Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1789 - TO JOHN JAY 1 - The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789)
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1789 - TO JOHN JAY 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 JOHN JAY1
— * * * As the character of the Prince of Wales is becoming interesting, I have endeavored to learn what it truly is. This is less difficult in his case than it is in other persons of rank, because he has taken no pains to hide himself from the world. The information I most rely on is from a person here, with whom I am intimate, who divides his time between Paris and London—an Englishman by birth, of truth, sagacity, and science. He is of a circle, when in London, which has had good opportunities of knowing the Prince, but he has also, himself, had special occasions of verifying their information by his own personal observations. He happened, when last in London, to be invited to a dinner of three persons. The Prince came by chance, and made the fourth. He ate half a leg of mutton; and did not taste of small dishes, because small; drank Champagne and Burgundy as small beer during dinner, and Bourdeaux after dinner, as the rest of the company. Upon the whole, he ate as much as the other three, and drank about two bottles of wine without seeming to feel it.
My informant sat next him, and being until then unknown to the Prince personally (though not by character) and lately from France, the Prince confined his conversation to him almost entirely. Observing to the Prince that he spoke French, without the slightest foreign accent, the Prince told him that, when very young, his father had put only French servants about him, and it was to that circumstance he owed his pronunciation. He led him from this to give an account of his education, the total of which was the learning a little Latin. He has not a single element of mathematics, of natural or moral philosophy, or any other science on earth, nor has the society he has kept been such as to supply the void of education. It has been that of the lowest, the most illiterate and profligate persons of the kingdom, without choice of rank or mind, and with whom the subjects of conversation are only horses, drinking-matches, bawdy-houses, and in terms the most vulgar. The young nobility who begin by associating with him soon leave him disgusted by the insupportable profligacy of his society; and Mr. Fox, who has been supposed his favorite, and not over-nice in the choice of company, would never keep his company habitually. In fact, he never associated with a man of sense. He has not a single idea of justice, morality, religion, or of the rights of men, or any anxiety for the opinion of the world. He carries that indifference for fame so far, that he probably would not be hurt if he were to lose his throne, provided he could be assured of having always meat, horses and women. In the article of women, nevertheless, he has become more correct since his connection with Mrs. Fitzherbert, who is an honest and worthy woman; he is even less crapulous than he was.
He had a fine person, but it is becoming coarse. He possesses good native common sense, is affable, polite, and very good-humored—saying to my informant, on another occasion, “Your friend such a one dined with me yesterday, and I made him damned drunk”; he replied, “I am sorry for it. I had heard that your royal highness had left off drinking.” The Prince laughed, tapped him on the shoulder very good-naturedly, without saying a word, or ever after showing any displeasure.
The Duke of York, who was for some time cried up as the prodigy of the family, is as profligate and of less understanding. To these particular traits, from a man of sense and truth, it would be superfluous to add the general terms of praise or blame in which he is spoken of by other persons, in whose impartiality and penetration I have less confidence. A sample is better than a description. For the peace of Europe, it is best that the King should give such gleanings of recovery as would prevent the Regent or his ministry from thinking themselves firm, and yet that he should not recover. * * *
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris. Jan. 12. 1789.
—My last to you was of the 18th of Nov. since which I have received yours of Sep. 21 and Oct. 8. with the pamphlet on the Mohicon language, for which receive my thanks. I endeavor to collect all the vocabularies I can of the American Indians, as of those of Asia, persuaded that if they ever had a common parentage it will appear in their languages. I was pleased to see the vote of Congress, of Sep. 16, on the subject of the Mississippi, as I had before seen with great uneasiness the pursuits of other principles which I could never reconcile to my own ideas of probity or wisdom, and from which, and my knolege of the character of our Western settlers, I saw that the loss of that country was a necessary consequence. I wish this return to true policy may be in time to prevent evil. There has been little foundation for the reports and fears relative to the M. de la Fayette. He has from the beginning taken openly part with those who demand a constitution: and there was a moment that we apprehended the Bastile: but they venture on nothing more than to take from him a temporary service on which he had been ordered: and this more to save appearances for their own authority than anything else; for at the very time they pretended that they had put him into disgrace, they were constantly conferring & communicating with him. Since this he has stood on safe ground, and is viewed as among the foremost of the patriots. Everybody here is trying their hand at forming declarations of rights. As something of that kind is going on with you also, I send you two specimens from hence. The one is by our friend of whom I have just spoken. You will see that it contains the essential principle of ours accommodated as much as could be to the actual state of things here. The other is from a very sensible man, a pure theorist, of the sect called the œconomists, of which Turgot was considered as the head. The former is adapted to the existing abuses; the latter goes to those possible as well as to those existing. With respect to Doctr. Spence, supposed to have been taken by the Algerines, I think the report extremely [im]probable. O’bryan, one of our captives there, has constantly written to me, and given me information on every subject he thought interesting. He could not have failed to know if such a capture had been made, tho’ before his time, nor to inform me of it. I am under perpetual anxiety for our captives there. The money indeed is not yet ready at Amsterdam; but when it shall be, there are no orders from the board of Treasury to the bankers to furnish what may be necessary for the redemption of the captives: and it is so long since Congress approved the loan, that the orders of the Treasury for the application of the money would have come if they had intended to send any. I wrote to them early on the subject & pointedly. I mentioned it to Mr. Jay also merely that he might suggest it to them. The paiments to the foreign officers will await the same formality. I thank you for your attention to the case of Mrs. Burke.—We have no news of Dr. Franklin since July last when he was very ill. Tho’ the silence of our letters on that subject is a proof that he is well, yet there is an anxiety here among his friends. We have lately had three books published which are of great merit in different lines. The one is in 7. vols, 8.vo, by an Abbé Barthelemy, wherein he has collected every subject of Grecian literature, after a labour of 30. years. It is called Les voyages d’Anacharsis. I have taken a copy for you, because the whole impression was likely to be run off at once. The second is a work on government by the Marquis de Condorcet, 2. v. 8vo. I shall secure you a copy. The 3.d are the works of the K. of Prussia, in 16. vols, 8vo. These were a little garbled at Berlin, before printed. The government lais its hands on all which come here, and change some leaves. There is a genuine edition published at Basle, where even the garblings of Berlin are reestablished. I doubt the possibility of getting a copy, so vigilant is the government as to this work. I shall obtain you one if it be possible. As I write all the public news to Mr. Jay, I will not repeat it to you. I have just received the Flora Caroliniana of Walter; a very learned and good work.
TO DR. EDWARD BANCROFT
Paris. Jan. 26. 1789.
—I have deferred answering your letter on the subject of slaves because you permitted me to do it till a moment of leisure, and that moment rarely comes, and because too I could not answer you with such a degree of certainty as to merit any notice. I do not recollect the conversation at Vincennes to which you allude but can repeat still on the same ground, on which I must have done then, that as far as I can judge from the experiments which have been made to give liberty to, or rather, to abandon persons whose habits have been formed in slavery is like abandoning children. Many quakers in Virginia seated their slaves on their lands as tenants. They were distant from me, and therefore I cannot be particular in the details, because I never had very particular information. I cannot say whether they were to pay a rent in money, or a share of the produce: but I remember that the landlord was obliged to plan their crops for them, to direct all their operations during every season & according to the weather. But what is more afflicting, he was obliged to watch them daily & almost constantly to make them work, & even to whip them. A man’s moral sense must be unusually strong, if slavery does not make him a thief. He who is permitted by law to have no property of his own, can with difficulty conceive that property is founded in anything but force. These slaves chose to steal from their neighbors rather than work; they became public nuisances and in most instances were reduced to slavery again. But I will beg of you to make no use of this imperfect information (unless in common conversation). I shall go to America in the Spring & return in the fall. During my stay in Virginia I shall be in the neighborhood where many of these trials were made. I will inform myself very particularly of them, & communicate the information to you. Besides these there is an instance since I came away of a young man (Mr. Mayo) who died and gave freedom to all his slaves, about 200. This is about 4 years ago. I shall know how they have turned out. Notwithstanding the discouraging result of these experiments, I am decided on my final return to America to try this one. I shall endeavor to import as many Germans as I have grown slaves. I will settle them and my slaves, on farms of 50 acres each, intermingled, and place all on the footing of the Metayers (Medietani) of Europe. Their children shall be brought up, as others are, in habits of property and foresight, & I have no doubt but that they will be good citizens. Some of their fathers will be so: others I suppose will need government. With these, all that can be done is to oblige them to labour as the labouring poor of Europe do, and to apply to their comfortable subsistence the produce of their labour, retaining such a moderate portion of it as may be a just equivalent for the use of the lands they labour and the stocks & other necessary advances.
