Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1790 - TO THE REV. CHARLES CLAY - The Works, vol. 6 (Correspondence 1789-1792)
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1790 - TO THE REV. CHARLES CLAY - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 6 (Correspondence 1789-1792) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 6.
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TO THE REV. CHARLES CLAY
Monticello, Jan 27, 1790.
—I had hoped that during my stay here I could have had the pleasure of seeing you in Bedford, but I find it will be too short for that. Besides views of business in that county I had wished again to visit that greatest of our curiosities the Natural bridge, and did not know but you might have the same desire.—I do not know yet how I am to be disposed of, whether kept at New York or sent back to Europe. If the former, one of my happinesses would be the possibility of seeing you there; for I understand you are a candidate for the representation of your district in Congress. I cannot be with you to give you my vote; nor do I know who are to be the Competitors: but I am sure I shall be contented with such a representative as you will make, because I know you are too honest a patriot not to wish to see our country prosper by any means, tho’ they be not exactly those you would have preferred; and that you are too well informed a politician, too good a judge of men, not to know, that the ground of liberty is to be gained by inches, that we must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time, and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good. Wishing you every prosperity in this & in all your other undertakings (for I am sure, from my knowlege of you they will always be just) I am with sincere esteem & respect Dear Sir your friend & servant.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Monticello, Feb 14. 1790.
—I have duly received the letter of the 21st of January with which you have honored me, and no longer hesitate to undertake the office to which you are pleased to call me. Your desire that I should come on as quickly as possible is a sufficient reason for me to postpone every matter of business, however pressing, which admits postponement. Still it will be the close of the ensuing week before I can get away, & then I shall have to go by the way of Richmond, which will lengthen my road. I shall not fail however to go on with all the despatch possible nor to satisfy you, I hope, when I shall have the honor of seeing you in New York, that the circumstances which prevent my immediate departure, are not under my controul. I have now that of being with sentiments of the most perfect respect & attachment, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble servant.
TO JOHN JAY
Monticello, February 14, 1790.
—I am honored with your favor of December 12, and thank you for your friendly congratulations on my return to my native country, as well as for the interest you are pleased to express in the appointment with which I have been honored. I have thought it my duty to undertake it, though with no prepossessions in favor of my talents for executing it to the satisfaction of the public. With respect to the young gentlemen in the office of foreign affairs, their possession and your recommendation are the strongest titles. But I suppose the ordinance establishing my office, allows but one assistant; and I should be wanting in candor to you and them, were I not to tell you that another candidate has been proposed to me, on ground that cannot but command respect. I know neither him nor them, and my hope is, that, as but one can be named, the object is too small to occasion either mortification or disappointment to either. I am sure I shall feel more pain at not being able to avail myself of the assistance but of one of the gentlemen, than they will at the betaking themselves to some better pursuit. I ask it of your friendship, my dear Sir, to make them sensible of my situation, and to accept yourself assurances of the sincere esteem and respect with which I have the honor to be, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
TO NICHOLAS AND JACOB VAN STAPHORST AND HUBBARD
Monticello in Virginia Feb. 28. 1790.
—I have written to you in date May 27. Sep. 8 & Jan. 31 last past inclosing several remittances for Mr. Mazzei and one for myself by triplicates, to which I refer you.
If there be any indiscretion in the application I am now about to make to you, ascribe it to the sentiments of friendship and confidence with which your conduct has inspired me, & which I had wished to make reciprocal, and freely decline it if inconsistent with your conscience, assuring yourselves it will not in the least alter my dispositions to esteem & serve you. These can merit respect no longer than they are disinterested. I will be short in my explanations. After an absence of ten years from my estate I found it much deteriorated & requiring time & advances to bring it back again to the productive state of which it was susceptible. But I am only a farmer and have no resource but the productions of the farms themselves to bring them into a state of profit. If their profits be small their restoration will be slow in proportion. An advance of from one to two thousand dollars would produce a state of productiveness which, without it, will be tardy. My estate is a large one for the Country, to wit, upwards of ten thousand acres of valuable land on the navigable parts of James river and two hundred negroes and not a shilling out of it is or ever was under any incumbrance for debt. I may be excused in mentioning this as it is a proper ground whereon to ask you whether you would be willing to answer my draughts to any & what amount within the bounds before mentioned? I ask it of nobody in this country because Capitals here are small and employed in more active business than simple loans. I will send you my bond for the money payable at what time or times you please. This by the laws of this state, the same in this respect as those of England, will render my lands as well as my personality responsible for the debt, in case of my death. The interest, say six per cent, shall be remitted annually, with perfect punctuality tho’ it would be more convenient to pay it to your agent here, as in my inland situation it is difficult to invest money in good bills. Perhaps it would be more convenient to you that your agent here should furnish the money. At any rate it would be advantageous in the sale of my bills that he should endorse them.—I repeat it again that I do not mean to lay you under any restraint by this application, but shall be better pleased with your doing on it what best pleases yourselves, only making it known to me as soon as convenient. In every event I shall preserve for you, and your interest, the sentiments of esteem & respect with which I am Gentlemen Your friend & humble servt.
TO THE MAYOR OF ALEXANDRIA1
Alexandria, Mar. 11, 1790.
—Accept my sincere thanks for yourself and the worthy citizens of Alexandria, for their kind congratulations on my return to my native country.
I am happy to learn that they have felt a benefit from the encouragements to our commerce which have been given by an allied nation. But truth & candor oblige me at the same time to declare you are indebted for these encouragements solely to the friendly dispositions of that nation which has shown itself ready on every occasion to adopt all arrangements which might strengthen our ties of mutual interest and friendship.
Convinced that the republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind, my prayers & efforts shall be cordially distributed to the support of that we have so happily established. It is indeed an animating thought that, while we are securing the rights of ourselves & our posterity, we are pointing out the way to struggling nations who wish, like us, to emerge from their tyrannies also. Heaven help their struggles, and lead them, as it has done us, triumphantly thro’ them.
Accept, Sir, for yourself and the citizens of Alexandria, the homage of my thanks for their civilities, & the assurance of those sentiments of respect & attachment with which I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant.
TO WILLIAM SHORT1
Alexandria, March 12, 1790.
— * * * I have received my letters from New York very regularly every week by post. I now, therefore, am at about the 7th of October, 1789, as to what has been passing in Europe; that is to say, I know no one circumstance later than the King’s removal to Paris. I will complain not only of your not writing, but of your writing so illegibly, that I am half a day decyphering one page, and then guess at much of it. * * * I wrote on what footing I had placed the President’s proposal to me to undertake the office of Secretary of State. His answer still left me at liberty to accept it or return to France; but I saw plainly he preferred the former, and have learned from several quarters it will be generally more agreeable. Consequently, to have gone back would have exposed me to the danger of giving disgust, and I value no office enough for that. I am, therefore, now on my way to enter on the new office. Not a word has been said about my successor; but on that subject you shall hear from me as soon as I arrive in New York. * * *
TO THOMAS MANN RANDOLPH1
New York, Mar 28. 1790.
