleasure the progress of the new Constitution. Indeed I have presumed it would gain on the public mind, as I confess it has on my own. At first, tho’ I saw that the great mass & ground work was good, I disliked many appendages. Reflection and discussion have cleared off most of these. You have satisfied me as to the query I had put to you about the right of direct taxation. My first wish was that 9 States would adopt it in order to ensure what was good in it, & that the others might, by holding off, produce the necessary amendments. But the plan of Massachusetts is far preferable, and will I hope be followed by those who are yet to decide. There are two amendments only which I am anxious for. 1. A bill of rights, which it is so much the interest of all to have, that I conceive it must be yielded. The 1st amendment proposed by Massachusetts will in some degree answer this end, but not so well. It will do too much in some instances & too little in others. It will cripple the federal government in some cases where it ought to be free, and not restrain it in some others where restraint would be right. The 2d amendment which appears to me essential is the restoring the principle of necessary rotation, particularly to the Senate & Presidency: but most of all to the last. Re-eligibility makes him an officer for life, and the disastors inseparable from an elective monarchy, render it preferable, if we cannot tread back that step, that we should go forward & take refuge in an hereditary one. Of the correction of this Article however I entertain no present hope, because I find it has scarcely excited an objection in America. And if it does not take place ere long, it assuredly never will. The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, & government to gain ground. As yet our spirits are free. Our jealousy is only put to sleep by the unlimited confidence we all repose in the person to whom we all look as our president. After him inferior characters may perhaps succeed and awaken us to the danger which his merit has led us into. For the present however, the general adoption is to be prayed for; and I wait with great anxiety for the news from Maryland & S. Carolina which have decided before this, and with that Virginia, now in session, may give the 9th vote of approbation. There could then be no doubt of N. Carolina, N. York, & New Hampshire, but what do you propose to do with Rhode island? As long as there is hope, we should give her time. I cannot conceive but that she will come to rights in the long run. Force, in whatever form, would be a dangerous precedent.
There are rumours that the Austrian army is obliged to retire a little; that the Spanish squadron is gone to South America; that the English have excited a rebellion there, and some others equally unauthorized. I do not mention them in my letter to Mr. Jay, because they are unauthenticated. The bankruptcies in London have recommenced with new force. There is no saying where this fire will end. Perhaps in the general conflagration of all their paper. If not now, it must ere long. With only 20 millions of coin, & three or four hundred million of circulating paper, public & private, nothing is necessary but a general panic, produced either by failure, invasion or any other cause, and the whole residuary fabric vanishes into air & shews that paper is poverty, that it is only the ghost of money, & not money itself. 100 years ago they had 20. odd millions of coin. Since that they have brought in from Holland by borrowing 40. millions more. Yet they have but 20 millions left, and they talk of being rich and of having the balance of trade in their favor. Paul Jones is invited into the Empress’s service with the rank of rear-admiral, & to have a separate command. I wish it corresponded with the views of Congress to give him that rank from the taking of the Serapis. I look to this officer as our great future dependence on the sea, where alone we should think of ever having a force. He is young enough to see the day when we shall be more populous than the whole British dominions and able to fight them ship to ship. We should procure him then every possible opportunity of acquiring experience.
TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL1
Paris, June 3, 1788.
— * * * With respect to the isthmus of Panama I am assured by Burgoyne (who would not chuse to be named however) that a survey was made, that a canal appeared very practicable, and that the idea was suppressed for political reasons altogether. He has seen & minutely examined the report. This report is to me a vast desideratum for reasons political & philosophical. I cannot help suspecting the Spanish squadron to be gone to S. America, and that some disturbances have been excited there by the British. The court of Madrid may suppose we would not see this with an unwilling eye. This may be true as to the uninformed part of our people: but those who look into futurity farther than the present moment or age, and who combine well what is, with what is to be, must see that our interests, well understood, & our wishes are that Spain shall (not forever, but) very long retain her possessions in that quarter. And that her views & ours must, in a good degree, & for a long time, concur. It is said in our gazettes that the Spaniards have sunk one of our boats on the Mississippi, and that our people retaliated on one of theirs. But my letters not mentioning this fact have made me hope it is not true, in which hope your letter confirms me. There are now 100,000 inhabitants at Kentucky. They have accepted the offer of independence on the terms proposed by Virginia and they have decided that their independent government shall begin on the 1st. day of the next year. In the meantime they claim admittance into Congress. Georgia has ceded her western territory to the U. S. to take place with the commencement of the new federal government. I do not know the boundaries. There has been some dispute of etiquette with the new French Minister which has disgusted him. The following is a state of the progress and prospect of the new plan of government. The Conventions of 6. states have accepted it, to wit,
The other Conventions were to meet as follows.
13. Rhode island referred the question to their people. About one third of these gave their votes, & of these there were about nine tenths against accepting the Constitution.