A word now on Mr. Paradise’s affairs: you were informed at the time, of the arrangement they had established in their affairs, to wit. reserving 400 £ a year for their subsistence, abandoning the rest of their income about 400 £ more, all their credits (one of which is 800 £ from an individual and another is 1000 £ from the state) and the cutting of a valuable wood, to their creditors. Their whole debts amounting but to 2300 £, the term of paiment cannot be long, if this arrangement can be preserved. I had hope that the journey to Italy would have fixed Mrs. Paradise with her daughter and left him free to travel or tarry where he liked best. But this journey has been a burthen instead of a relief to their affairs. In fact it is evident to me that the society of England is necessary for the happiness of Mrs. Paradise, and is perhaps the most agreeable to Mr. Paradise also. It is become an object therefore to obtain the concurrence of their creditors in the arrangements taken. The inducement to be proposed to them is Mrs. Paradise’s joining in a deed in which these dispositions shall be stipulated (which by the laws of Virginia will bind her property there) so that the creditors will be secured of their debts in the event of Mr. Paradise’s death. The inducement to Mr. & Mrs. Paradise is that their persons & property shall be free from molestation & their substance not consumed at law. We suppose that the creditors will name one trustee & Mr. Paradise another (yourself) fully & solely authorized to receive all remittances from America, to pay to them first their subsistence money & the rest to the creditors till they are fully paid. Mrs. Paradise will set out in a few days for London to set her hand to this accommodation. In the mean time they hope you will prepare the ground by negociating the settlement with the creditors. As far as I have any influence with Mr. or Mrs. Paradise I have used it & shall use it for the joint interests of their creditors & themselves. For I view it as clearly their interest to reduce themselves to as moderate an expense as possible till their debts are paid. If this can be effected before my departure in April I will not only aid it here, but have any thing done which may be necessary in Virginia when I go there, such as the recording the deed &c. This journey of Mrs. Paradise will also be an experiment whether their distresses will not be lighter when separate than while together.—I shall always be glad to hear from you. Since Mr. Adams’s departure I have need of information from that country, and should rely much on yours. It will always therefore be acceptable.
TO WILLIAM SHORT
Paris, Feb. 9, 1789.
—I wrote you last on the 22d of Jan on which day I received yours of Dec 31, and since that the other of Jan 14. We have now received news from America down to the middle of December They had then had no cold weather. All things relative to our new constitution were going on well. Federal Senators are; N Hampshire Presidt. Langdon and Bartlett. Massach. Strong & Dalton. Connect. Dr. Johnson & Ellsworth. New Jersey Patterson & Ellmer. Pennyslva Rob Morris & McClay. Delaware Reed & Bassett. Virga. R. H. Lee & Grayson. Maryld. Charles Carrol of Carrolton & John Henry. All of these are federalists except those of Virga: so that a majority of federalists are secured in the Senate and expected in the H of representatives. Genl. Washington will be president and probably Mr. Adams vice president. So that the constitution will be put under way by those who will give it a fair trial. It does not seem probable that the attempt of N York to have another convention to make amendments will succeed, tho’ Virginia concurs in it. It is tolerably certain that Congress will propose amendments to the assemblies, as even the friends of the constitution are willing to make amendments, some from a conviction they are necessary, others from a spirit of conciliation. The addition of a bill of rights will probably be the most essential change. A vast majority of Antifederalists have got into the assembly of Virginia, so that Mr. Henry is omnipotent there. Mr. Madison was left out as a Senator by 8. or 9. votes and Henry has so modelled the districts for representatives as to tack Orange to counties where he himself has great influence that Madison may not be elected in the lower federal house, which was the place Madison had wished to serve in, & not the Senate. Henry pronounced a Philippic against Madison in open assembly, Madison being then at Philadelphia. Mifflin is Presidt. of Pennsylvania and Peters speaker. Colo Howard is Govr of Maryland. Beverly Randolph Govr of Virginia (this last is said by a passenger only & he seems not very sure). Colo Humphreys is attacked in the papers for his French airs, for bad poetry, bad prose, vanity, &c. It is said his dress in so gay a style gives general disgust against him. I have received a letter from him. He seems fixed with Genl Washington. Mayo’s bridge over Richmond was completed, & carried away in a few weeks. While up, it was so profitable that he had great offers for it. A turnpike is established at Alexandria & succeeds. Rhode island has again refused to call a Convention. Spain has granted to Colo Morgan of New Jersey a vast tract of land on the Western side of the Mississipi with the monopoly of the navigation of that river. He is inviting settlers & they swarm to him. Even the settlement of Kentuckey is likely to be much weakened by emigrations to Morgan’s grant. Warville is returned charmed with our country. He is going to carry his wife & children to settle there. Gouverneur Morris is just arrived here, deputed, as is supposed, to settle R. Morris’s affairs which continue still deranged. Dr. Franklin was well when he left America, which was about the middle of December. * * *
TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL
Paris Mar. 4. 1789.
—My last to you was of the 25th of December. Tho’ the establishment of packet boats with you, and suppression of them with us, puts it in your power perhaps to give me better details of American affairs than I can you, I shall nevertheless continue to communicate to you what I know, persuaded it is better you should hear a thing twice than not hear it at all.
I mentioned to you in my last that the Convention of Virginia had proposed to Congress the method of amending by Congress & the assemblies. Since that the assembly of that state, a much more anti-federal body, has proposed the other method of amendment by a federal convention. But this will not take. The elections for the new Congress are almost universally federal, which proves the people in general to be so. The following is a list of the federal Senate so far as Notice of the elections have reached me. 1. N. Hampshire Presidt. Langdon & Judge Bartlett. 2. Massachusetts, Strong & Dalton. 3. Connecticut Dr. Johnson & Elsworth. 4. N. Jersey. Patterson & Elmer. 5. Pennsylvania. R. H. Morris & McClurg. 6. Delaware. Reed & Basset. 7. Virginia. R. H. Lee & Grayson. 8. Maryland Chas. Carroll of Carrolton, & John Henry. It is thought Mr Izard will be one from S. Carolina. Genl. Schuyler is expected for N. York, but as late as the 10th. of January that assembly had not yet been able to agree on Senators. I hear nothing from Georgia. N. Carolina has fixed a day for another convention, but a very distant one. It is the anti-federalism of Virginia which levens the mass. Rhode island has again refused to call a convention. Genl. Washington, tho’ with vast reluctance, will undertake the presidency if called to it, & there was no doubt he would be so called. The only candidates for the vice presidency, with their own consent, are Mr. Hancock and Mr. J. Adams. The latter, it was thought, would be chosen. The friends of the new constitution agree pretty generally to add a declaration of rights to it, and the opposition becomes daily weaker, so that the government, confided generally to friendly hands, and gaining on the esteem of the nation, begins this very day, under the most auspicious appearances.