—I arrived here on the 21st inst, after as laborious a journey of a fortnight from Richmond as I ever went through; resting only one day at Alexandria and another at Baltimore. I found my carriage & horses at Alexandria, but a snow of 18 inches deep falling the same night, I saw the impossibility of getting on in my own carriage, so left it there to be sent to me by water, and had my horses led on to this place, taking my passage on the stage, tho’ relieving myself a little sometimes by mounting my horse. The roads thro’ the whole were so bad that we could never go more than three miles an hour, sometimes not more than two, and in the night but one. My first object was to look out a house in the Broadway if possible, as being the center of my business. Finding none there vacant for the present, I have taken a small one in Maiden lane, which may give me time to look about me. Much business had been put by for my arrival, so that I found myself all at once involved under an accumulation of it. When this shall be got thro’ I may be able to judge whether the ordinary business of my department will leave me any leisure. I fear there will be little. Letters from Paris to the 25th of December inform us that the revolution there was still advancing with a steady pace. There had been two riots since my departure. The one on the 5th & 6th of October, which occasioned the royal family to remove to Paris, in which 9 or 10 of the Gardes du corps fell, and among these a Chevalier de Varicourt brother of Made de la Villatte & of Mademlle Varicourt, Patsey’s friend. The second was on the 21st of the same month in which a baker had been hung by the mob. On this occasion, the government (i. e. the National assembly) proclaimed martial law in Paris and had two of the ringleaders of the mob seized, tried & hung, which was effected without any movement on the part of the people. Others were still to be tried. The troubles in Brabant become serious. The insurgents have routed the regular troops in every rencounter.
Congress is principally occupied by the Treasury report. The assumption of the state debts has been voted affirmatively in the first instance; but it is not certain it will hold it’s ground thro’ all the stages of the bill when it shall be brought in. I have recommended Mr. D. R. to the president for the office he desired, in case of a vacancy. It seemed however as if the President had had no intimation before that a vacancy was expected. I shall not fail to render in this every service in my power to your friend. I inclose to Patsey a letter from I do not know whence. Mrs. Trist complains of her, so does Miss Rittenhouse; & so will, I fear her friends beyond the Atlantic. Be so good as to assure her and Marie of my tender affections. I shall be happy to hear from you frequently as you can do me the favor to write to me. No body has your health & happiness more at heart, nor wishes more a place in your esteem. I am my dear Sir, with compliments to Colo. Randolph Yours affectionately.
OPINION ON COMMUNICATIONS TO CONGRESS
[April 1, 1790.]
Th: Jefferson has the honor to inform the President that Mr. Madison has just delivered to him the result of his reflections on the question How shall communications from the several states to Congress through the channel of the President be made?
‘He thinks that in no case would it be proper to go by way of letter from the Secretary of State: that they should be delivered to the Houses either by the Secretary of State in person or by Mr. Lear. He supposes a useful division of the office might be made between these two, by employing the one where a matter of fact alone is to be communicated, or a paper delivered in the ordinary course of things and where nothing is required by the President; and using the Agency of the other where the President chuses to recommend any measure to the legislature and to attract their attention to it.’
The President will be pleased to order in this what he thinks best. T. Jefferson supposes that whatever may be done for the present, the final arrangement of business should be considered as open to alteration hereafter. The government is yet so young that cases enough have not occurred to enable a division of them into classes, and the distribution of these classes to the persons whose agency would be the properest.
He sends some letters for the President’s perusal praying him to alter freely any thing in them which he thinks may need it.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
New York, April 2. 1790.
Behold me, my dear friend, elected Secretary of State, instead of returning to the far more agreeable position which placed me in the daily participation of your friendship. I found the appointment in the newspapers the day of my arrival in Virginia. I had indeed been asked while in France whether I would accept of any appointment at home, & I had answered that without meaning to remain long where I was, I meant it to be the last office I should ever act in. Unfortunately this letter had not arrived at the time of arranging the new government. I expressed freely to the President my desire to return. He left me free, but still shewing his own desire. This, and the concern of others, more general than I had a right to expect, induced me after 3 months parleying, to sacrifice my own inclinations. I have been here then ten days harnessed in new geer. Wherever I am, or ever shall be, I shall be sincere in my friendship to you and to your nation. I think, with others, that nations are to be governed according to their own interest; but I am convinced that it is their interest, in the long run, to be grateful, faithful to their engagements even in the worst of circumstances, and honorable and generous always. If I had not known that the head of our government was in these sentiments, and that his national & private ethics were the same, I would never have been where I am. I am sorry to tell you his health is less firm than it used to be. However there is nothing in it to give alarm. The opposition to our new constitution has almost totally disappeared. Some few indeed had gone such lengths in their declarations of hostility that they feel it awkward perhaps to come over; but the amendments proposed by Congress, have brought over almost all their followers. If the President can be preserved a few years till habits of authority & obedience can be established, generally, we have nothing to fear. The little vautrien, Rhode island will come over with a little more time. Our last news from Paris is of the 8th of January. So far it seemed that your revolution had got along with a steady pace; meeting indeed occasional difficulties & dangers, but we are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather-bed. I have never feared for the ultimate result, tho’ I have feared for you personally. Indeed I hope you will never see such another 5th & 6th of October. Take care of yourself, my dear friend, for tho’ I think your nation would in any event work out her salvation, I am persuaded were she to lose you, it would cost her oceans of blood, & years of confusion & anarchy. Kiss & bless your dear children for me. Learn them to be as you are a cement between our two nations. I write to Madame de la fayette so have only to add assurances of the respect & esteem of your affectionate friend & humble servant.
TO MADAME LA DUCHESSE D’AUVILLE
New York, April 2. 1790.
I had hoped, Madame la Duchesse, to have again had the honor of paying my respects to you in Paris, but the wish of our government that I should take a share in its administration, has become a law to me. Could I have persuaded myself that public offices were made for private convenience, I should undoubtedly have preferred a continuance in that which placed me nearer to you; but believing on the contrary that a good citizen should take his stand where the public authority marshals him, I have acquiesced. Among the circumstances which reconcile me to my new position the most powerful is the opportunities it will give me of cementing the friendship between our two nations. Be assured that to do this is the first wish of my heart. I have but one system of ethics for men & for nations—to be grateful, to be faithful to all engagements and under all circumstances, to be open & generous, promotes in the long run even the interests of both; and I am sure it promotes their happiness. The change in your government will approximate us to one another. You have had some checks, some horrors since I left you; but the way to heaven, you know, has always been said to be strewed with thorns. Why your nation have had fewer than any other on earth, I do not know, unless it be that it is the best on earth. If I assure you, Madam, moreover, that I consider yourself personally as with the foremost of your nation in every virtue, it is not flattery, my heart knows not that, it is a homage to sacred truth, it is a tribute I pay with cordiality to a character in which I saw but one error; it was that of treating me with a degree of favor I did not merit. Be assured I shall ever retain a lively sense of all your goodness to me, which was a circumstance of principal happiness to me during my stay in Paris. I hope that by this time you have seen that my prognostications of a successful issue to your revolution have been verified. I feared for you during a short interval; but after the declaration of the army, tho’ there might be episodes of distress, the denoument was out of doubt. Heaven send that the glorious example of your country may be but the beginning of the history of European liberty, and that you may live many years in health & happiness to see at length that heaven did not make man in it’s wrath. Accept the homage of those sentiments of sincere and respectful esteem with which I have the honor to be, Madame la Duchesse, your most affectionate & obedient humble servant.
TO THE U. S. CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES IN SPAIN
New York, April 11, 1790.
—A vessel being about to sail from this port for Cadiz, I avail myself of it to inform you, that under the appointment of the President of the United States, I have entered on the duties of Secretary of State, comprehending the department of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Jay’s letter of October the 2d, acknowledged the receipt of the last of yours which have come to hand. Since that date he wrote you on the 7th of December, enclosing a letter for Mr. Chiappe.
The receipt of his letter of September the 9th, 1788, having never been acknowledged, the contents of which were important and an answer wished for, I send you herewith a duplicate, lest it should have miscarried.
You will also receive herewith, a letter of credence for yourself, to be delivered to the Count de Florida Blanca, after putting thereon the proper address, with which I am unacquainted. A copy of it is enclosed for your information.