In Maryland there was respectable opposition: yet it is thought they will accept. In S. Carolina there is scarcely any opposition. In Virginia the opposition is very formidable. Yet on the whole it is thought to have lessened and that that State will accede. New York is perhaps more doubtful: but if the 9. preceding states should have adopted it, this will surely induce her to do it. The New Hampshire convention met. Many of the Delegates came instructed & determined to vote against it. The discussions brought them over to the side of the Constitution. But they could not vote against their instructions. They therefore asked an adjournment that they might go back to their constituents and ask a repeal of their instructions. Little doubt is entertained that they will accede. The conduct of Massachusetts has been noble. She accepted the constitution, but voted that it should stand as a perpetual instruction to their delegates to endeavor to obtain such & such reformations; and the minority, tho’ very strong both in numbers & abilities, declared viritim & seriatim, that acknowleging the principle that the majority must give the law, they would now support the new constitution with their tongues & with their blood if necessary. I was much pleased with many & essential parts of this instrument from the beginning. But I thought I saw in it many faults, great & small. What I have read & reflected has brought me over from several of my objections of the first moment, and to acquiesce under some others. Two only remain, of essential consideration, to wit, the want of a bill of rights, & the expunging the principle of necessary rotation in the offices of President & Senate. At first I wished that when 9. states should have accepted the constitution, so as to ensure us what is good in it, the other 4. might hold off till the want of the bill of rights at least might be supplied. But I am now convinced that the plan of Massachusetts is the best. That is, to accept, and to amend afterwards. If the states which were to decide after her should all do the same, it is impossible but they must obtain the essential amendments. It will be more difficult if we lose this instrument, to recover what is good in it, than to correct what is bad after we shall have adopted it. It has therefore my hearty prayers, and I wait with anxiety for news of the votes of Maryland, S. Carolina, & Virginia. There is no doubt that Genl. Washington will accept the presidentship, tho’ he is silent on the subject. He will not be chosen to the Virginia convention. A riot has taken place in New York which I will state to you from an eye witness. It has long been a practice with the Surgeons of that city to steal from the grave, bodies recently buried. A citizen had lost his wife. He went the 1st or 2d evening after her burial, to pay a visit to her grave. He found that it had been disturbed and suspected from what quarter. He found means to be admitted to the anatomical lecture of that day, and on his entering the room saw the body of his wife, naked & under dissection. He raised the people immediately. The body in the mean time was secreted. They entered into & searched the houses of the physicians whom they most suspected, but found nothing. One of them however, more guilty or more timid than the rest, took asylum in the Prison. The mob considered this as an acknolegement of guilt. They attacked the prison. The governor ordered militia to protect the culprit & suppress the Mob. The Militia, thinking the mob had just provocation, refused to turn out. Hereupon the people of more reflection, thinking it more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law, than that he should escape, armed themselves and went to protect the physician. They were received by the mob with a volley of stones, which wounded several of them. They thereupon fired on the mob & killed four. By this time they received reinforcement of other citizens, & of the militia horse, the appearance of which in the critical moment dispersed the mob. So ended this chapter of history, which I have detailed to you because it may be represented as a political riot, when politics had nothing to do with it. Mr. Jay & Baron Steuben were both grievously wounded in the head by stones. The former still kept his bed, & the latter his room when the packet sailed which was the 24th of April. * * *
TO MR. THOMAS DIGGES
Paris, June 19, 1788.
—I have duly received your favor of May 12, as well as that of the person who desires information on the state of cotton manufactures in America, and for his interest & safety I beg leave to address to you the answers to his queries without naming him.
In general it is impossible that manufactures should succeed in America from the high price of labour. This is occasioned by the great demand of labour for agriculture. A manufacturer going from Europe will turn to labour of other kind if he find more to be got by it, & he finds some emploiment so profitable that he can soon lay up money enough to buy fifty acres of land, to the culture of which he is irresistibly tempted by the independence in which that places him, & the desire of having a wife & family around him. If any manufactures can succeed there, it will be that of cotton. I must observe for his information that this plant grows nowhere in the United States Northward of the Potowmack, and not in quantity till you get Southward as far as York & James rivers. I know nothing of the manufacture which is said to be set up at Richmond. It must have taken place since 1783, when I left Virginia. In that state (for it is the only one I am enabled to speak of with certainty) there is no manufacture of wire or of cotton cards: or if any, it is not worth notice. No manufacture of stocking-weaving, consequently none for making the machine: none of cotton cloths of any kind whatever for sale; tho in almost every family some is manufactured for the use of the family, which is always good in quality, & often tolerably fine. In the same way they make excellent knit stockings of cotton, weaving it in like manner carried on principally in the family way: among the poor, the wife weaves generally, & the rich either have a weaver among their servants or employ their poor neighbors. Cotton cost in Virginia from 12d. to 18d. sterling the pound before the war, probably it is a little raised since. Richmond is as good a place for a manufactory as any in that State, & perhaps the best as to it’s resources for this business. Cotton clothing is very much the taste of the country. A manufacturer on his landing should apply to the well informed farmers and gentlemen of the country. Their information will be more disinterested than that of merchants, and they can better put him into the way of disposing of his workmen in the cheapest manner till he has time to look about him & decide how & where he will establish himself. Such is the hospitality in that country, & their disposition to assist strangers, that he may boldly go to any good house he sees, and make the inquiry he needs. He will be sure to be kindly received, honestly informed, and accommodated in a hospitable way, without any other introduction than an information who he is & what are his views. It is not the policy of the government in that country to give any aid to works of any kind. They let things take their natural course without help or impediment, which is generally the best policy. More particularly as to myself I must add that I have not the authority nor the means of assisting any persons in their passage to that country.
TO NICHOLAS LEWIS
Paris July 11. 1788.