The revolution in this country seems to be going on well. In Burgundy & Franche compté indeed there is great stubbornness in the privileged orders, and in Bretagne they have proceeded to blows, which however are stopped for the present. In the west of the Kingdom it seems as if the rights of the tiers etat would be acknoleged and by a majority of the nobles. The circumstance from which I fear the worst is that the States general are too numerous. I see great difficulty in preventing 1200 people from becoming a mob. Should confusion be prevented from this circumstance, I suppose the states general, with the consent of the King, will establish some of the leading features of a good constitution. They have indeed a miserable old canvas to work on, covered with daubings which it will be difficult to efface. But some they will efface, & some soften, so as to make a tolerable thing of it, perhaps a good one. The war in the North is likely to spread: & the King of England seems recovering his senses. But time will be requisite to shew whether it be a lucid interval only, whether it be permanent, or whether it be anything more than a recovery from insanity to imbecility which is the most ordinary case. In either event, time is necessary to give such confidence in his state of mind, as that his Ministers may venture to take a part in the war; and that time will suffice to enable this nation to arrange it’s internal affairs so solidly as to put them more in condition, than ever they were at any period of their history, to act the part they may chuse in foreign affairs. How happy is it for us that we are beyond the reach of those storms which are eternally desolating Europe. We have indeed a neighbor with whom misunderstandings are possible: but they must be the effect of interests ill calculated. Nothing is more demonstrable than is the unity of their & our interest for ages to come.
I have had a letter from Admiral Paul Jones dated St. Petersburgh Jan. 31. He was well and just arrived there on the call of the Empress. He has commanded on the Black Sea during the last campaign, but does not know where he is to act the ensuing one.—My last accounts from Lediard (another bold countryman of ours) were from Grand Cairo. He was just then plunging into the unknown regions of Africa, probably never to emerge again. If he returns, he has promised me to go to America and penetrate from Kentucke to the Western side of the Continent. I do not know whether you are informed that in the years 1787–1788. he went from here bound for Kamschatka, to cross over thence to the Western coast of our continent & pass through to the Eastern one. He was arrested par ordre superieure within two or three days journey of Kamschatka, conveyed back to the confines of Poland, & there turned adrift. He arrived here last June, & immediately set out for Africa. I received some time ago a very interesting history del luxo de España, and the charming poems of M. Yriarte, tho’ they have not been mentioned in any of your letters I presume it is you I am to thank for them, which I do very cordially. I know nothing, since my last, more precise on the time of my departure, but I think it would be better you should address no letters to me at this place which may arrive between the middle of April & November. Mr. Short will transact the business of the legation during my absence, as I expect.
TO FRANCIS HOPKINSON
Paris, Mar. 13, 1789.
— * * * You say that I have been dished up to you as an antifederalist, and ask me if it be just. My opinion was never worthy enough of notice to merit citing; but since you ask it I will tell it you. I am not a Federalist, because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all. Therefore I protest to you I am not of the party of federalists. But I am much farther from that of the Antifederalists. I approved, from the first moment, of the great mass of what is in the new constitution, the consolidation of the government, the organization into Executive legislative & judiciary, the subdivision of the legislative, the happy compromise of interests between the great & little states by the different manner of voting in the different houses, the voting by persons instead of states, the qualified negative on laws given to the Executive which however I should have liked better if associated with the judiciary also as in New York, and the power of taxation. I thought at first that the latter might have been limited. A little reflection soon convinced me it ought not to be. What I disapproved from the first moment also was the want of a bill of rights to guard liberty against the legislative as well as executive branches of the government, that is to say to secure freedom in religion, freedom of the press, freedom from monopolies, freedom from unlawful imprisonment, freedom from a permanent military, and a trial by jury in all cases determinable by the laws of the land. I disapproved also the perpetual reeligibility of the President. To these points of disapprobation I adhere. My first wish was that the 9. first conventions might accept the constitution, as the means of securing to us the great mass of good it contained, and that the 4. last might reject it, as the means of obtaining amendments. But I was corrected in this wish the moment I saw the much better plan of Massachusetts and which had never occurred to me. With respect to the declaration of rights I suppose the majority of the United States are of my opinion: for I apprehend all the antifederalists, and a very respectable proportion of the federalists think that such a declaration should now be annexed. The enlightened part of Europe have given us the greatest credit for inventing this instrument of security for the rights of the people, and have been not a little surprised to see us so soon give it up. With respect to the re-eligibility of the president, I find myself differing from the majority of my countrymen, for I think there are but three states out of the 11. which have desired an alteration of this. And indeed, since the thing is established, I would wish it not to be altered during the life of our great leader, whose executive talents are superior to those I believe of any man in the world, and who alone by the authority of his name and the confidence reposed in his perfect integrity, is fully qualified to put the new government so under way as to secure it against the efforts of opposition. But having derived from our error all the good there was in it I hope we shall correct it the moment we can no longer have the same name at the helm. These, my dear friend, are my sentiments, by which you will see I was right in saying I am neither federalist nor antifederalist; that I am of neither party, nor yet a trimmer between parties. These my opinions I wrote within a few hours after I had read the constitution, to one or two friends in America. I had not then read one single word printed on the subject. I never had an opinion in politics or religion which I was afraid to own. A costive reserve on these subjects might have procured me more esteem from some people, but less from myself. My great wish is to go on in a strict but silent performance of my duty; to avoid attracting notice & to keep my name out of newspapers, because I find the pain of a little censure, even when it is unfounded, is more acute than the pleasure of much praise. The attaching circumstance of my present office is that I can do it’s duties unseen by those for whom they are done.—You did not think, by so short a phrase in your letter, to have drawn on yourself such an egotistical dissertation.
TO MADAME DE BREHAN1
Paris, March 14th, 1789.
—I had the honor of writing to you on the 15th of February, soon after which I had that of receiving your favor of December the 29th. I have a thousand questions to ask you about your journey to the Indian treaty, how you like their persons, their manners, their customs, cuisine, etc. But this I must defer until I can do it personally in New York where I hope to see you for a moment in the summer, and to take your commands for France. I have little to communicate to you from this place. It is deserted; everybody being gone into the country to choose or to be chosen deputies to the States General. I hope to see that great meeting before my departure. It is to be on the 27th of next month. A great political revolution will take place in your country, and that without bloodshed. A king, with two hundred thousand men at his orders, is disarmed by force of public opinion and want of money. Among the economies becoming necessary, perhaps one may be the Opera. They say it has cost the public treasury a hundred thousand crown in the last year. A new theatre is established since your departure—that of the Opera Buffons, where Italian operas are given, and good music. Paris is every day enlarging and beautifying. I do not count among its beauties, however, the wall with which they have inclosed us. They have made some amends for this by making fine Boulevards within and without the walls. These are in considerable forwardness, and will afford beautiful rides around the city of between fifteen and twenty miles in circuit. We have had such a winter, Madame, as makes me shiver yet whenever I think of it. All communications, almost, were cut off. Dinners and suppers were suppressed, and the money laid out in feeding and warming the poor, whose labors were suspended by the rigors of the season. Loaded carriages passed the Seine on the ice, and it was covered with thousands of people from morning to night, skating and sliding. Such sights were never seen before, and they continued two months. We have nothing new and excellent in your charming art of painting. In fact, I do not feel an interest in any pencil but that of David. But I must not hazard details on a subject wherein I am so ignorant and you are such a connoisseur. Adieu, my dear Madam; permit me always the honor of esteeming and being esteemed by you, and of tendering you the homage of that respectful attachment, with which I am and ever shall be, dear Madam, your most obedient, humble servant.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris Mar 15. 1789.