I beg leave to recommend the case of Don Blas Gonzalez to your good offices with the court of Spain, enclosing you the documents necessary for its illustration. You will perceive, that two vessels were sent from Boston in the year 1787, on a voyage of discovery and commercial experiment in general, but more particularly to try a fur trade with the Russian settlements, on the northwest coast of our continent, of which such wonders had been published in Captain Cook’s voyages, that it excited similar expeditions from other countries also; and that the American vessels were expressly forbidden to touch at any Spanish port, but in cases of extreme distress. Accordingly, through the whole of their voyage through the extensive latitudes held by that crown, they never put into any port but in a single instance. In passing near the island of Juan Fernandez, one of them was damaged by a storm, her rudder broken, her masts disabled, and herself separated from her companion. She put into the island to refit, and at the same time, to wood and water, of which she began to be in want. Don Blas Gonzalez, after examining her, and finding she had nothing on board but provisions and charts and that her distress was real, permitted her to stay a few days, to refit and take in fresh supplies of wood and water. For this act of common hospitality, he was immediately deprived of his government, unheard, by superior order, and remains still under disgrace. We pretend not to know the regulations of the Spanish government, as to the admission of foreign vessels into the ports of their colonies; but the generous character of the nation is a security to us, that their regulations can, in no instance, run counter to the laws of nature; and among the first of her laws, is that which bids us to succor those in distress. For an obedience to this law, Don Blas appears to have suffered; and we are satisfied, it is because his case has not been able to penetrate to his Majesty’s ministers, at least in its true colors. We would not choose to be committed by a formal solicitation, but we would wish you to avail yourself of any good opportunity of introducing the truth to the ear of the minister, and of satisfying him, that a redress of this hardship on the Governor, would be received here with pleasure, as a proof of respect to those laws of hospitality which we would certainly observe in a like case, as a mark of attention towards us, and of justice to an individual for whose sufferings we cannot but feel.
With the present letter, you will receive the public and other papers, as usual, and I shall thank you in return, for a regular communication of the best gazettes published in Madrid.
TO FRANCIS WILLIS
New York, April 13, 1790.
My Dear Friend,
—Your favor of Feb. 10. came to me here a few days ago. Nothing would have made me happier than to have been able to see you on my way through the lower part of Virginia, but the short time destined for my stay in that country did not permit me to turn to the right or left. Your recommendation of Mr. Reynolds would have given me all the dispositions possible to have found a place for him. But in the office to which I have been called, all was full, and I could not in any case think it just to turn out those in possession who have behaved well, merely to put others in. I have not therefore had a single appointment to make: nor is there any thing within my appointment but mere copying clerks at 500 dollars a year & two at 800.— I fear there is as little prospect that any office can occur in Williamsburg. I know of none but in the law line which was never your favorite line. I can therefore only express to you my wishes to serve you. You complain of the difficulties which have strowed the path of life for you. Be assured, my friend, that mine has not been strowed with flowers. The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have past at home in the bosom of my family. Emploiment any where else is a mere [illegible] of time; it is burning the candle of life in perfect waste for the individual himself. I have no complaint against any body. I have had more of the confidence of my country than my share. I only say that public emploiment contributes neither to advantage nor happiness. It is but honorable exile from one’s family & affairs. I wish you every possible felicity to yourself, Mrs. Willis & your family, and am with great sincerity dear Sir your affectionate friend & servt.
TO THOMAS MANN RANDOLPH
New York April 18. 1790.
—I wrote you on the 28th of March, to Patsy on the 4th of April, & to Polly on the 11th. I now inclose a letter for Patsy, which being delivered me by Sr. John Temple, I presume comes from one of her friends the lady Tufton. The best channel for sending an answer will be to send it thro me, Sr. J. Temple & the D. of Leed’s office. Letters & papers to the 5th of Feb. from France, shew that they were going on well there. The Belgic revolution has received two small checks, one on the 1st. of Jan. when the whole Belgic army was panic struck & ran before a man had fallen: the 2d on the 13th of Jan. when they were defeated with the loss of about 300 men. Van Murren commanded in both cases. The news of the death of the Emperor, which the English newspapers gave us, was not true. But I know that it may be daily & hourly expected.—Here the public has been a good deal agitated with the question in Congress on the assumption of the state debts. The first decision has been not to assume by a majority of 31. to 28. It will still be brought on in another form. It appears to me one of those questions which present great inconveniences whichever way it is decided: so that it offers only a choice of evils.—In the way of small news we have the marriage of Mr. Page with a Miss Louther, & the death of judge Harrison of Maryland. Mad judge Bedford of Delaware the other day wounded dangerously his wife & killed her adulterer with the same shot.—We have had here a series of as disagreeable weather as I have seen. It is now raining and snowing most furiously, & has been doing so all night. As soon as I get into the house I have hired, which will be the 1st. of May, I will propose to you to keep a diary of the weather here & wherever you shall be, exchanging observations from time to time. I should like to compare the two climates by cotemporary observations. My method is to make two observations a day, the one as early as possible in the morning, the other from 3. to 4. o clock, because I have found 4 o clock the hottest & day light the coldest point of the 24. hours. I state them in an ivory pocket book in the following form & copy them out once a week.
The 1st column is the day of the month & 2d the thermometer in the morning. The 4th do. in the evening. The 3d the weather in the morning. The 5th do. in the afternoon. The 6th is for miscellanies, such as the appearance of birds, leafing & flowering of trees, frosts remarkably late or early, Aurora borealis, &c. In the 3d & 5th columns, a. is after: c, cloudy: f, fair: h: hail: r rain; s, snow. Thus c a r h s, means, cloudy after rain, hail & snow: whenever it has rained, hailed or snowed between two observations I wrote it thus, f a r (i. e. fair afternoon) c a s (cloudy after snow) &c. Otherwise the falling weather would escape notation. I distinguish weather into fair or cloudy, according as the sky is more or less than half covered with clouds. I observe these things to you, because in order that our observations may present a full comparison of the two climates, they should be kept on the same plan. I have no barometer here & was without one at Paris. Still if you chuse to take barometrical observations you can insert a 3d. morning column and a 3d. afternoon column.
My most friendly respects to Colo. Randolph, and my love to Patty & Polly, and believe me to be sincerely & affectionately Your’s.
P. S. I spoke again with —1 on the subject of Mr. D. Randolph a few days ago. He still knows nothing of H.’s intention to resign, & he never promises any thing. But he said as much as he could, short of a promise, and I believe you may assure Mr. Randolph that in such an event he will probably have the appointment. But do not let a word of this, transpire beyond him.
OPINION ON THE POWERS OF THE SENATE
[April 24, 1790.]
Opinion on the Question whether the Senate has the right to negative the grade of persons appointed by the Executive to fill Foreign Missions.
The constitution having declared, that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate shall appoint, ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls,” the president desires my opinion whether the senate has a right to negative the grade he may think it expedient to use in a foreign mission, as well as the person to be appointed.
I think the senate has no right to negative the grade.
The constitution has divided the powers of government into three branches, legislative, executive, and judiciary, lodging each with a distant magistracy. The legislative it has given completely to the senate and house of representatives; it has declared that “the executive powers shall be vested in the president,” submitting only special articles of it to a negative by the senate; and it has vested the judiciary power in the courts of justice, with certain exceptions also in favor of the senate.
The transaction of business with foreign nations is executive altogether; it belongs, then, to the head of that department, except as to such portions of it as are specially submitted to the senate. Exceptions are to be construed strictly; the constitution itself, indeed, has taken care to circumscribe this one within very strict limits; for it gives the nomination of the foreign agent to the president, the appointment to him and the senate jointly, and the commissioning to the president.