—Your favor of Aug. 20. 1787 came to hand some time ago; that of Apr. 15. 1788 I received last night. I had just written to Mr. Eppes on the subject of my affairs, and intended writing to you to day. The opportune arrival of the last letter enables me to answer both at the same time. I am much pleased that you approve of my plan of hiring my estate. Besides that the profit will be greater, it will enable me to see a fixed term to my embarrassments. For the same reason I would prefer money to tobacco rents, because my engagements for annual paiments must be in money. Yet if you think the greater assurance of punctual paiments in tobacco overbalances the advantage of a fixed sum in money, I leave it to your discretion. One piece of information however I must give you, which is that there is no prospect that the European market for tobacco will improve. Our principal dependence is on this country, and the footing on which I have got that article placed here, is the best we can ever expect. In the leases therefore, tobacco of my own estate, or of the best warehouses cannot be counted on at more than from 20/ to 22/6 currency the utmost. But I am in hopes my dear Sir, that more can be obtained per hand than 12£ currency, which you mention. I found my hopes on these considerations. I rented to Garth & Mosley as well as I recollect for £11. sterling a hand, tobacco then from 18/ to 20/ the hundred and the legal exchange 25. per cent. Tobacco is now ten per cent. higher & legal exchange raised 5 per cent. This entitles us at present to ask £15. currency a hand. I never knew exactly what Garth & Mosley made. They only told me in general that they had made about a good overseer’s or steward’s lay each: suppose this 75£ each & calculate it on the number of workers they had, and it will prove how much more worth is a working hand with the lands and stock thrown in, than without them. Add to this that there is the addition of Hickman & Smith’s lands in Albemarle (about 1000 acres) and that the lands in Bedford are much better for tobacco than those of Albemarle were when Garth & Mosley rented them. I only mention these considerations to enable you to demonstrate to those who enter into conference on the subject that a higher sum than £12. currency may be reasonably asked; but not to tie you down, for certainty I had rather rent for £12. currency than not to rent at all. I think I suggested in my former letters the necessity of stipulating a right to distrain when the rent is not paid. It might be a still greater security to stipulate also that their tobaccos shall be delivered at certain warehouses in your name, so that you may receive the money from the purchaser when the tenant has failed to pay.—I come over to your advice, Sir, to sell my lands in Cumberland & Goochland, and have accordingly desired Mr. Eppes to join you in doing it. As to the prices, I leave it to your discretions. I never had a direct offer for those lands, because I never meant to sell them. But from overtures made before a shilling of paper money had issued, I suppose I could get 1500£ for Cumberland and the same for Elkhill. This was before I purchased Smith’s. I have promised to Jones three fifths of what these lands shall sell for, and even that the bonds shall be given in his name, if he will acquit me so far, and on condition he will make a final settlement with me on the terms I have promised. I shall immediately write to Mr. McCaul that he shall have the other two fifths, as well as two fifths annually of the rents & profits of my estate, the other three fifths of these being proposed to Jones. The check on the tenants against abusing my slaves was, by the former lease, that I might discontinue it on a reference to arbitrators. Would it not be well to retain an optional right to sue them for ill-usage of the slaves or to discontinue it by arbitration, whichever you should chuse at the time?
I will now proceed to take notice of some of the debts mentioned in your letters. As to Mr. Braxton’s I still think his memory has led him into error on the subject, and that my memorandum books of that date would correct it. You mention “a considerable debt due to Dr. Walker not enumerated in my list.” I settled with Doctr. Walker just before I left Virginia, and gave my acknowledgment of the balance I owed him which was £40–11–9¾. This is stated in the list of my debts which I left you, & which I presume escaped your notice, as I know of no other debt of money to Doctr. Walker, unless he should have taken an assignment from somebody. Be this as it will, I know his justice and honour so well that whatever he has demanded is right, & I would wish it to be paid of the first money possible, if it be no more than the balance I have named with it’s interest, rather than he should be incommoded. If you have not the money, be so good as to obtain it by drawing a bill on me at 60 days sight, which shall be honored. My friend, Mr. Donald, can dispose of this draft for you. ‘Coutt’s demand’ ‘Donald, Scott & Co.’ I doubt both. I do not even remember the name of such a house as the latter. My papers, will perhaps throw light on these. They were alphabetically arranged, so as that any paper may be found in a moment. But most of all my memorandum books will shew. ‘Doctor Read’s account’ is noted in my list £48–13–3 under the name of Colo. Bannister, because you will find among my papers Reid’s account & his order to pay the money to Bannister. Since I left Virginia Colo. Bannister is fallen in my debt. If therefore he has not relinquished to Reid his claim on me, you can get his receipt for the money, for which I will credit him in the account of what I have paid for him.
‘Boden of Norfolk £14.’ If this is for Phripp & Bowden for leather (I believe) it may be right, by possibility, but I doubt it.
Hierom Gaines for timber, work &c. £19. Frank Gaines owed me a certain number of days work. I agreed to take in exchange for it work from his father, whom I wished to employ in searching timber, searching the lines of my order of council &c. I think there is no other claim of Hierom’s against me, & of course that his services were to pay a debt. Before I left Monticello I made a point of settling every account I could get at, in order to state it in my list of debts. Where I could not settle the balance accurately, still I entered the name in the list I left you, as a note that there was something due. It is not probable that I could have over looked Hierom Gaines’ account & especially for such a sum. I have great confidence in Hierom’s integrity, and therefore hope that by the aid of these circumstances you will be able to settle this matter rightly.
‘Wm. Chisholm. £26.’ This is in my opinion impossible. He left my estate in Goochland when the British came there. He was in such distress afterwards that if I had owed him money, it was impossible I should not have raised it for him by some means or other, and much more so that I should have omitted it in my list, & lost every trace of it in my memory.
‘Johnson a carpenter thirty odd pounds for work many years ago.’ I have forgot that ever such a person worked for me: but, if he did, that he has been paid is certain. I made a point of paying my workmen in preference to all other claimants. I never parted with one without settling with him, and giving him either his money or my note. Every person that ever worked for me can attest this, and that I always paid their notes pretty soon. I am sure there did not exist one of these notes unpaid when I left Virginia, except to Watson & Orr who were still at work for me. The debts in Bedford to Robinson, Bennett & Calloway I suppose have been contracted since I came away. In general I will beg of you to refer to my memorandum books. They are small books which I used to carry in my pocket. They are 6. or 8. in number. There is an alphabetical index of names to every one, so that all the entries respecting any one person may be found in a moment in them. They are made with such scrupulous fidelity that I shall not be afraid to justify them on the bed of death, and so exact that in the course of 15 years which they comprehend, I never discovered that I had made but one omission of a payment. I do not mean to say that the accounts before questioned are not just decisively. I have not confidence enough in my memory to say that. But they should be examined under several points of view. They may be paper money accounts. They may have been transferred from some other person who has been paid. They may be due from some other person & the demand made on the without foundation. They may have been paid by me either directly or circuitously. The silence of my memorandum books as to a money paiment or receipt by me may be relied on as negative proof, and their entries of a paiment or receipt as a positive proof of that paiment or entry. Wherever credits have been transferred circuitously from one to another, and accounts discharged in that way, I did not always enter them, nor even generally, but as you know a great deal of business was done in this way, it should always be well enquired into as to any accounts presented since I came away, & not enumerated in my list. My omission there is a presumption that the account has been settled some way: tho’ I do not pretend it to be infallible. I only made out as exact a list as I could.