—I wrote you last on the 12th of Jan. since which I have received yours of Octob 17, Dec 8 & 12. That of Oct. 17. came to hand only Feb 23. How it happened to be four months on the way, I cannot tell, as I never knew by what hand it came. Looking over my letter of Jan 12th, I remark an error of the word “probable” instead of “improbable,” which doubtless however you had been able to correct. Your thoughts on the subject of the Declaration of rights in the letter of Oct 17. I have weighed with great satisfaction. Some of them had not occurred to me before, but were acknoleged just in the moment they were presented to my mind. In the arguments in favor of a declaration of rights, you omit one which has great weight with me, the legal check which it puts into the hands of the judiciary. This is a body, which if rendered independent & kept strictly to their own department merits great confidence for their learning & integrity. In fact what degree of confidence would be too much for a body composed of such men as Wythe, Blair & Pendleton? On characters like these the “civium ardor prava jubentium” would make no impression. I am happy to find that on the whole you are a friend to this amendment. The Declaration of rights is like all other human blessings alloyed with some inconveniences, and not accomplishing fully it’s object. But the good in this instance vastly overweighs the evil. I cannot refrain from making short answers to the objections which your letter states to have been raised. 1. That the rights in question are reserved by the manner in which the federal powers are granted. Answer. A constitutive act may certainly be so formed as to need no declaration of rights. The act itself has the force of a declaration as far as it goes; and if it goes to all material points nothing more is wanting. In the draught of a constitution which I had once a thought of proposing in Virginia, & printed afterwards, I endeavored to reach all the great objects of public liberty, and did not mean to add a declaration of rights. Probably the object was imperfectly executed; but the deficiencies would have been supplied by others, in the course of discussion. But in a constitutive act which leaves some precious articles unnoticed, and raises implications against others, a declaration of rights becomes necessary by way of supplement. This is the case of our new federal constitution. This instrument forms us into one state as to certain objects, and gives us a legislative & executive body for these objects. It should therefore guard us against their abuses of power within the field submitted to them. 2. A positive declaration of some essential rights could not be obtained in the requisite latitude. Answer. Half a loaf is better than no bread. If we cannot secure all our rights, let us secure what we can. 3. The limited powers of the federal government & jealousy of the subordinate governments afford a security which exists in no other instance. Answer. The first member of this seems resolvable into the first objection before stated. The jealousy of the subordinate governments is a precious reliance. But observe that those governments are only agents. They must have principles furnished them whereon to found their opposition. The declaration of rights will be the text whereby they will try all the acts of the federal government. In this view it is necessary to the federal government also; as by the same text they may try the opposition of the subordinate governments. 4. Experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights. True. But tho it is not absolutely efficacious under all circumstances, it is of great potency always, and rarely inefficacious. A brace the more will often keep up the building which would have fallen with that brace the less. There is a remarkable difference between the characters of the Inconveniences which attend a Declaration of rights, & those which attend the want of it. The inconveniences of the Declaration are that it may cramp government in it’s useful exertions. But the evil of this is short-lived, trivial & reparable. The inconveniences of the want of a Declaration are permanent, afflicting & irreparable. They are in constant progression from bad to worse. The executive in our governments is not the sole, it is scarcely the principal object of my jealousy. The tyranny of the legislatures is the most formidable dread at present, and will be for long years. That of the executive will come in it’s turn, but it will be at a remote period. I know there are some among us who would now establish a monarchy. But they are inconsiderable in number and weight of character. The rising race are all republicans. We were educated in royalism; no wonder if some of us retain that idolatry still. Our young people are educated in republicanism, an apostasy from that to royalism is unprecedented & impossible. I am much pleased with the prospect that a declaration of rights will be added; and hope it will be done in that way which will not endanger the whole frame of the government, or any essential part of it.
I have hitherto avoided public news in my letters to you, because your situation insured you a communication of my letters to Mr. Jay. This circumstance being changed, I shall in future indulge myself in these details to you. There had been some slight hopes that an accommodation might be affected between the Turks & two empires but these hopes do not strengthen, and the season is approaching which will put an end to them for another campaign at least. The accident to the King of England has had great influence on the affairs of Europe. His mediation joined with that of Prussia, would certainly have kept Denmark quiet, and so have left the two empires in the hands of the Turks & Swedes. But the inactivity to which England is reduced, leaves Denmark more free, and she will probably go on in opposition to Sweden. The K. of Prussia too had advanced so far that he can scarcely retire. This is rendered the more difficult by the troubles he has excited in Poland. He cannot well abandon the party he had brought forward there so that it is very possible he may be engaged in the ensuing campaign. France will be quiet this year, because this year at least is necessary for settling her future constitution. The States will meet the 27th of April: and the public mind will I think by that time be ripe for a just decision of the Question whether they shall vote by orders or persons. I think there is a majority of the nobles already for the latter. If so, their affairs cannot but go on well. Besides settling for themselves a tolerably free constitution, perhaps as free a one as the nation is yet prepared to bear, they will fund their public debts. This will give them such a credit as will enable them to borrow any money they may want, & of course to take the field again when they think proper. And I believe they mean to take the field as soon as they can. The pride of every individual in the nation suffers under the ignominies they have lately been exposed to and I think the states general will give money for a war to wipe off the reproach. There have arisen new bickerings between this court & the Hague, and the papers which have passed shew the most bitter acrimony rankling at the heart of this ministry. They have recalled their ambassador from the Hague without appointing a successor. They have given a note to the Diet of Poland which shews a disapprobation of their measures. The insanity of the King of England has been fortunate for them as it gives them time to put their house in order. The English papers tell you the King is well: and even the English ministry say so. They will naturally set the best foot foremost: and they guard his person so well that it is difficult for the public to contradict them. The King is probably better, but not well by a great deal. 1. He has been bled, and judicious physicians say that in his exhausted state nothing could have induced a recurrence to bleeding but symptoms of relapse. 2. The Prince of Wales tells the Irish deputation he will give them a definitive answer in some days; but if the king had been well he could have given it at once. 3. They talk of passing a standing law for providing a regency in similar cases. They apprehend then they are not yet clear of the danger of wanting a regency. 4. They have carried the king to church; but it was his private chapel. If he be well why do not they shew him publicly to the nation, & raise them from that consternation into which they have been thrown by the prospect of being delivered over to the profligate hands of the prince of Wales. In short, judging from little facts which are known in spite of their teeth the King is better, but not well. Possibly he is getting well, but still, time will be wanting to satisfy even the ministry that it is not merely a lucid interval. Consequently they cannot interrupt France this year in the settlement of her affairs, & after this year it will be too late.
As you will be in a situation to know when the leave of absence will be granted me, which I have asked, will you be so good as to communicate it by a line to Mr. Lewis & Mr. Eppes? I hope to see you in the summer, and that if you are not otherwise engaged, you will encamp with me at Monticello for awhile.
TO DAVID HUMPHREYS
Paris Mar. 18, 1789.
—Your favor of Nov. 29, 1788, came to hand the last month. How it happened that mine of Aug. 1787, was fourteen months on it’s way is inconceivable. I do not recollect by what conveyance I sent it. I had concluded however either that it had miscarried or that you had become indolent as most of our countrymen are in matters of correspondence.
The change in this country since you left it is such as you can form no idea of. The frivolities of conversation have given way entirely to politics. Men, women & children talk nothing else: and all you know talk a great deal. The press groans with daily productions, which in point of boldness make an Englishman stare, who hitherto has thought himself the boldest of men. A complete revolution in this government has, within the space of two years (for it began with the Notables of 1787) been effected merely by the force of public opinion, aided indeed by the want of money which the dissipations of the court had brought on. And this revolution has not cost a single life, unless we charge to it a little riot lately in Bretagne which began about the price of bread, became afterwards political and ended in the loss of 4. or 5. lives. The assembly of the states general begins the 27th of April. The representation of the people will be perfect. But they will be alloyed by an equal number of nobility & clergy. The first great question they will have to decide will be whether they shall vote by orders or persons, & I have hopes that the majority of the nobles are already disposed to join the tiers etat in deciding that the vote shall be by persons. This is the opinion à la mode at present, and mode has acted a wonderful part in the present instance. All the handsome young women, for example, are for the tiers etat, and this is an army more powerful in France than the 200,000 men of the king. Add to this that the court itself is for the tiers etat, as the only agent which can relieve their wants; not by giving money themselves (they are squeezed to the last drop) but by pressing it from the non-contributing orders. The king stands engaged to pretend no more to the power of laying, continuing or appropriating taxes, to call the States general periodically, to submit lettres de cachet to legal restrictions, to consent to freedom of the press, and that all this shall be fixed by a fundamental constitution which shall bind his successors. He has not offered a participation in the legislature, but it will surely be insisted on. The public mind is so ripened on all these subjects, that there seems to be now but one opinion. The clergy indeed think separately, & the old men among the Nobles. But their voice is suppressed by the general one of the nation. The writings published on this occasion are some of them very valuable: because, unfettered by the prejudices under which the English labour, they give a full scope to reason, and strike out truths as yet unperceived & unacknoleged on the other side the channel. An Englishman, dosing under a kind of half reformation, is not excited to think by such gross absurdities as stare a Frenchman in the face wherever he looks whether it be towards the throne or the altar. In fine I believe this nation will in the course of the present year have as full a portion of liberty dealt out to them as the nation can bear at present, considering how uninformed the mass of their people is. This circumstance will prevent their immediate establishment of the trial by jury. The palsied state of the executive in England is a fortunate circumstance for France, as it will give them time to arrange their affairs internally. The consolidation & funding their debts will give them a credit which will enable them to do what they please. For the present year the war will be confined to the two empires & Denmark, against Turkey & Sweden. It is not yet evident whether Prussia will be engaged. If the disturbances of Poland break out into overt acts, it will be a power divided in itself, & so of no weight. Perhaps by the next year England & France may be ready to take the field. It will depend on the former principally, for the latter, tho she may be then able, must wish still a little time to see her new arrangements well under way. The English papers & English ministry say the king is well. He is better, but not well: no malady requires a longer time to ensure against its return, than insanity. Time alone can distinguish accidental insanity from habitual lunacy.