This analysis calls our attention to the strict import of each term. To nominate must be to propose; appointment seems the only act of the will which constitutes or makes the agent; and the commission is the public evidence of it. But there are still other acts previous to these, not specially enumerated in the constitution, — to wit, 1. The destination of a mission to the particular country where the public service calls for it, and, 2. The character or grade to be employed in it. The natural order of all these is, 1. destination, 2. grade, 3. nomination, 4. appointment, 5. commission. If appointment does not comprehend the neighboring acts of nomination or commission, (and the constitution says it shall not, by giving them exclusively to the president) still less can it pretend to comprehend those previous and more remote of destination and grade. The constitution, analyzing the three last, shows they do not comprehend the two first. The fourth is the only one it submits to the senate, shaping it into a right to say that “A or B is unfit to be appointed.” Now, this cannot comprehend a right to say that “A or B is indeed fit to be appointed, but the grade fixed on it is not the fit one to employ,” or “our connections with the country of his destination are not such as to call for any mission.” The senate is not supposed by the constitution to be acquainted with the concerns of the executive department. It was not intended that these should be communicated to them; nor can they, therefore, be qualified to judge of the necessity which calls for a mission to any particular place, or of the particular grade, more or less marked, which special and secret circumstances may call for. All this is left to the president; they are only to see that no unfit person be employed.
It may be objected, that the senate may, by continual negatives on the person, do what amounts to a negative on the grade, and so indirectly defeat this right of the president; but this would be a breach of trust, an abuse of the power confided to the senate, of which that body cannot be supposed capable. So, the president has a power to convoke the legislature, and the senate might defeat that power, by refusing to come. This equally amounts to a negative on the power of convoking, yet nobody will say they possess such a negative, or would be capable of usurping it by such oblique means. If the constitution had meant to give the senate a negative on the grade or destination, as well as the person, it would have said so in direct terms, and not left it to be effected by a sidewind. It could never mean to give them the use of one power through the abuse of another.
TO COLONEL HENRY LEE
New York April 26. 1790.
—I am honored with your favor of the 3d. instant, and would have been happy to be useful to Mr. Lee had there been any opening, as I should be hereafter were any to occur. There are no offices in my gift but of meer [sic] scribes in the office room at 800. & 500. Dollars a year. These I found all filled & of long possession in the hands of those who held them, and I thought it would not be just to remove persons in possession, who had behaved well, to make place for others. There was a single vacancy, only, & that required to be filled up with a regard to the elegance of hand-writing only, because it was to continue the record of the Acts of Congress which had been begun in a hand remarkably fine. I am sensible of the necessity as well as justice of dispersing emploiments over the whole of the U. S. But this is difficult as to the smaller offices, which require to be filled immediately as they become vacant & are not worth coming for from the distant states. Hence they will unavoidably get into the sole occupation of the vicinities of the seat of government. A reason the more for removing that seat to the true center.
The question of Assumption still occupies Congress. The partisans of both sides of it are nearly equally divided, & both extremely eager to carry their point. It will probably be sometime before it is ultimately decided. In the mean while the voice of the nation will perhaps, be heard. Unluckily it is one of those cases wherein the voice will be all on one side, & therefore likely to induce a false opinion of the real wish of the public. What would be the fate of this question in the Senate is yet unknown.
TO WILLIAM SHORT1
New York April 27. 1790.
— * * * J. Walker is appointed Senator in the room of Grayson, & arrived here with his family yesterday. It was carried in his favor against Monroe by a Majority of a single vote in council. Many think he may be dropped by the assembly. In my preceding letters I did not mention to whom you should address such of my things as are to go directly to Virginia. To Capt. Maxwell at Norfolk if you please, or Mr. James Brown Mercht. at Richmond, according to the destination of the vessel. On conversing with Mr. Hamilton yesterday, I find that the funds in the hands of the W. W. V. Stap. & Hub. are exhausted. Should the joint houses therefore make any difficulties about answering your bills for my purposes, I think the latter one will not: be so good as to assure them (in case it comes to that) that their advances for me shall be reimbursed as soon as made known. * * *
The management of the foreign establishment awaits the passage of a bill on the subject. One conversation only has taken place, but no resolutions reached are discernible. A minister will certainly be appointed, and from among the veterans on the public stage, if I may judge from the names mentioned. I will write you the moment I know it myself. I would advise you to pass some time in London in as high a circle as you can before you come over, in order to add the better knowledge of the country to your qualifications for future office.
We have London news to March 26. Paris news only to Feb. 10. Your note with a packet from Miss Botidour for my daughter is come to hand. You will see in the newspapers which accompany this, the details of Dr. Franklin’s death. The house of representatives resolved to wear mourning & do it. The Senate neither resolved it nor do it.—What is become of Rumsey & his steam-ship? Not a word is known here. I fear therefore he has failed. Adieu, my dear Sir, and believe me to be Your affectionate friend & servt.
OPINION ON GEORGIAN LAND GRANTS1
[May 3d, 1790.]
Opinion upon the validity of a grant made by the State of Georgia to certain companies of individuals, of a tract of country whereof the Indian right had never been extinguished, with power to such individuals to extinguish the Indian right.
The State of Georgia, having granted to certain individuals a tract of country, within their chartered limits, whereof the Indian right has never yet been acquired; with a proviso in the grants, which implies that those individuals may take measures for extinquishing the Indian rights under the authority of that Government, it becomes a question how far this grant is good?
A society, taking possession of a vacant country, and declaring they mean to occupy it, does thereby appropriate to themselves as prime occupants what was before common. A practice introduced since the discovery of America, authorized them to go further, and to affix the limits which they assume to themselves; and it seems, for the common good, to admit this right to a moderate and reasonable extent.
If the country, instead of being altogether vacant, is thinly occupied by another nation, the right of the native forms an exception to that of the new comers; that is to say, these will only have a right against all other nations except the natives. Consequently, they have the exclusive privilege of acquiring the native right by purchase or other just means. This is called the right of pre-emption, and is become a principle of the law of nations, fundamental with respect to America. There are but two means of acquiring the native title. First, war; for even war may, sometimes, give a just title. Second, contracts or treaty.
The States of America before their present union possessed completely, each within its own limits, the exclusive right to use these two means of acquiring the native title, and, by their act of union, they have as completely ceded both to the general government. Art. 2d, Section 1st, “The President shall have power, by and with the advice of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” Art. 1st, Section 8th, “The Congress shall have power to declare war, to raise and support armies.” Section 10th, “No State shall enter into a treaty, alliance or confederation. No State shall, without the consent of Congress, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.”
These paragraphs of the constitution, declaring that the general government shall have, and that the particular ones shall not have, the right of war and treaty, are so explicit that no commentary can explain them further, nor can any explain them away. Consequently, Georgia, possessing the exclusive right to acquire the native title, but having relinquished the means of doing it to the general government, can only have put her grantee into her own condition. She could convey to them the exclusive right to acquire; but she could not convey what she had not herself, that is, the means of acquiring.
For these they must come to the general government, in whose hands they have been wisely deposited for the purposes both of peace and justice.
What is to be done? The right of the general government is, in my opinion, to be maintained. The case is sound, and the means of doing it as practicable as can ever occur. But respect and friendship should, I think, mark the conduct of the general towards the particular government, and explanations should be asked and time and color given them to tread back their steps before coercion is held up to their view. I am told there is already a strong party in Georgia opposed to the act of their government.
I should think it better then that the first measures, while firm, be yet so temperate as to secure their alliance and aid to the general government.
Might not the eclat of a proclamation revolt their pride and passion, and throw them hastily into the opposite scale? It will be proper indeed to require from the government of Georgia, in the first moment, that while the general government shall be expecting and considering her explanations, things shall remain in statu quo, and not a move be made towards carrying what they have begun into execution.
Perhaps it might not be superfluous to send some person to the Indians interested, to explain to them the views of government, and to watch with their aid the territory in question.
TO WILLIAM SHORT
New York May 27. 1790.