I am so desirable of proceeding to the hiring of my estate, that I would not detain my sawyers to finish my bill of scantling. Only be so good as to put what stuff is ready into perfect security. The bricks also which are ready made I would wish to have well taken care of, that I may not have occasion to make any on my return.
I shall continue to reflect on the debts before observed on and which are mentioned to me for the first time in your letter received last night. Probably my recollection will enable me to be more particular on their subject in my next letter. So that the settlement of them had better be a little delayed, if my memorandum books do not satisfy you.
I shall give orders at Havre relative to the bacon whenever it arrives. But in future it will not be worth while to send me any, because its importation is prohibited, and I have never yet been able to obtain any article of this kind from the Custom house. I thank Mrs. Lewis kindly for the ears of corn & the seeds accompanying them which are safely come to hand. The homony corn is a precious present. The corn of this country and of Italy, as far as I have seen it, cannot be eaten, either in the form of corn or of bread, by any person who has eaten that of America. I have planted some grains which may perhaps come to maturity as we have still 3 months & a half to frost.—One word more on my leases. I think the term should not exceed three years. The negroes too old to be hired, could they not make a good profit by cultivating cotton? Much enquiry is made of me here about the cultivation of cotton, & I would thank you to give me your opinion how much a hand would make cultivating that as his principal crop instead of tobacco. Great George, Ursula, Betty, Hennings not to be hired at all, nor Martin nor Bob otherwise than as they are now. I am sensible, my dear Sir, how much trouble & perplexity I am giving you with my affairs. The plan of leasing will in a great measure relieve you. I know Mrs. Lewis’s goodness too & her attentions to them.
TO DR. WILLIAM GORDON
Paris July 16, 1788.
—In your favor of the 8th instant you mention that you had written to me in February last. This letter never came to hand. That of Apr. 24. came here during my absence on a journey thro’ Holland & Germany, and having been obliged to devote the first moments after my return to some very pressing matters, this must be my apology for not having been able to write to you till now. As soon as I knew that it would be agreeable to you to have such a disposal of your work for translation as I had made for Dr. Ramsay, I applied to the same bookseller with propositions on your behalf. He told me that he had lost so much by that work that he could hardly think of undertaking another, and at any rate not without first seeing & examining it. As he was the only bookseller I could induce to give anything on the former occasion, I went to no other with my proposals, meaning to ask you to send me immediately as much of the work as is printed. This you can do by the Diligence which comes three times a week from London to Paris. Furnished with this, I will renew my propositions and do the best for you I can, tho’ I fear that the ill success of the translation of Dr. Ramsay’s work, and of another work on the subject of America, will permit less to be done for you than I had hoped. I think Dr. Ramsay failed from the inelegance of the translation, & the translator’s having departed entirely from the Doctor’s instructions. I will be obliged to you to set me down as a subscriber for half a dozen copies, and to ask Mr. Trumbull (No. 2, North street, Rathbone place) to pay you the whole subscription price for me, which he will do on showing him this letter. These copies can be sent by the Diligence. I have not yet received the pictures Mr. Trumbull was to send me, nor consequently that of M. de La Fayette. I will take care of it when it arrives. His title is simply le Marquis de la Fayette. You ask, in your letter of Apr 24, details of my sufferings by Colo Tarleton. I did not suffer by him. On the contrary, he behaved very genteelly with me. On his approach to Charlottesville, which is within 3 miles of my house at Monticello he despatched a troop of horse under capt McLeod with the double object of taking me prisoner with the two Speakers of the Senate & delegates who then lodged with me and of remaining there in vedette, my house commanding a view of 10 or 12 counties round about. He gave strict orders to Capt McLeod to suffer nothing to be injured. The troops failed in one of their objects, as we had notice so that the two speakers had gone off about two hours before their arrival at Monticello, & myself with my family about five minutes. But Capt McLeod preserved everything with sacred care during about 18 hours that he remained there. Colo Tarleton was just so long at Charlottesville being hurried from thence by the news of the rising of the militia, and by a sudden fall of rain which threatened to swell the river and intercept his return. In general he did little injury to the inhabitants on that short & hasty excursion, which was about 60 miles from their main army then in Spotsylvania, & ours in Orange. It was early in June, 1781. Lord Cornwallis then proceeded to the point of fork, and encamped his army from thence all along the main James river to a seat of mine called Elk-hill, opposite to Elk island, & a little below the mouth of the Byrd creek. (You will see all these places exactly laid down in the map annexed to my Notes on Virginia printed by Stockdale.) He remained in this position ten days, his own headquarters being in my house at that place. I had had time to remove most of the effects out of the house. He destroyed all my growing crops of corn & tobacco, he burned all my barns containing the same articles of the last year, having first taken what he wanted, he used, as was to be expected, all my stocks of cattle, sheep & hogs for the sustenance of his army, and carried off all the horses capable of service: of those too young for service he cut the throats, and he burned all the fences on the plantation, so as to leave it an absolute waste. He carried off also about 30. slaves. Had this been to give them freedom he would have done right, but it was to consign them to inevitable death from the small pox & putrid fever then raging in his camp. This I knew afterwards to have been the fate of 27. of them. I never had news of the remaining three, but presume they shared the same fate. When I say that Lord Cornwallis did all this, I do not mean that he carried about the torch in his own hands, but that it was all done under his eye, the situation of the house in which he was, commanding a view of every part of the plantation, so that he must have seen every fire. I relate these things on my own knowledge in a great degree, as I was on the ground soon after he left it. He treated the rest of the neighborhood somewhat in the same stile but not with that spirit of total extermination with which he seemed to rage over my possessions. Wherever he went, the dwelling houses were plundered of everything that could be carried off. Lord Cornwallis’s character in England would forbid the belief that he shared in the plunder but that his table was served with the plate thus pillaged from private houses can be proved by many hundred eye witnesses. From an estimate I made at that time, on the best information I could collect, I supposed the state of Virginia lost under Ld Cornwallis’s hands that year about 30,000 slaves, and that of these about 27,000 died of the small pox and camp fever and the rest were partly sent to the West Indies & exchanged for rum, sugar, coffee & fruit, & partly sent to New York, from whence they went at the peace either to Nova Scotia or England. From this last place I believe they have been lately sent to Africa. History will never relate the horrors committed by the British army in the Southern states of America. They raged in Virginia 6 months only, from the middle of April to the middle of October, 1781. when they were all taken prisoners, & I give you a faithful specimen of their transactions for 10. days of that time & on one spot only. Ex pede Herculem. I suppose their whole devastations during those 6 months amounted to about three millions sterling. The copiousness of this subject has only left me space to assure you of the sentiments of esteem & respect with which I am, Sir, your most obedt. humble servt.