The operations which have taken place in America lately, fill me with pleasure. In the first place they realize the confidence I had that whenever our affairs go obviously wrong the good sense of the people will interpose and set them to rights. The example of changing a constitution by assembling the wise men of the State, instead of assembling armies, will be worth as much to the world as the former examples we had given them. The constitution too which was the result of our deliberations, is unquestionably the wisest ever yet presented to men, and some of the accommodations of interest which it has adopted are greatly pleasing to me who have before had occasions of seeing how difficult those interests were to accommodate. A general concurrence of opinion seems to authorize us to say it has some defects. I am one of those who think it a defect that the important rights not placed in security by the frame of the constitution itself were not explicitly secured by a supplementary declaration. There are rights which it is useless to surrender to the government, and which governments have yet always been fond to invade. These are the rights of thinking, and publishing our thoughts by speaking or writing; the right of free commerce; the right of personal freedom. There are instruments for administering the government, so peculiarly trust-worthy, that we should never leave the legislature at liberty to change them. The new constitution has secured these in the executive & legislative departments; but not in the judiciary. It should have established trials by the people themselves, that is to say by jury. There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation, and which place them so totally at the mercy of their governors, that those governors, whether legislative or executive, should be restrained from keeping such instruments on foot, but in well-defined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army. We are now allowed to say such a declaration of rights, as a supplement to the constitution where that is silent, is wanting to secure us in these points. The general voice has legitimated this objection. It has not however authorized me to consider as a real defect what I thought and still think one, the perpetual re-eligibility of the president. But three states out of 11. having declared against this, we must suppose we are wrong according to the fundamental law of every society, the lex majoris partis, to which we are bound to submit. And should the majority change their opinion, & become sensible that this trait in their constitution is wrong, I would wish it to remain uncorrected, as long as we can avail ourselves of the services of our great leader, whose talents and whose weight of character I consider as peculiarly necessary to get the government so under way as that it may afterwards be carried on by subordinate characters.
I must give you sincere thanks for the details of small news contained in your letter. You know how precious that kind of information is to a person absent from his country, and how difficult it is to be procured. I hope to receive soon permission to visit America this summer, and to possess myself anew, by conversation with my countrymen, of their spirits & their ideas. I know only the Americans of the year 1784. They tell me this is to be much a stranger to those of 1789. This renewal of acquaintance is no indifferent matter to one acting at such a distance as that instructions cannot be received hot and hot. One of my pleasures too will be that of talking over the old & new with you.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE
Paris May 6, 1789.
My Dear Friend,
—As it becomes more & more possible that the noblesse will go wrong, I become uneasy for you. Your principles are decidedly with the tiers etat, and your instructions against them. A complaisance to the latter on some occasions and an adherence to the former on others, may give an appearance of trimming between the two parties which may lose you both. You will in the end go over wholly to the tiers etat, because it will be impossible for you to live in a constant sacrifice of your own sentiments to the prejudices of the Noblesse. But you would be received by the tiers etat at any future day, coldly and without confidence. It appears to me the moment to take at once that honest and manly stand with them which your own principles dictate. This will win their hearts forever, be approved by the world which marks and honours you as the man of the people, and will be an eternal consolation to yourself. The Noblesse, & especially the Noblesse of Auvergne will always prefer men who will do their dirty work for them. You are not made for that. They will therefore soon drop you, and the people in that case will perhaps not take you up. Suppose a scission should take place. The priests and nobles will secede, the nation will remain in place and, with the King, will do it’s own business. If violence should be attempted, where will you be? You cannot then take side with the people in opposition to your own vote, that very vote which will have helped to produce the scission. Still less can you array yourself against the people. That is impossible. Your instructions are indeed a difficulty. But to state this at it’s worst, it is only a single difficulty, which a single effort surmounts. Your instructions can never embarass you a second time, whereas an acquiescence under them will reproduce greater difficulties every day & without end. Besides, a thousand circumstances offer as many justifications of your departure from your instructions. Will it be impossible to persuade all parties that (as for good legislation two Houses are necessary) the placing the privileged classes together in one house and the unprivileged in another, would be better for both than a scission? I own I think it would. People can never agree without some sacrifices: and it appears but a moderate sacrifice in each party to meet on this middle ground. The attempt to bring this about might satisfy your instructions, and a failure in it would justify your siding with the people, even to those who think instructions are laws of conduct. Forgive me, my dear friend, if my anxiety for you makes me talk of things I know nothing about. You must not consider this as advice. I know you and myself too well to presume to offer advice. Receive it merely as the expression of my uneasiness and the effusion of that sincere friendship with which I am, my dear Sir, your’s affectionately.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON
Paris, May 10, 1789.
—I am now to acknolege the honor of your two letters of Nov. 27 and Feb. 13, both of which have come to hand since my last to you of Dec. 4 & 5. The details you are so good as to give me on the subject of the navigation of the waters of the Potowmac and Ohio are very pleasing to me, as I consider the union of these two rivers as among the strongest links of connection between the eastern & western sides of our confederacy. It will moreover add to the commerce of Virginia in particular all the upper parts of the Ohio & it’s waters. Another vast object and of much less difficulty is to add also all the country on the lakes & their waters. This would enlarge our field immensely and would certainly be effected by an union of the upper waters of the Ohio & lake Erie. The Big beaver & Cayahoga offer the most direct line and according to information I received from Genl Hand, and which I had the honor of writing you in the year 1783, the streams in that neighborhood head in lagoons, and the country is flat. With respect to the doubts which you say are entertained by some whether the upper waters of Potowmac can be rendered capable of navigation on account of the falls & rugged banks, they are answered by observing that it is reduced to a maxim that whenever there is water enough to float a batteau, there may be navigation for a batteau. Canals & locks may be necessary, & they are expensive; but I hardly know what expense would be too great for the object in question. Probably negotiations with the Indians, perhaps even settlement must precede the execution of the Cayahoga canal. The states of Maryland and Virginia should make a common object of it. The navigation again between Elizabeth river & the Sound is of vast importance and in my opinion it is much better that these should be done at public than private expense.