—A periodical headache has put it out of my power for near a month to attend to any business, or correspondence public or private and such is my present situation that, favorable as the opportunity is by Mr. Crevecœur, I had not meant to venture to write to you. But the receipt of yours of Mar. 25. has decided me to try it. * * * I should not write to you again till I should emerge. I mentioned too the footing on which stood the proposal for my translation to a new office. It was not till the middle of February that a second letter from the President determined me to accept it: and I left Monticello in a fortnight after for New York. At Alexandria friday a vessel bound for France I wrote to you to wit Mar. 12. Of this letter I have sent triplicates. Since my arrival here I have written Mar. 28. Apr. 6. 7. 27. 30. sending duplicates & triplicates of some of them. The day after the date of the last, I was taken with the illness which still confines me. In the mean time we have been here near losing the President. He was taken with a peripneumony and on the 5th day he was pronounced by two of the three physicians present to be in the act of death. A successful effort of nature however relieved him & us. You cannot conceive the public alarm on this occasion. It proves how much depends on his life. No successor at Paris is yet named: nor is any other mission on the carpet. I wish that while you stay you could obtain the free introduction of our salted provisions into France. Nothing would be so generally pleasing from the Chesapeek to New Hampshire. You will see in the newspapers a bill for increasing the tonnage of nations not in Treaty with us to a given time & then prohibiting their transporting our commodities. This I think will pass. In the house of representatives there is a great majority for it. The hope I have held out of obtaining the introduction of our salted provisions into France, has been an efficacious incitement to this bill. A motion is now before the Senate for having the next meeting of Congress at Philadelphia: & it is rather possible it will be carried in both houses. In that case we shall remove to Philadelphia about the 1st of September. I wish it may be decided in time for me to give you notice so that Petit & my baggage may come directly to Philadelphia.
With respect to the loss of your money by Nomeny I do not apprehend there can be any difficulty. Only take care and establish on the best testimony the case will admit, how much of it was to be paid for public purposes, & how much was for your private use. This being done, I suppose the principles to be well established in law which will make the first a public, & the latter your private loss. It cannot be brought on till the settlement of your account, & then it will be decided on, not only by Congress, but the regular judge in that department.
You will see by the Virginia papers that Colo. Dudley Digges is dead: that Mr. Henry is elected contrary to what has been said of his retiring &c. &c. for these papers which I will regularly send you will convey to you all the small news I know. Madison of the College is coming here to be made a bishop. Send me if you please the records of the Bastile which they had begun to publish. I send by Mr. Crevecœur my alarm watch to be mended. There is a paper of explanation with it. I send also by him about ½ doz. lb of Balsanum Canadensa for M. Deville, which be pleased to ask his acceptance of from me, & apologize from my sickness for my not writing. I wish, if it be practicable, that you could make all the paiments of rent for my house since my departure, enter into Mr. Grand’s accounts, so that I may have no occasion to place them in mine at all. Press the affairs of the Algerine redemption and write its progress continually. Present me to all my friends as if they were here named, and be assured of the constant esteem & attachment of Dear Sir your sincere & affectionate friend.
P. S. May 28. Last night I received your letters to me of Jan. 28. & Feb. 10. & to Mr. Jay of Jan. 23. & Feb. 10. They had arrived at Baltimore, gone to Mr. Jay at Portsmouth in New Hampshire, & returned here. The Packet being to sail tomorrow I doubt the possibility of sending you the two copies of the Federalist bound. If it cannot be done now, it shall be by another opportunity. The motion for removal to Philadelphia has been evaded in the Senate and withdrawn. It is now moved in the other house. But probability is now rather against it’s success. The President is well enough to resume business.
TO THOMAS MANN RANDOLPH
New York, May 30, 1790.
—I at length find myself, tho not quite well, yet sufficiently so to resume business in a moderate degree. I have therefore to answer your two favors of Apr 23 & May 3, and in the first place to thank you for your attention to the Paccan, Gloucester & European walnuts which will be great acquisitions at Monticello. I will still ask your attention to Mr. Foster’s boring machine, lest he should go away suddenly, & so the opportunity of getting it be lost.—I enquired of Mr. Hamilton the quantity of coal imported; but he tells me there are not returns as yet sufficient to ascertain it; but as soon as there shall be I shall be informed. I am told there is a considerable prejudice against our coal in these Northern states. I do not know whence it proceeds: perhaps from the want of attention to the different species, and an ignorant application of them to cross-purposes. I have not begun my meteorological diary; because I have not yet removed to the house I have taken. I remove tomorrow: but as far as I can judge from it’s aspects there will not be one position to be had for the thermometer free from the influence of the sun both morning & evening. However, as I go into it, only till I can get a better, I shall hope ere long to find a less objectionable situation. You know that during my short stay at Monticello I kept a diary of the weather. Mr. Madison has just received one, comprehending the same period, kept at his father’s in Orange. The hours of observation were the same, and he has the fullest confidence in the accuracy of the observer. All the morning observations in Orange are lower than those of Monticello, from one to, I believe, 15 or 16 degrees: the afternoon observations are near as much higher than those of Monticello. Nor will the variations permit us to ascribe them to any supposed irregularities in either tube, because, in that case, at the same point the variations would always be the same, which it is not. You have often been sensible that in the afternoon, or rather evening, the air has become warmer in ascending the mountain. The same is true in the morning. This might account for a higher station of the mercury in the morning observations at Monticello. Again when the air is equally dry in the lower & higher situations, which may be supposed the case in the warmest part of the day, the mercury should be lower on the latter, because, all other circumstances the same, the nearer the common surface the warmer the air. So that on a mountain it ought really to be warmer in the morning & cooler in the heat of the day than on the common plain; but not in so great a degree as these observations indicate. As soon as I am well enough I intend to examine them more accurately.—Your resolution to apply to the study of the law is wise in my opinion, & at the same time to mix it with a good degree of attention to the farm. The one will relieve the other. The study of the law is useful in a variety of points of view. It qualifies a man to be useful to himself, to his neighbors, & to the public. It is the most certain stepping stone to preferment in the political line. In political economy I think Smith’s wealth of nations the best book extant, in the science of government Montesquieu’s spirit of laws is generally recommended. It contains indeed a great number of political truths; but also an equal number of heresies: so that the reader must be constantly on his guard. There has been lately published a letter of Helvetius who was the intimate friend of Montesquieu & whom he consulted before the publication of his book. Helvetius advised him not to publish it: & in this letter to a friend he gives us a solution for the mixture of truth & error found in this book. He sais Montesquieu was a man of immense reading, that he had commonplaced all his reading, & that his object was to throw the whole contents of his commonplace book into systematical order, & to shew his ingenuity by reconciling the contradictory facts it presented. Locke’s little book on government is perfect as far as it goes. Descending from theory to practice there is no better book than the Federalist. Burgh’s Political disquisitions are good also, especially after reading De Lolme. Several o Hume’s political essays are good. There are some excellent books of Theory written by Turgot & the economists of France. For parliamentary knowlege, the Lex parliamentaria is the best book.—On my return to Virginia in the fall, I cannot help hoping some practicable plan may be devised for your settling in Albemarle, should your inclination lead you to it. Nothing could contribute so much to my happiness were it at the same time consistent with yours. You might get into the assembly for that county as soon as you should please. A motion has been made in the Senate to remove the federal government to Philadelphia. There was a trial of strength on a question for a week’s postponement. On that it was found there would be 11 for the removal & 13 against it. The motion was therefore withdrawn & made in the other house where it is still depending, & of very incertain event.—The question of the assumption is again brought on. The parties were so nearly equal on the former trial that it is very possible that with some modifications it may yet prevail. The tonnage bill will probably pass, and must, I believe, produce salutary effects. It is a mark of energy in our government, in a case where I believe it cannot be parried. The French revolution still goes on well, tho the danger of a suspension of paiment is very imminent. Their appeal to the inhabitants of their colonies to say on what footing they wish to be placed, will end, I hope, in our free admission into their islands with our produce. This precedent must have consequences. It is impossible the world should continue long insensible to so evident a truth as that the right to have commerce & intercourse with our neighbors is a natural right. To suppress this neighborly intercourse is an exercise of force, which we shall have a just right to remove when the superior force.