TO EDWARD RUTLEDGE
Paris July 18, 1788.
My Dear Sir,
—* * * You promise, in your letter of Octob 23. 1787. to give me in your next, at large, the conjectures of your Philosopher on the descent of the Creek Indians from the Carthaginians, supposed to have been separated from Hanno’s fleet during his periplus. I shall be very glad to receive them, & see nothing impossible in his conjecture. I am glad he means to appeal to the similarity of language, which I consider as the strongest kind of proof it is possible to adduce. I have somewhere read that the language of the ancient Carthaginians is still spoken by their descendants inhabiting the mountainous interior parts of Barbary to which they were obliged to retire by the conquering Arabs. If so, a vocabulary of their tongue can still be got, and if your friend will get one of the Creek languages, the comparison will decide. He probably may have made progress in this business: but if he wishes any enquiries to be made on this side the Atlantic, I offer him my services cheerfully, my wish being, like his, to ascertain the history of the American aborigines.
I congratulate you on the accession of your state to the new federal constitution. This is the last I have yet heard of, but I expect daily that my own has followed the good example, & suppose it to be already established. Our government wanted bracing. Still we must take care not to run from one extreme to another; not to brace too high. I own I join those in opinion who think a bill of rights necessary. I apprehend too that the total abandonment of the principle of rotation in the offices of President & Senator will end in abuse. But my confidence is that there will for a long time be virtue & good sense enough in our countrymen to correct abuses. We can surely boast of having set the world a beautiful example of a government reformed by reason alone without bloodshed. But the world is too far oppressed to profit of the example. On this side of the Atlantic the blood of the people is become an inheritance, and those who fatten on it, will not relinquish it easily. The struggle in this country is as yet of doubtful issue. It is in fact between the monarchy and the parliaments. The nation is no otherwise concerned but as both parties may be induced to let go some of it’s abuses to court the public favor. The danger is that the people, deceived by a false cry of liberty may be led to take side with one party, & thus give the other a pretext for crushing them still more. If they can avoid the appeal to arms, the nation will be sure to gain much by this controversy. But if that appeal is made it will depend entirely on the dispositions of the army whether it issue in liberty or despotism. Those dispositions are not as yet known. In the mean time there is great probability that the war kindled in the east will spread from nation to nation & in the long run become general. * * *
TO JAMES MADISON1
Paris July 31, 1788.
—My last letters to you were of the 3d. & 25th of May. Yours from Orange, of Apr 22, came to hand on the 10th inst.
My letter to Mr. Jay containing all the public news that is well authenticated, I will not repeat it here, but add some details in the smaller way which you may be glad to know. The disgrace of the Marquis de la Fayette, which at any other period of their history would have had the worst consequences for him, will on the contrary mark him favorably to the nation at present. During the present administration he can expect nothing, but perhaps it may serve him with their successors, whenever a change shall take place. No change of the Principal probably take place before the meeting of the States general though a change is to be wished, for his operations do not answer the expectations formed of him. These had been calculated on his brilliancy in society. He is very feebly aided, too. Montmorin is weak, though a most worthy character. He is indolent and inattentive, too, in the extreme. Luzerne is considerably inferior in abilities to his brother, whom you know. He is a good man, too, but so much out of his element, that he has the air of one huskanoyed. The Garde des sceaux is considered as the Principal’s bull dog, braving danger like that animal. His talents do not pass mediocrity. The Archbishop’s brother, and the new minister Villedeuil, and Lambert, have no will of their own. They cannot raise money for the peace establishment the next year, without the States General; much less if there be war; and their administration will probably end with the States General.
Littlepage, who was here as a secret agent for the King of Poland, rather overreached himself. He wanted more money. The King furnished it more than once. Still he wanted more and thought to obtain a high bid by saying he was called for in America, and asking leave to go there. Contrary to his expectation, he received leave; but he went to Warsaw instead of America, and from thence to join the Russian army. I do not know these facts certainly, but re-collect them, by putting several things together. The King then sent an ancient secretary here, in whom he had much confidence, to look out for a correspondent, a mere letter writer for him. A happy hazard threw Mazzei his way. He recommended him, and he is appointed. He has no diplomatic character whatever, but is to receive eight thousand livres a year, as an intelligencer. I hope this employment may have some permanence. The danger is, that he will overact his part.
The Marquis de la Luzerne had been for many years married to his brother’s wife’s sister, secretly. She was ugly and deformed, but sensible, amiable, and rather rich. When he was named ambassador to London, with ten thousand guineas a year, the marriage was avowed, and he relinquished his cross of Malta, from which he derived a handsome revenue for life, and which was very open to advancement. She staid here and not long after died. His real affection for her, which was great and unfeigned, and perhaps the loss of his order for so short-lived a satisfaction, has thrown him almost into a state of despondency. He is now here.
I send you a book of Dupont’s on the subject of the commercial treaty with England. Tho it’s general matter may not be interesting, yet you will pick up in various parts of it such excellent principles and observations as will richly repay the trouble of reading it. I send you also two little pamphlets of the Marquis de Condorcet, wherein is the most judicious statement I have seen of the great questions which agitate this nation at present. The new regulations present a preponderance of good over their evil, but they suppose that the King can model the constitution at will, or in other words that his government is a pure despotism. The question then arising is whether a pure despotism in a single head, or one which is divided among a king, nobles, priesthood, & numerous magistracy is the least bad. I should be puzzled to decide: but I hope they will have neither, and that they are advancing to a limited, moderate government, in which the people will have a good share.