Tho’ we have not heard of the actual opening of the New Congress, & consequently have not official information of your election as President of the U. S. yet as there never could be a doubt entertained of it, permit me to express here my felicitations, not to yourself, but to my country. Nobody who has tried both public & private life can doubt but that you were much happier on the banks of the Potowmac than you will be at New York. But there was nobody so well qualified as yourself to put our new machine into a regular course of action, nobody the authority of whose name could have so effectually crushed opposition at home, and produced respect abroad. I am sensible of the immensity of the sacrifice on your part. Your measure of fame was full to the brim: and therefore you have nothing to gain. But there are cases wherein it is a duty to risk all against nothing, and I believe this was exactly the case. We may presume too, according to every rule of probability, that after doing a great deal of good you will be found to have lost nothing but private repose. In a letter to Mr. Jay of the 19 of November I asked a leave of absence to carry my children back to their own country, and to settle various matters of a private nature which were left unsettled because I had no idea of being absent so long. I expected that letter would have been received in time to be decided on by the government then existing. I know now that it would arrive when there was no Congress, and consequently that it must have awaited your arrival at New York. I hope you found the request not an unreasonable one. I am excessively anxious to receive the permission without delay, that I may be able to get back before the winter sets in. Nothing can be so dreadful to me as to be shivering at sea for two or three months in a winter passage. Besides there has never been a moment at which the presence of a minister here could be so well dispensed with, a certainty of no war this summer, and that the government will be so totally absorbed in domestic arrangements as to attend to nothing exterior. Mr. Jay will of course communicate to you some ciphered letters lately written, and one of this date. My public letter to him contains all the interesting public details. I inclose with the present some extracts of a letter from Mr. Payne which he desired me to communicate; your knolege of the writer will justify my giving you the trouble of these communications which their interesting nature and his respectability will jointly recommend to notice.—I am in great pain for the M. de la Fayette. His principles you know are clearly with the people, but having been elected for the Noblesse of Auvergne they have laid him under express instructions to vote for the decision by orders & not persons. This would ruin him with the tiers etat, and it is not possible he could continue long to give satisfaction to the noblesse. I have not hesitated to press on him to burn his instructions & follow his conscience as the only sure clue which will eternally guide a man clear of all doubts & inconsistencies. If he cannot effect a conciliatory plan, he will surely take his stand manfully at once with the tiers etat. He will in that case be what he pleases with them, and I am in hopes that base is now too solid to render it dangerous to be mounted on it.—In hopes of being able in the course of the summer to pay my respects to you personally in New York I have the honour to be with sentiments of the most perfect respect & attachment, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble servant.
TO COMTE DE MOUSTIER1
Paris. May 20. 1789.
—I had the honor of writing to you on the 13th of March by the way of London, another conveiance the same way now occurring, I avail myself of it to send you a list of the deputies to the States general, which I presume will be interesting to you. You will already have received the speeches of the King, Garde des sceaux, & Mr. Necker, as I know that M. de Montmorin wrote to you the evening of the day on which they appeared, & sent his letter by the Bordeaux packet. You are doubtless informed that a difference among the orders as to the manner of voting suspends all their proceedings. They continue inactive, and many despair of their ever getting under way. The truth is that this revolution has gone on so happily till now, and met with so few obstacles, that your countrymen are frightened at seeing that the machine is stopped and that no way yet presents itself of getting over the difficulty.
I see nothing to fear as yet, the nation is in a movement which cannot be stopped, their representatives, if they cannot get on one way, will try another.
The mind of man is full of expedients, and this is the case where all will be tried. I think that in the end the nobles will be obliged to yield to the vote by persons, because the Tiers are more unanimous, more inflexible, and more formidable. They have for them also a part of the Noblesse, the majority of the clergy (to wit, le bas-clergé) the nation, and the body of the army.
The officers of the army, the bishops, and about four fifths of the nobles which form the opposition, cannot make head against such a mass.—The Cardinal de Lomenie is reposing under the shadow of his new hat at Pisa, where he is greatly courted, his colleague M. de Lamoignon late garde de sceaux, shot himself four days ago, as the world says, but as his friends say was killed by the accidental discharge of his own fusil. The Grand Seignior is dead.
The Emperor will certainly soon follow him and the war will probably go on this year in the state in which it was at the close of the last campaign, that is to say, without any accession of other powers.
The present state of the K. of England promises a long and wholesome inactivity in that kingdom, and may perhaps bridle the King of Prussia from making any effort to change the succession of the empire, which he would be disposed to attempt.—I should have observed to you that your parliaments have been for some time past as quiet as if they were already entombed. It is a great presumption in me to write to you, because you will get so much better information from your friends: but it is to shew you how acceptable your communications are to me, and how willing I am to do something for them. Present me with great affection to Madame de Brehan. I am in hourly expectation of receiving my leave of absence, and shall leave Paris the instant I receive it, and flatter myself soon to assure you both in person of those sentiments of esteem & respect with which I have the honor to be, Dear Sir, your most obedt. humble servt.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE
Paris June 3. 1789.
—Revolving further in my mind the idea started yesterday evening of the King’s coming forward in a seance royale and offering a charter containing all the good in which all parties agree I like it more and more. I have ventured to sketch such a charter merely to convey my idea, which I now inclose to you, as I do also to M. de St. Etienne. I write him a letter of apology for my meddling in a business where I know so little & you & he so much. I have thought it better to possess him immediately of the paper, because he may at the conference of to-day sound the minds of the conferees. Adieu. Your’s affectionately.
TO M. DE ST. ETIENNE
Paris June 3, 1789.
—After you quitted us yesterday evening, we continued our conversation (Monsr. de la Fayette, Mr. Short & myself) on the subject of the difficulties which environ you. The desirable object being to secure the good which the King has offered & to avoid the ill which seems to threaten, an idea was suggested, which appearing to make an impression on Monsr. de la Fayette, I was encouraged to pursue it on my return to Paris, to put it into form, & now to send it to you & him. It is this, that the King, in a seance royale should come forward with a Charter of Rights in his hand, to be signed by himself & by every member of the three orders. This charter to contain the five great points which the Resultat of December offered on the part of the King, the abolition of pecuniary privileges offered by the privileged orders, & the adoption of the National debt and a grant of the sum of money asked from the nation. This last will be a cheap price for the preceding articles, and let the same act declare your immediate separation till the next anniversary meeting. You will carry back to your constituents more good than ever was effected before without violence, and you will stop exactly at the point where violence would otherwise begin. Time will be gained, the public mind will continue to ripen & to be informed, a basis of support may be prepared with the people themselves, and expedients occur for gaining still something further at your next meeting, & for stopping again at the point of force. I have ventured to send to yourself & Monsieur de la Fayette a sketch of my ideas of what this act might contain without endangering any dispute. But it is offered merely as a canvas for you to work on, if it be fit to work on at all. I know too little of the subject, & you know too much of it to justify me in offering anything but a hint. I have done it too in a hurry: insomuch that since committing it to writing it occurs to me that the 5th. article may give alarm, that it is in a good degree included in the 4th., and is therefore useless. But after all what excuse can I make, Sir, for this presumption. I have none but an unmeasurable love for your nation and a painful anxiety lest Despotism, after an unaccepted offer to bind it’s own hands, should seize you again with tenfold fury. Permit me to add to these very sincere assurances of the sentiments of esteem & respect with which I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedt. & most humble servt.
PROPOSED CHARTER FOR FRANCE
[June 3d, 1789.]
A Charter of Rights, solemnly established by the King and Nation
1. The States General shall assemble, uncalled, on the first day of November, annually, and shall remain together so long as they shall see cause. They shall regulate their own elections and proceedings, and until they shall ordain otherwise, their elections shall be in the forms observed in the present year, and shall be triennial.
2. The States General alone shall levy money on the nation, and shall appropriate it.
3. Laws shall be made by the States General only, with the consent of the King.
4. No person shall be restrained of his liberty, but by regular process from a court of justice, authorized by a general law. (Except that a Noble may be imprisoned by order of a court of justice, on the prayer of twelve of his nearest relations.) On complaint of an unlawful imprisonment, to any judge whatever, he shall have the prisoner immediately brought before him, and shall discharge him, if his imprisonment be unlawful. The officer in whose custody the prisoner is, shall obey the orders of the judge; and both judge and officer shall be responsible, civilly and criminally, for a failure of duty herein.