Present my warm affections to the girls. I am afraid they do not follow my injunctions of answering by the first post the weekly letter I address to them. I inclose some letters for Patsy from Paris, and the newspapers for yourself with assurances of the sincere & cordial esteem of Dear Sir Your Affectionate friend.
P. S. I must refer the description of the Mould board to another occasion. The President is well enough to do business. Colo. Bland dangerously ill.
OPINION ON SOLDIERS’ ACCOUNTS
[June 3d, 1790.]
Opinion in favor of the resolutions of May 21st, 1790, directing that, in all cases where payment had not been already made, the debts due to the soldiers of Virginia and North Carolina, should be paid to the original claimants or their attorneys, and not to their assignees.
The accounts of the soldiers of Virginia and North Carolina, having been examined by the proper officer of government, the balances due to each individual ascertained, and a list of these balances made out, this list became known to certain persons before the soldiers themselves had information of it, and those persons, by unfair means, as is said, and for very inadequate considerations, obtained assignments from many of the soldiers of whatever sum should be due to them from the public, without specifying the amount.
The legislature, to defeat this fraud, passed resolutions on the 21st of May, 1790, directing that where payment had not been made to the original claimant in person or his representatives, it shall be made to him or them personally, or to their attorney, producing a power for that purpose, attested by two justices of the county where he resides, and specifying the certain sum he is to receive.
It has been objected to these resolutions that they annul transfers of property which were good by the laws under which they were made; that they take from the assignees their lawful property; are contrary to the principles of the constitution, which condemn retrospective laws; and are, therefore, not worthy of the President’s approbation.
I agree in an almost unlimited condemnation of retrospective laws. The few instances of wrong which they redress are so overweighed by the insecurity they draw over all property and even over life itself, and by the atrocious violations of both to which they lead that it is better to live under the evil than the remedy.
The only question I shall make is, whether these resolutions annul acts which were valid when they were done?
This question respects the laws of Virginia and North Carolina only. On the latter I am not qualified to decide, and therefore beg leave to confine myself to the former.
By the common law of England (adopted in Virginia) the conveyance of a right to a debt or other thing whereof the party is not in possession, is not only void, but severely punishable under the names of Maintenance and Champerty. The Law-merchants, however, which is permitted to have course between merchants, allows the assignment of a bill of exchange for the convenience of commerce. This, therefore, forms one exception to the general rule, that a mere right or thing in action is not assignable. A second exception has been formed by an English statute (copied into the laws of Virginia) permitting promisory notes to be assigned. The laws of Virginia have gone yet further than the statute, and have allowed, as a third exception, that a bond should be assigned, which cannot be done even at this day in England. So that, in Virginia, when a debt has been settled between the parties and put into the form of a bill of exchange, promisory note or bond, the law admits it to be transferred by assignment. In all other cases the assignment of a debt is void.
The debts from the United States to the soldiers of Virginia, not having been put into either of these forms, the assignments of them were void in law.
A creditor may give an order on his debtor in favor of another, but if the debtor does not accept it, he must be sued in the creditor’s name; which shows that the order does not transfer the property of the debts. The creditor may appoint another to be his attorney to receive and recover his debt, and he may covenant that when received the attorney may apply it to his own use. But he must sue as attorney to the original proprietor, and not in his own right.
This proves that a power of attorney, with such a covenant, does not transfer the property of the debt. A further proof in both cases is, that the original creditor may at any time before payment or acceptance revoke either his order or his power of attorney.
In that event the person in whose favor they were given has recourse to a court of equity. If he finds his transaction has been a fair one, he gives him aid. If he finds it has been otherwise, not permitting his court to be made a handmaid to fraud, he leaves him without remedy in equity as he was in law. The assignments in the present case, therefore, if unfairly obtained, as seems to be admitted, are void in equity as they are in law. And they derive their nullity from the laws under which they were made, not from the new resolutions of Congress. These are not retrospective. They only direct their treasurer not to give validity to an assignment which had it not before, by payments to the assignee until he in whom the legal property still is, shall order it in such a form as to show he is apprized of the sum he is to part with, and its readiness to be paid into his or any other hands, and that he chooses, notwithstanding, to acquiesce under the fraud which has been practised on him. In that case he had only to execute before two justices a power of attorney to the same person, expressing the specific sum of his demand, and it is to be complied with. Actual payment, in this case, is an important act. If made to the assignee, it would put the burthen of proof and process on the original owner. If made to that owner, it puts it on the assignee, who must then come forward and show that his transaction has been that of an honest man.
Government seems to be doing in this what every individual, I think, would feel himself bound to do in the case of his own debt. For, being free in the law, to pay to one or the other, he would certainly give the advantage to the party who has suffered wrong rather than to him who has committed it.
It is not honorable to embrace a salutary principle of law when a relinquishment of it is solicited only to support a fraud.
I think the resolutions, therefore, merit approbation. I have before professed my incompetence to say what are the laws of North Carolina on this subject. They, like Virginia, adopted the English laws in the gross. These laws forbid in general the buying and selling of debts, and their policy in this is so wise that I presume they had not changed it till the contrary be shown.
TO WILLIAM SHORT
New York, June 6, 1790.
—Having written to you so lately as the 27th of May, by M. de Crevecœur, I have little new to communicate. My head-ach still continues in a slight degree, but I am able to do business. Tomorrow I go on a sailing party of three or four days with the President. I am in hopes of being relieved entirely by the sickness I shall probably encounter. The President is perfectly reestablished, and looks better than before his illness. The question of removal to Philadelphia was carried in the house of representatives by 38. against 22. It is thought the Senate will be equally divided and consequently that the decision will rest on the Vice-president, who will be himself divided between his own decided inclinations to stay here, & the unpopularity of being the sole obstacle to what appears the wish of so great a majority of the people expressed by proportional representation. Rhode island has at length acceded to the Union by a majority of two voices only in their convention. Her Senators will be here in about 10 days or a fortnight. The opposers of removal in the Senate try to draw out time till their arrival. Therefore they have connected the resolution of the lower house with a bill originated with them to fix a permanent residence, & have referred both to the same committee.—Deaths are Colonel Bland at this place, and old Colo Corbin in Virginia. The naming a minister for Paris awaits the progress of a bill before the legislature. They will probably adjourn to the 1st of December, as soon as they have got through the money business. The funding bill is passed, by which the President is authorized to borrow money for transferring our foreign debt. But the ways & means bill being not yet passed, the loan cannot be commenced till the appropriations of revenue are made, which is to give credit to the loan. * * *
P. S. 1287. 1119. 490. 1648. 1268. 394. 1340. 564. 1165. 917. 294. 146. 187. 687. 586. 1416. 394. 1527. 1099. 360. 586. 1450. 656. 860. 1212. 626. [torn] 1369. 927. 1012. 224. 339. 1172. 426. 224. 1152. 1166. 1451. 1182.
TO JOHN GARLAND JEFFERSON1
New York June 11. 1790.