I sincerely rejoice at the acceptance of our new constitution by nine states. It is a good canvass, on which some strokes only want retouching. What these are, I think are sufficiently manifested by the general voice from North to South, which calls for a bill of rights. It seems pretty generally understood that this should go to Juries, Habeas corpus, Standing armies, Printing, Religion & Monopolies. I conceive there may be difficulty in finding general modifications of these, suited to the habits of all the states. But if such cannot be found then it is better to establish trials by Jury, the right of Habeas corpus, freedom of press & freedom of religion, in all cases, and to abolish standing armies in time of peace, and Monopolies in all cases, than not do it in any. The few cases wherein these things may do evil, cannot be weighed against the multitude wherein the want of them will do evil. In disputes between a foreigner & a native, a trial by jury may be improper. But if this exception cannot be agreed to, the remedy will be to model the jury by giving the mediatas linguæ in civil as well as criminal cases. Why suspend the Hab. Corp. in insurrections & rebellions? The parties who may be arrested may be charged instantly with a well defined crime, of course the judge will remand them. If publick safety requires that the government should have a man imprisoned on less probable testimony in those than in other emergencies; let him be taken & tried, retaken & retried, while the necessity continues, only giving him redress against the government for damages. Examine the history of England. See how few of the cases of the suspension of the Habeas corpus law have been worthy of that suspension. They have been either real treasons wherein the parties might as well have been charged at once, or sham plots where it was shameful they should ever have been suspected. Yet for the few cases wherein the suspension of the hab. corp. has done real good, that operation is now become habitual, & the minds of the nation almost prepared to live under its constant suspension. A declaration that the federal government will never restrain the presses from printing anything they please, will not take away the liability of the printers for false facts printed. The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished, does not give impunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error. The saying there shall be no monopolies lessens the incitements to ingenuity, which spurred on by the hope of a monopoly for a limited time, as of 14 years; but the benefit even of limited monopolies is too doubtful to be opposed to that of their general suppression. If no check can be found to keep the number of standing troops within safe bounds, while they are tolerated as far as necessary, abandon them altogether, discipline well the militia, & guard the magazines with them. More than magazine guards will be useless if few, & dangerous if many. No European nation can ever send against us such a regular army as we need fear, & it is hard if our militia are not equal to those of Canada or Florida. My idea then is, that tho’ proper exceptions to these general rules are desirable, & probably practicable, yet if the exceptions cannot be agreed on, the establishment of the rules in all cases will do ill in very few. I hope therefore a bill of rights will be formed to guard the people against the federal government, as they are already guarded against their state governments in most instances. The abandoning the principle of necessary rotation in the Senate, has I see been disapproved by many; in the case of the President, by none. I readily therefore suppose my opinion wrong, when opposed by the majority as in the former instance, & the totality as in the latter. In this however I should have done it with more complete satisfaction, had we all judged from the same position.
Solicitations, which cannot be directly refused, oblige me to trouble you often with letters recommending & introducing to you persons who go from hence to America. I will beg the favour of you to distinguish the letters wherein I appeal to recommendations from other persons, from those which I write on my own knoledge. In the former, it is never my intention to compromit myself, nor you. In both instances I must beg you to ascribe the trouble I give you to circumstances which do not leave me at liberty to decline it.
TO WILLIAM SHORT
Paris Sept 20, 1788.
—The evening of your departure came a letter by the way of London & N. York, addressed to you, and probably from Virginia. I think you wished your American letters to remain here; I shall therefore keep it. The passport now enclosed came the day after your departure: so also did a mass of American letters for me, as low down as August 10. I shall give you their substance.—The convention of Virginia annexed to their ratification of the new Constitution a copy of the state Declaration of rights, not by way of Condition, but to announce their attachment to them. They added also propositions for specific alterations of the constitution. Among these was one for rendering the President incapable of serving more than 8. years in any term of 16. New York has followed the example of Virginia, expressing the substance of her bill of rights, (i.e. Virginia’s) & proposing amendments; these last differ much from those of Virginia, but they concur as to the President, only proposing that he shall be incapable of being elected more than twice. But I own I should like better than either of these, what Luther Martin tells us was repeatedly voted & adhered to by the federal convention, & only altered about 12. days before their rising when some members had gone off, to wit, that he should be elected for 7 years & incapable for ever after. But New York has taken another step which gives uneasiness, she has written a circular letter to all the legislatures, asking their concurrence in an immediate Convention for making amendments. No news yet from N. Carolina. Electors are to be chosen the 1st Wednesday in January, the President to be elected the 1st Wednesday in February, the new legislature to meet the 3d week in March, the place is not yet decided on. Philadelphia was first proposed & had 6½ votes, the half vote was Delaware, one of whose members wanted to take a vote on Wilmington, then Baltimore was proposed & carried, and afterwards rescinded, so that the matter stood open as ever on the 10th of August; but it was allowed the dispute lay only between N. York & Philadelphia, & rather thought in favor of the last. The R. island delegates had retired from Congress. Dr. Franklin was dangerously ill of the gout & stone on the 21st of July. My letters of Aug. 10 not mentioning him, I hope he was recovered. Warville, &c. were arrived. Congress had referred the decision as to the independance of Kentucké to to the new government. Brown ascribes this to the jealousy of the Northern states, who want Vermont to be received at the same time in order to preserve a balance of interests in Congress. He was just setting out for Kentucké disgusted, yet disposed to persuade to an acquiescence, tho’ doubting they would immediately separate from the Union. The principal obstacle to this, he thought, would be the Indian war.—The following is a quotation from a letter from Virginia dated July 12. “P[endleto]n, tho’ much impaired in health, & in every respect in the decline of life, shewed as much zeal to carry the new const, as if he had been a young man; perhaps more than he discovered in the commencement of the late revolution in his opposition to Great Britain. W[yth]e acted as chairman to the comee. of the whole & of course took but little part in the debate; but was for the adoption, relying on subsequent amendments. B[lai]r said nothing, but was for it. The G[overno]r exhibited a curious spectacle to view. Having refused to sign the paper, everybody supposed him against it, but he afterwards had written a letter; & having taken a part which might be called rather vehement, than active, he was constantly labouring to shew that his present conduct was consistent with that letter, & that letter with his refusal to sign. M[a]d[iso]n took the principal share in the debate for it, in which, together with the aid I have already mentioned, he was somewhat assisted by I-nn[e]s, Lee, M[arshal]l, C[orbi]n & G. N[ichola]s. M[a]s[o]n, H[enr]y & Gr[ayso]n were the principal supporters of the opposition. The discussion, as might be expected where the parties were so nearly on a balance, was conducted generally with great order, propriety & respect of either party to the other.”