5. The military shall be subordinate to the civil authority.
6. Printers shall be liable to legal prosecution for printing and publishing false facts, injurious to the party prosecuting; but they shall be under no other restraint.
7. All pecuniary privileges and exemptions, enjoyed by any description of persons, are abolished.
8. All debts already contracted by the King, are hereby made the debts of the nation; and the faith thereof is pledged for their payment in due time.
9. Eighty millions of livres are now granted to the King, to be raised by loan, and reimbursed by the nation; and the taxes heretofore paid, shall continue to be paid to the end of the present year, and no longer.
10. The States General shall now separate, and meet again on the 1st day of November next.
Done, on behalf of the whole nation, by the King and their representatives in the States General, at Versailles, this — day of June, 1789.
Signed by the King, and by every member individually, and in his presence.
TO L’ABBÉ ARNOND
Paris July 19, 1789.
—The above is a catalogue1 of all the books I recollect on the subject of juries. With respect to the value of this institution I must make a general observation. We think in America that it is necessary to introduce the people into every department of government as far as they are capable of exercising it; and that this is the only way to ensure a long continued & honest administration of it’s powers. 1. They are not qualified to exercise themselves the Executive department; but they are qualified to name the person who shall exercise it. With us therefore they chuse this officer every 4. years. 2. They are not qualified to Legislate. With us therefore they only chuse the legislators. 3. They are not qualified to Judge questions of law; but they are very capable of judging questions of fact. In the form of juries therefore they determine all matters of fact, leaving to the permanent judges to decide the law resulting from those facts. But we all know, that permanent judges acquire an Esprit de corps, that being known they are liable to be tempted by bribery, that they are misled by favor, by relationship, by a spirit of party, by a devotion to the Executive or Legislative; that it is better to leave a cause to the decision of cross & pile, than to that of a judge biased to one side; and that the opinion of 12. honest jurymen gives still a better hope of right, than cross & pile does. It is left therefore to the juries, if they think the permanent judges are under any biass whatever in any cause, to take on themselves to judge the laws as well as the fact. They never exercise this power but when they suspect partiality in the judges, and by the exercise of this power they have been the firmest bulwarks of English liberty. Were I called upon to decide whether the people had best be omitted in the Legislative or Judiciary department, I would say it is better to leave them out of the Legislature. The execution of the laws is more important than the making them. However it is best to have the people in all the three departments where that is possible. I write in great haste my dear Sir, & have therefore only time to add wishes for the happiness of your country, to which a new order of things is opening & assurances of the sincere esteem with which I have the honor to be, Dear Sir, your most obedient & humble servt.
TO JAMES MADISON1
Paris July 29. 1789.
—I wrote you on the 22d. since that I have received yours of the 23d of May. The President’s title as proposed by the senate was the most superlatively ridiculous thing I ever heard of. It is a proof the more of the justice of the character given by Doctor Franklin of my friend.2Always an honest one [?] often a great one but sometimes absolutely mad. I wish he could have been here during the late scenes, if he could then have had one fibre of aristocracy left in his frame he would have been a proper subject for bedlam. The tranquility of this place has not been disturbed since the death of Foulon & Bertier. Supplies of bread are precarious but there has not as yet been such a want as to produce disorder, and we may expect the new wheat harvest to begin now in ten or twelve days. You will wonder to find the harvest here so late. But from my observations (I guess, because I have not calculated their result carefully) the sun does not shine here more than 5. hours of the 24. through the whole year. I inclose you some papers worth notice, which indeed have principally induced me to address you so soon after my last.
TO JAMES SWAN
Paris Aug. 4. 1789.
—Whenever foreigners, possessed of American funds, have come to consult me as to their solidity, I have made it a point to give them the best information in my power. But I have wished to avoid being consulted by those who desire to buy; because it is far from being among my duties to assist in converting the domestic debts of our country into foreign debts, and because too I have not been willing, by giving an opinion which might induce an individual to embark his fortune in a speculation, to take upon myself any responsibility or reproaches for the event of that speculation. The incident which I presume is the subject of your letter was the following. About a week ago one of my servants came and told me there was a person who wished to speak to me. I asked if he was an American or a foreigner? He said a foreigner. I had a good deal of company at the moment, and told him I could not receive him unless his business was extremely pressing. He went to ask his business, and returned with a letter too long to be read in that situation. But at one glance of the eye I saw that it related to the purchase of American funds. I told him to tell the person I did not meddle in that subject, but that unless he was well acquainted with it, he might lose. You know better than I do, Sir, that under the denomination of American funds are comprehended at least 20. kinds of paper of the United States & of the several states, and three times as many kinds of paper effects. Those of the confederacy I know to be as solid as the earth itself & would as soon lend money on them myself as on mortgages of land. Some of those of the several states are good: but I do not suppose all of them to be so. None but a broker living on the spot can distinguish the good from the bad. I therefore told the servant to say to him that ‘s’il ne s’y connoissoit pas il pourvoit bien y perdre.’ How the servant or he could transform this into an answer ‘that the American funds were of no great stability’ is not for me to explain. The line or two of the letter which I read mentioned no names, nor specified any particular kind of funds. This, Sir, is the true answer, and the explanation of the motives which led to it: both of them very far from imputing a want of solidity to the funds of the United States. No body living I believe has been more uniformly confident in them than myself.
TO JAMES MADISON1
Paris Aug. 28, 1789.
—My last to you was of July 22. Since that I have received yours of May 27, June 13 & 30. The tranquillity of the city has not been disturbed since my last. Dissensions between the French & Swiss guards occasioned some private combats in which five or six were killed. These dissensions are made up. The want of bread for some days past has greatly endangered the peace of the city. Some get a little, some none at all. The poor are the best served because they besiege perpetually the doors of the bakers. Notwithstanding this distress, and the palpable impotence of the city administration to furnish bread to the city, it was not till yesterday that general leave was given to the bakers to go into the country & buy flour for themselves as they can. This will soon relieve us, because the wheat harvest is well advanced. Never was there a country where the practice of governing too much had taken deeper root & done more mischief. Their declaration of rights is finished. If printed in time I will inclose a copy with this. It is doubtful whether they will now take up the finance or the constitution first. The distress for money endangers everything. No taxes are paid, and no money can be borrowed. Mr. Neckar was yesterday to give in a memoir to the Assembly on this subject. I think they will give him leave to put into execution any plan he pleases, so as to debarrass themselves of this & take up that of the constitution. No plan is yet reported; but the leading members (with some small differences of opinion) have in contemplation the following: The Executive power in a hereditary King, with a negative on laws and power to dissolve the legislature, to be considerably restrained in the making of treaties, and limited in his expenses. The legislative in a house of representatives. They propose a senate also, chosen on the plan of our federal senate by the provincial assemblies, but to be for life, of a certain age (they talk of 40. years) and certain wealth (4 or 500 guineas a year) but to have no other power as to laws but to remonstrate against them to the representatives, who will then determine their fate by a simple majority. This you will readily perceive is a mere council of revision like that of New York, which, in order to be something, must form an alliance with the king, to avail themselves of his veto. The alliance will be useful to both & to the nation. The representatives to be chosen every two or three years. The judiciary system is less prepared than any other part of their plan, however they will abolish the parliaments, and establish an order of judges & justices, general & provincial, a good deal like ours, with trial by jury in criminal cases certainly, perhaps also in civil. The provinces will have assemblies for their provincial government, & the cities a municipal body for municipal government, all founded on the basis of popular election. These subordinate governments, tho completely dependent on the general one, will be intrusted with almost the whole of the details which our state governments exercise. They will have their own judiciary, final in all but great cases, the Executive business will principally pass through their hands, and a certain local legislature will be allowed them. In short ours has been professedly their model, in which such changes are made as a difference of circumstances rendered necessary and some others neither necessary nor advantageous, but into which men will ever run when versed in theory and new in the practice of government, when acquainted with man only as they see him in their books & not in the world. This plan will undoubtedly undergo changes in the assembly, and the longer it is delayed the greater will be the changes; for that assembly, or rather the patriotic part of it, hooped together heretofore by a common enemy, are less compact since their victory. That enemy (the civil & ecclesiastical aristocracy) begins to raise it’s head. The lees too of the patriotic party, of wicked principles & desperate fortunes, hoping to pillage something in the wreck of their country, are attaching themselves to the faction of the Duke of Orleans, that faction is caballing with the populace, & intriguing at London, the Hague, & Berlin, and have evidently in view the transfer of the crown to the D. of Orleans. He is a man of moderate understanding, of no principle, absorbed in low vice, and incapable of abstracting himself from the filth of that to direct anything else. His name and his money therefore are mere tools in the hands of those who are duping him. Mirabeau is their chief. They may produce a temporary confusion, and even a temporary civil war, supported as they will be by the money of England; but they cannot have success ultimately. The King, the mass of the substantial people of the whole country, the army, and the influential part of the clergy, form a firm phalanx which must prevail. Should those delays which necessarily attend the deliberations of a body of 1200 men give time to this plot to ripen & burst so as to break up the assembly before anything definite is done, a constitution, the principles of which are pretty well settled in the minds of the assembly, will be proposed by the national militia, (that is their commander) urged by the individual members of the assembly, signed by the King, and supported by the nation, to prevail till circumstances shall permit its revision and more regular sanction. This I suppose the pis aller of their affairs, while their probable event is a peaceable settlement of them. They fear a war from England, Holland & Prussia. I think England will give money, but not make war. Holland would soon be afire internally were she to be embroiled in external difficulties. Prussia must know this & act accordingly.