—Your uncle mr Garland informs me, that, your education being finished, you are desirous of obtaining some clerkship or something else under government whereby you may turn your talents to some account for yourself and he had supposed it might be in my power to provide you with some such office. His commendations of you are such as to induce me to wish sincerely to be of service to you. But there is not, and has not been, a single vacant office at my disposal. Nor would I, as your friend, ever think of putting you into the petty clerkships in the several offices, where you would have to drudge through life for a miserable pittance, without a hope of bettering your situation. But he tells me you are also disposed to the study of the law. This therefore brings it more within my power to serve you. It will be necessary for you in that case to go and live somewhere in my neighborhood in Albemarle. The inclosed letter to Colo. Lewis near Charlottesville will show you what I have supposed could be best done for you there. It is a general practice to study the law in the office of some lawyer. This indeed gives to the student the advantage of his instruction. But I have ever seen that the services expected in return have been more than the instructions have been worth. All that is necessary for a student is access to a library, and directions in what order the books are to be read. This I will take the liberty of suggesting to you, observing previously that as other branches of science, and especially history, are necessary to form a lawyer, these must be carried on together. I will arrange the books to be read into three columns, and propose that you should read those in the first column till 12. oclock every day: those in the 2d. from 12. to 2. those in the 3d. after candlelight, leaving all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading: I will rather say more necessary, because health is worth more than learning.
Should there be any little intervals in the day not otherwise occupied fill them up by reading Lowthe’s grammar, Blair’s lectures on rhetoric, Mason on poetic & prosaic numbers, Bolingbroke’s works for the sake of the stile, which is declamatory & elegant, the English poets for the sake of style also.
As mr Peter Carr in Goochland is engaged in a course of law reading, and has my books for that purpose, it will be necessary for you to go to mrs Carr’s, and to receive such as he shall be then done with, and settle with him a plan of receiving from him regular [ly] the before mentioned books as fast as he shall get through them. The losses I have sustained by lending my books will be my apology to you for asking your particular attention to the replacing them in the presses as fast as you finish them, and not to lend them to any body else, nor suffer anybody to have a book out of the Study under cover of your name. You will find, when you get there, that I have had reason to ask this exactness.
I would have you determine beforehand to make yourself a thorough lawyer, & not be contented with a mere smattering. It is superiority of knowledge which can alone lift you above the heads of your competitors, and ensure you success. I think therefore you must calculate on devoting between two & three years to this course of reading, before you think of commencing practice. Whenever that begins, there is an end of reading.
I shall be glad to hear from you from time to time, and shall hope to see you in the fall in Albemarle, to which place I propose a visit in that season. In the mean time wishing you all the industry of patient perseverance which this course of reading will require I am with great esteem Dear Sir Your most obedient friend & servant.
TO GEORGE MASON
New York, June 13, 1790.
—I have deferred acknowleging the receipt of your favor of Mar 16, expecting daily that the business of the consulships would have been finished. But this was delayed by the President’s illness & a very long one of my own, so that it is not till within these two or three days that it has been settled. That of Bordeaux is given to Mr. Fenwick according to your desire. The commission is making out and will be signed to-morrow or next day.
I intended fully to have had the pleasure of seeing you at Gunstan hall on my way here, but the roads being so bad that I was obliged to leave my own carriage to get along as it could, & to take my passage in the stage, I could not deviate from the stage road. I should have been happy in a conversation with you on the subject of our new government, of which, tho’ I approve of the mass, I would wish to see some amendments, further than those which have been proposed, and fixing it more surely on a republican basis. I have great hopes that pressing forward with constancy to these amendments, they will be obtained before the want of them will do any harm. To secure the ground we gain, & gain what more we can, is I think the wisest course. I think much has been gained by the late constitution; for the former one was terminating in anarchy, as necessarily consequent to inefficiency. The House of representatives have voted to remove to Baltimore by a majority of 53. against 6. This was not the effect of choice, but of the confusion into which they had been brought by the event of other questions, & their being hampered with the rules of the house. It is not certain what will be the vote of the Senate. Some hope an opening will be given to convert it into a vote of the temporary seat at Philadelphia, & the permanent one at Georgetown. The question of the assumption will be brought on again, & it’s event is doubtful. Perhaps it’s opponents would be wiser to be less confident in their success, & to compromise by agreeing to assume the state debts still due to individuals, on condition of assuming to the states at the same time what they have paid to individuals, so as to put the states in the shoes of those of their creditors whom they have paid off. Great objections lie to this, but not so great as to an assumption of the unpaid debts only. My duties preventing me from mingling in these questions, I do not pretend to be very competent to their decision. In general I think it necessary to give as well as take in a government like ours. I have some hope of visiting Virginia in the fall, in which case I shall still flatter myself with the pleasure of seeing you; in the meantime, I am with unchanged esteem & respect my dear Sir Your most obedient friend & servt.
TO THOMAS MANN RANDOLPH
New York June 20. 1790.
—Your favor of May 25. came to hand on the 5th. inst. I am infinitely pleased at your predilection for settling in Albemarle. Certainly no circumstance in life is so near my heart as to have you near me. This will fix beyond a doubt my intended visit to Virginia, in the fall, in order to see what arrangements may be taken for settling you in Albemarle. In the meanwhile perhaps it might be as well for you to defer purchasing the 100 acres of land you mention, unless indeed Colo. Randolph were disposed to let you have a part of Edgehill. I cannot but hope that he, you, & myself, contributing what we can, may be able to accommodate you with as much at least of Edgehill as Colo. Randolph seemed willing to sell to mr Harvie. On this subject I must propose a negotiation with him.—On enquiry I find that New England is not the place to look out for skilful farmers. That is scarcely a country where wheat is cultivated at all. The best farmers in America I am told are those on the Delaware. I shall take measures for knowing whether one can be got for you & at what price.
Congress are much embarrassed by the two questions of assumption, and residence. All proceedings seem to be arrested till these can be got over, and for the peace & continuance of the union, a mutual sacrifice of opinion & interest is become the duty of everyone: for it is evident that if every one retains inflexibly his present opinion, there will be no bill passed at all for funding the public debts, & if they separate without funding, there is an end of the government, in this situation of things. The only choice is among disagreeable things. The assumption must be admitted, but in so qualified a form as to divest it of it’s injustice. This may be done by assuring to the creditors of every state, a sum exactly proportioned to the contribution of the state: so that the state will on the whole neither gain nor lose. There will remain against the measure only the objection that Congress must lay taxes for these debts which might be better laid & collected by the states. On the question of residence, the compromise proposed is to give it to Philadelphia for 15. years, & then permanently to George town by the same act. This is the best arrangement we have now any prospect of, & therefore the one to which all our wishes are at present pointed. If this does not take place, something much worse will; to wit an unqualified assumption & the permanent seat on the Delaware. The Delegations of this state and Pennsylvania have conducted themselves with great honor and wisdom on these questions. They have by a steady (yet not a stipulated) concurrence avoided insidious baits which have been held out to divide them & defeat their object.
The revolution in France is still going on slowly & surely. There is a league of Prussia, Poland, Sweden & Turkey formed under the auspices of England & Holland against the two empires, who are scarcely in a condition to oppose such a combination. There is also a possibility of immediate war between England and Spain. The day before the mail of the last packet came away that is, on the 6th. of May, the king by a message to both houses, informed them of the capture of two British vessels by the Spaniards at Nootka sound, under a claim of exclusive right to those coasts, that he had demanded satisfaction, and was arming to obtain it. There was a very hot press of seamen, & several ships of war had already put to sea. Both houses unanimously promised support: & it seems as if they would insist on an unequivocal renunciation of her vague claims on the part of Spain. Perhaps they are determined to be satisfied with nothing less than war, dismemberment of the Spanish empire, and annihilation of their fleet.
TO JAMES MONROE
New York, June 20, 1790.
—An attack of a periodical headach, which tho violent for a few days only, yet kept me long in a lingering state, has hitherto prevented my sooner acknowledging the receipt of your favor of May 26. I hope the uneasiness of Mrs. Monroe & yourself has been removed by the re-establishment of your daughter. We have been in hopes of seeing her here, and fear at length some change in her arrangements for that purpose.