The assembly of Virginia, hurried to their harvests, would not enter into a discussion of the District bill, but suspended it to the next session. E. Winston is appointed a judge, vice Gab. Jones resigned. R. Goode & Andrew Moore, counsellors, vice B. Starke dead, & Jos Egglestone resigned.—It is said Wilson, of Philadelphia, is talked of, to succeed Mr. A[dams] in London. Qu?
The dispute about Virgil’s tomb & the laurel seems to be at length settled by the testimony of two travellers, given separately & without a communication with each other. These both say, that attempting to pluck off a branch of the Laurel, it followed their hand, being in fact nothing more than a plant or bough recently cut & stuck in the ground for the occasion. The Cicerone acknowledged the roguery, & said they practised it with almost every traveller, to get money. You will of course tug well at the laurel which shall be shewn you, to see if this be the true solution.
The President Dupaty is dead. Monsr de Barentin, premier president de la cour des aides, is appointed Garde des sceaux. The stocks are rather lower than when you left this. Present me in the most friendly terms to Messrs. Shippen & Rutledge. I rely on your communicating to them the news, & therefore on their pardoning me for not repeating it in separate letters to them. You can satisfy them how necessary this economy of my time & labour is. This goes to Geneva, poste restante. I shall not write again till you tell me where to write to.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris Nov. 18, 1788.
—My last to you was of the 31st July: since which I have received yours of July 24, Aug. 10 & 23. The first part of this long silence in me was occasioned by a knoledge that you were absent from N. York; the latter part by a want of opportunity, which has been longer than usual. Mr. Shippen being just arrived here, and to set out to-morrow for London, I avail myself of that channel of conveyance. Mr. Carrington was so kind as to send me the 2d vol. of the Amer. phil. transactions, the federalist, and some other interesting pamphlets; and I am to thank you for another copy of the federalist and the report of the instrns. to the ministers for negotiating peace. The latter unluckily omitted exactly the passage I wanted, which was what related to the navigation of the Mississippi. With respect to the Federalist, the three authors had been named to me. I read it with care, pleasure & improvement, and was satisfied there was nothing in it by one of those hands, & not a great deal by a second. It does the highest honor to the third, as being, in my opinion, the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written. In some parts it is discoverable that the author means only to say what may be best said in defence of opinions in which he did not concur. But in general it establishes firmly the plan of government. I confess it has rectified me in several points. As to the bill of rights however I still think it should be added and I am to see that three states have at length considered the perpetual re-eligibility of the president as an article which should be amended. I should deprecate with you indeed the meeting of a new convention. I hope they will adopt the mode of amendment by Congress & the Assemblies, in which case I should not fear any dangerous innovation in the plan. But the minorities are too respectable not to be entitled to some sacrifice of opinion in the majority especially when a great proportion of them would be contented with a bill of rights. Here things internally are going on well. The Notables, now in session, have indeed passed one vote which augurs ill to the rights of the people, but if they do not obtain now so much as they have a right to, they will in the long run. The misfortune is that they are not yet ripe for receiving the blessings to which they are entitled. I doubt, for instance, whether the body of the nation, if they could be consulted, would accept of a Habeas corpus law, if offered them by the King. If the Etats generaux, when they assemble, do not aim at too much, they may begin a good constitution. There are three articles which they may easily obtain, 1, their own meeting periodically. 2, the exclusive right of taxation. 3, the right of registering laws & proposing amendments to them as exercised now by the parliaments. This last would be readily approved by the courts on account of their hostility against the parliaments, & would lead immediately to the origination of laws. The 2d has been already solemnly avowed by the King; and it is well understood there would be no opposition to the first. If they push at much more, all may fail. I shall not enter further into public details, because my letter to Mr. Jay will give them. That contains a request of permission to return to America the next spring, for the summer only. The reasons therein urged, drawn from my private affairs, are very cogent. But there is another more cogent on my mind, tho’ of a nature not to be explained in a public letter. It is the necessity of attending my daughters myself to their own country, and depositing them safely in the hands of those with whom I can safely leave them. I have deferred this request as long as circumstances would permit, and am in hopes it will meet with no difficulty. I have had too many proofs of your friendship not to rely on your patronage of it, as, in all probability, nothing can suffer by a short absence. But the immediate permission is what I am anxious about; as by going in April & returning in October I shall be sure of pleasant & short passages out & in. I must intreat your attention, my friend, to this matter, and that the answers may be sent me thro’ several channels.
Mr. Limozin at Havre, sent you by mistake a package belonging to somebody else. I do not know what it contained, but he has written to you on the subject, & prayed me to do the same. He is likely to suffer if it be not returned.
Supposing that the funding their foreign debt will be among the first operations of the new government, I send you two estimates, the one by myself, the other by a gentleman infinitely better acquainted with the subject, shewing what fund will suffice to discharge the principal and interest as it shall become due, aided by occasional loans, which the same fund will repay. I inclose them to you, because collating them together, and with your own ideas, you will be able to devise something better than either. But something must be done. This government will expect, I fancy, a very satisfactory provision for the paiment of their debt, from the first session of the new Congress. Perhaps in this matter, as well as the arrangement of your foreign affairs, I may be able when on the spot with you, to give some information & suggest some hints, which may render my visit to my native country not altogether useless. I consider as no small advantage the resuming the tone of mind of my constituents, which is lost by long absence, and can only be recovered by mixing with them: and shall particularly hope for much profit & pleasure, by contriving to pass as much time as possible with you. Should you have a trip to Virginia in contemplation for that year, I hope you will time it so as that we may be there together. I will camp you at Monticello where, if illy entertained otherwise, you shall not want for books. In firm hope of a happy meeting with you in the spring or early in summer I conclude with assurances of the sincere esteem & attachment with which I am, Dear Sir, your affectionate friend & servant.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON
Paris Dec., 4, 1788.