It is impossible to desire better dispositions towards us, than prevail in this assembly. Our proceedings have been viewed as a model for them on every occasion; and tho in the heat of debate men are generally disposed to contradict every authority urged by their opponents, ours has been treated like that of the bible, open to explanation but not to question. I am sorry that in the moment of such a disposition anything should come from us to check it. The placing them on a mere footing with the English will have this effect. When of two nations, the one has engaged herself in a ruinous war for us, has spent her blood & money to save us, has opened her bosom to us in peace, and received us almost on the footing of her own citizens, while the other has moved heaven, earth & hell to exterminate us in war, has insulted us in all her councils in peace, shut her doors to us in every part where her interests would admit it, libelled us in foreign nations, endeavored to poison them against the reception of our most precious commodities; to place these two nations on a footing, is to give a great deal more to one than to the other if the maxim be true that to make unequal quantities equal you must add more to the one than to the other. To say in excuse that gratitude is never to enter into the motives of national conduct, is to revive a principle which has been buried for centuries with it’s kindred principles of the lawfulness of assassination, poison, perjury, &c. All of these were legitimate principles in the dark ages which intervened between antient & modern civilization, but exploded & held in just horror in the 18th century. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively. He who says I will be a rogue when I act in company with a hundred others but an honest man when I act alone, will be believed in the former assertion, but not in the latter. I would say with the poet “hic niger est, hunc tu Romane cavato.” If the morality of one man produces a just line of conduct in him, acting individually, why should not the morality of 100 men produce a just line of conduct in them acting together? But I indulge myself in these reflections because my own feelings run into them: with you they were always acknoleged. Let us hope that our new government will take some other occasions to shew that they mean to prescribe no virtue from the canons of their conduct with other nations. In every other instance the new government has ushered itself to the world as honest, masculine and dignified. It has shown genuine dignity, in my opinion in exploding adulatory titles; they are the offerings of abject baseness, and nourish that degrading vice in the people.—
I must now say a word on the declaration of rights you have been so good as to send me. I like it as far as it goes; but I should have been for going further. For instance the following alterations & additions would have pleased me. Art 4. “The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write or otherwise to publish anything but false facts affecting injuriously the life, liberty, property, or reputation of others or affecting the peace of the confederacy with foreign nations. Art 7. All facts put in issue before any judicature shall be tried by jury except 1, in cases of admiralty jurisdiction wherein a foreigner shall be interested; 2, in cases cognizable before a court martial concerning only the regular officers & souldiers of the U. S. or members of the militia in actual service in time of war or insurrection, & 3, in impeachments allowed by the constitution. Art 8. No person shall be held in confinement more than days after they shall have demanded & been refused a writ of Hab. corp. by the judge appointed by law nor more than days after such a writ shall have been served on the person holding him in confinement & no order given on due examination for his remandment or discharge, nor more than hours in any place at a greater distance than miles from the usual residence of some judge authorized to issue the writ of Hab. corp., nor shall that writ be suspended for any term exceeding one year nor in any place more than miles distant from the station or encampment of enemies or of insurgents. Art. 9. Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature & their own inventions in the arts, for a term not exceeding years but for no longer term & no other purpose. Art. 10. All troops of the U. S. shall stand ipso facto disbanded at the expiration of the term for which their pay & subsistence shall have been last voted by Congress, and all officers & souldiers not natives of the U. S. shall be incapable of serving in their armies by land except during a foreign war.” These restrictions I think are so guarded as to hinder evil only. However if we do not have them now, I have so much confidence in my countrymen as to be satisfied that we shall have them as soon as the degeneracy of our government shall render them necessary. I have no certain news of P. Jones. I understand only in a general way that some persecution on the part of his officers occasioned his being called to Petersburgh, & that tho protected against them by the empress, he is not yet restored to his station. Silas Deane is coming over to finish his days in America, not having one sou to subsist on elsewhere. He is a wretched monument of the consequences of a departure from right.—I will before my departure write Colo Lee fully the measures I pursued to procure success in his business, & which as yet offer little hope, & I shall leave it in the hands of Mr. Short to be pursued if any prospect opens on him. I propose to sail from Havre as soon after the 1st of October as I can get a vessel: & shall consequently leave this place a week earlier than that. As my daughters will be with me, & their baggage somewhat more than that of mere voyageures, I shall endeavor if possible to obtain a passage for Virginia directly. Probably I shall be there by the last of November. If my immediate attendance at New York should be requisite for any purpose, I will leave them with a relation near Richmond and proceed immediately to New York. But as I do not foresee any pressing purpose for that journey immediately on my arrival, and as it will be a great saving of time to finish at once in Virginia so as to have no occasion to return there after having once gone on to the Northward, I expect to proceed to my own house directly. Staying there two months (which I believe will be necessary) and allowing for the time I am on the road, I may expect to be at New York in February, and to embark from thence or some eastern port.—You ask me if I would accept any appointment on that side of the water? You know the circumstances which led me from retirement, step by step, & from one nomination to another up to the present. My object is a return to the same retirement. Whenever therefore I quit the present it will not be to engage in any other office, and most especially any one which would require a constant residence from home.—The books I have collected for you will go off for Havre in three or four days with my baggage. From that port, I shall try to send them by a direct occasion to New York. I am with great & sincere esteem Dr. Sir your affectionate friend and servant.
P. S. I just now learn that Mr. Neckar proposed yesterday to the National assembly a loan of 80 millions, on terms more tempting to the lender than the former, & that they approved it, leaving him to arrange the details in order that they might occupy themselves at once about to the constitution.
end of volume v.
[1 ]From S. N. Randolph’s Domestic Life of Jefferson, page 139.
[1 ]From S. N. Randolph’s Domestic Life of Jefferson, p. 142.
[1 ]From a copy courteously furnished by Dr. J. S. H. Fogg, of Boston.
[1 ]“Books on the subject of Juries: Complete juryman, or a compendium of the laws relating to jurors. 12mo. 3/.Guide to English juries. 12 mo. 1./. 1682.Hawles’s Englishman’s right. 3 vols. & 12mo. 1/.Jurors judges both of law & fact by Jones. 3/.Security of Englishmen’s lives, or the duty of grand juries. 12mo. 1/.Walwin’s juries justified. 4to. 1/.”
[1 ]Parts in italic are cipher translations.
[2 ]John Adams.
[1 ]Parts in italic are cipher translations.