—Your favor of Aug. 31. came to hand yesterday; and a confidential conveiance offering, by the way of London, I avail myself of it to acknolege the receipt.
I have seen, with infinite pleasure, our new constitution accepted by 11. states, not rejected by the 12th. and that the 13th. happens to be a state of the least importance. It is true, that the minorities in most of the accepting states have been very respectable, so much so as to render it prudent, were it not otherwise reasonable, to make some sacrifice to them. I am in hopes that the annexation of the bill of rights to the constitution will alone draw over so great a proportion of the minorities, as to leave little danger in the opposition of the residue; and that this annexation may be made by Congress and the assemblies, without calling a convention which might endanger the most valuable parts of the system. Calculation has convinced me that circumstances may arise, and probably will arise, wherein all the resources of taxation will be necessary for the safety of the state. For tho’ I am decidedly of opinion we should take no part in European quarrels, but cultivate peace and commerce with all, yet who can avoid seeing the source of war, in the tyranny of those nations who deprive us of the natural right of trading with our neighbors? The products of the U. S. will soon exceed the European demand; what is to be done with the surplus, when there shall be one? It will be employed, without question, to open by force a market for itself with those placed on the same continent with us, and who wish nothing better. Other causes too are obvious, which may involve us in war; and war requires every resource of taxation & credit. The power of making war often prevents it, and in our case would give efficacy to our desire of peace. If the new government wears the front which I hope it will, I see no impossibility in the availing ourselves of the wars of others to open the other parts of America to our commerce, as the price of our neutrality. * * *
Your communications to the Count de Moustier, whatever they may have been, cannot have done injury to my endeavors here to open the W. Indies to us. On this head the ministers are invincibly mute, tho’ I have often tried to draw them into the subject. I have therefore found it necessary to let it lie till war or other circumstance may force it on. Whenever they are in war with England, they must open the islands to us, and perhaps during that war they may see some price which might make them agree to keep them always open. In the meantime I have laid my shoulder to the opening the markets of this country to our produce, and rendering it’s transportation a nursery for our seamen. A maritime force is the only one by which we can act on Europe. Our navigation law (if it be wise to have any) should be the reverse of that of England. Instead of confining importations to home-bottoms or those of the producing nations, I think we should confine exportations to home bottoms or to those of nations having treaties with us. Our exportations are heavy, and would nourish a great force of our own, or be a tempting price to the nation to whom we should offer a participation of it in exchange for free access to all their possessions. This is an object to which our government alone is adequate in the gross, but I have ventured to pursue it, here, so far as the consumption of productions by this country extends. Thus in our arrangements relative to tobacco, none can be received here but in French or American bottoms. This is emploiment for nearly 2000 seamen, and puts nearly that number of British out of employ. By the Arret of Dec. 1787, it was provided that our whale oils should not be received here but in French or American bottoms, and by later regulations all oils but those of France and America are excluded. This will put 100 English whale vessels immediately out of employ, and 150. ere long; and call so many of French & American into service. We have had 6000 seamen formerly in this business, the whole of whom we have been likely to lose. The consumption of rice is growing fast in this country, and that of Carolina gaining ground on every other kind. I am of opinion the whole of the Carolina rice can be consumed here. It’s transportation employs 2500 sailors, almost all of them English at present; the rice being deposited at Cowes & brought from thence here. It would be dangerous to confine this transportation to French & American bottoms the ensuing year, because they will be much engrossed by the transportation of wheat & flour hither, and the crop of rice might lie on hand for want of vessels; but I see no objections to the extensions of our principle to this article also, beginning with the year 1790. However, before there is a necessity of deciding on this I hope to be able to consult our new government in person, as I have asked of Congress a leave of absence for 6. months, that is to say from April to November next. It is necessary for me to pay a short visit to my native country, first to reconduct my family thither, and place them in the hands of their friends, & secondly to place my private affairs under certain arrangements. When I left my own house, I expected to be absent but 5 months, & I have been led by events to an absence of 5 years. I shall hope therefore for the pleasure of personal conferences with your Excellency on the subject of this letter and others interesting to our country, of getting my own ideas set to rights by a communication of yours, and of taking again the tone of sentiment of my own country which we lose in some degree after a certain absence. You know doubtless of the death of the Marquise de Chastellux. The Marquis de La Fayette is out of favor with the court, but high in favor with the nation. I once feared for his personal liberty, but I hope he is on safe ground at present. On the subject of the whale fishery I inclose you some observations I drew up for the ministry here, in order to obtain a correction of their Arret of Sepr last, whereby they had involved our oils with the English in a general exclusion from their ports. They will accordingly correct this, so that our oils will participate with theirs in the monopoly of their markets. There are several things incidentally introduced which do not seem pertinent to the general question. They were rendered necessary by particular circumstances the explanation of which would add to a letter already too long. I will trespass no further then than to assure you of the sentiments of sincere attachment and respect with which I have the honor to be your Excellency’s most obedt. humble servant.
P. S. The observations inclosed, tho’ printed, have been put into confidential hands only.
[1 ]In his few weeks’ visit in England Jefferson had also been painted by this artist, being his earliest portrait. The original I have not been able to trace, but a replica was made for Adams, and is now at Quincy. It has been engraved for Appleton’s American Biography.
[1 ]The italic part was in cipher.
[1 ]Parts in italic are cipher in the original.
[1 ]Italics are cipher in original.
[1 ]Parts in italic are cipher translations.