Congress has been long embarrassed by two of the most irritating questions that ever can be raised among them, 1. the funding the public debt, and 2. the fixing on a more central residence. After exhausting their arguments & patience on these subjects, they have for some time been resting on their oars, unable to get along as to these businesses, and indisposed to attend to anything else till they are settled. And in fine it has become probable that unless they can be reconciled by some plan of compromise, there will be no funding bill agreed to, our credit (raised by late prospects to be the first on the exchange at Amsterdam, where our paper is above par) will burst and vanish, and the states separate to take care every one of itself. This prospect appears probable to some well informed and well-disposed minds. Endeavours are therefore using to bring about a disposition to some mutual sacrifices. The assumption of state debts has appeared as revolting to several states as their non-assumption to others. It is proposed to strip the proposition of the injustice it would have done by leaving the states who have redeemed much of their debts on no better footing than those who have redeemed none; on the contrary it is recommended to assume a fixed sum, allotting a portion of it to every State in proportion to it’s census. Consequently every one will receive exactly what they will have to pay, or they will be exonerated so far by the general government’s taking their creditors off their hands. There will be no injustice then. But there will be the objection still that Congress must then lay taxes for these debts which would have been much better laid & collected by the state governments. And this is the objection on which the accommodation now hangs with the non-assumptioners, many of whom committed themselves in their advocation of the new constitution by arguments drawn from the improbability that Congress would ever lay taxes where the states could do it separately. These gentlemen feel the reproaches which will be levelled at them personally. I have been, & still am of their opinion that Congress should always prefer letting the States raise money in their own way where it can be done. But in the present instance I see the necessity of yielding for this time to the cries of the creditors in certain parts of the union, for the sake of union, and to save us from the greatest of all calamities, the total extinction of our credit in Europe. On the other subject it is proposed to pass an act fixing the temporary residence of 12. or 15. years at Philadelphia, and that at the end of that time it shall stand ipso facto & without further declaration transferred to Georgetown. In this way, there will be something to displease & something to soothe every part of the Union, but New York, which must be contented with what she has had. If this plan of compromise does not take place, I fear one infinitely worse, an unqualified assumption, & the perpetual residence on the Delaware. The Pennsylvania & Virginia delegations have conducted themselves honorably & unexceptionably on the question of residence. Without descending to talk about bargains they have seen that their true interests lay in not listening to insidious propositions made to divide & defect them, and we have seen them at times voting against their respective wishes rather than separate. * * *
I flatter myself with being in Virginia in the autumn. The particular time depends on too many contingencies to be now fixed. I shall hope the pleasure of seeing yourself & Mrs. Monroe either in Albemarle or wherever else our routes may cross each other. Present me affectionately to her and to my good neighbors generally, and be assured of the great & sincere esteem of, Dear Sir, Your affectionate friend & humble servt.
TO C. W. F. DUMAS
New York, June 23, 1790.
—I arrived at this place the latter end of March, and undertook the office to which the President had been pleased to appoint me, of Secretary of State, which comprehends that of Foreign Affairs. Before I had got through the most pressing matters which had been accumulating, a long illness came upon me, and put it out of my power for many weeks to acknowledge the receipt of your letters. * * *
We are much pleased to learn the credit of our paper at Amsterdam. We consider it as of the first importance, to possess the first credit there, and to use it little. Our distance from the wars of Europe, and our disposition to take no part in them, will, we hope, enable us to keep clear of the debts which they occasion to other powers. It will be well for yourself and our bankers to keep in mind always, that a great distinction is made here, between our foreign and domestic paper. As to the foreign, Congress is considered as the representative of one party only, and I think I can say with truth, that there is not one single individual in the United States, either in or out of office, who supposes they can ever do anything which might impair their foreign contracts. But with respect to domestic paper, it is thought that Congress, being the representative of both parties, may shape their contracts so as to render them practicable, only seeing that substantial justice be done. This distinction will explain to you their proceedings on the subject of their debts. The funding their foreign debts, according to express contract, passed without a debate and without a dissenting voice. The modelling and funding the domestic debt, occasions great debates, and great difficulty. The bill of ways and means was lately thrown out, because an excise was interwoven into its texture; and another ordered to be brought in, which will be clear of that. The assumption of the debts contracted by the States to individuals, for services rendered the Union, is a measure which divides Congress greatly. Some think that the States could much more conveniently levy taxes themselves to pay off these, and thus save Congress from the odium of imposing too heavy burthens in their name. This appears to have been the sentiment of the majority hitherto. But it is possible that modifications may be proposed, which may bring the measure yet into an acceptable form. We shall receive with gratitude the copy of Rymer’s Federa, which you are so good as to propose for the use of our offices here.
TO DR. DAVID RAMSAY
New York June 27. 1790.
— * * * Congress proceed heavily. Their funding plans are embarrassed with a proposition to assume the state debts, which is as disagreeable to a part of the Union as desireable to another part. I hope some compromise will be found. Great endeavors are using to get the temporary seat of government to Philadelphia, & the permanent one to George town. The counter project is New York & Baltimore. No time for their adjournment can be yet calculated on. * * *
TO DR. GEORGE GILMER
New York, June 27, 1790.
—I have duly received your favor of May 21 and thank you for the details it contains. Congressional proceedings go on rather heavily. The question for assuming the state debts, has created greater animosities than I ever yet saw take place on any occasion. There are three ways in which it may yet terminate. 1. A rejection of the measure which will prevent their funding any part of the public debt, and will be something very like a dissolution of the government. 2. A bargain between the Eastern members who have it so much at heart, & the middle members who are indifferent about it, to adopt those debts without any modification on condition of removing the seat of government to Philadelphia or Baltimore. 3. An adoption of them with this modification that the whole sum to be assumed shall be divided among the states in proportion to their census; so that each shall receive as much as they are to pay; & perhaps this might bring about so much good humour as to induce them to give the temporary seat of government to Philadelphia, & then to Georgetown permanently. It is evident that this last is the least bad of all the turns the thing can take. The only objection to it will be that Congress will then have to lay & collect taxes to pay these debts, which could much better have been laid & collected by the state governments. This, tho’ an evil, is a less one than any of the others in which it may issue, and will probably give us the seat of government at a day not very distant, which will vivify our agriculture & commerce by circulating thro’ our state an additional sum every year of half a million of dollars. When the last packet left England there was a great appearance of an immediate rupture with Spain. Should that take place, France will become a party. I hope peace & profit will be our share. Present my best esteem to Mrs. Gilmer & my enquiring neighbors.
TO FRANCIS EPPES
New York July 4. 1790.
—The business of Congress has proceeded very slowly lately. Two interesting questions have so chafed the members that they can scarcely go on with one another. One of these is happily getting over. The Senate has passed the bill for transferring the temporary residence of Congress to Philadelphia for 10. years and the permanent one to George town thenceforward. The other question relative to the assumption of the state debts is still undecided. In the form in which it has been proposed, it will n[ot] can never be admitted. But neither can the proposition be totally rejected without preventing the funding the public debt altogether which would be tantamount to a dissolution of the government. I am in hopes it will be put into a just form, by assuming to the creditors of each state in proportion to the census of each state, so that the state will be exonerated toward it’s creditors just as much as it will have to contribute to the assumption, & consequently no injustice done. The only objection then would be that the states could more conveniently levy taxes themselves to pay these debts. I am clearly of this opinion, but I see the necessity of sacrificing our opinions some times to the opinions of others for the sake of harmony. There is some prospect of a war between Spain and England. Should this take place, France will certainly be involved in it, & it will be as general a war as has ever been seen in Europe: consequently it will be long patching up a peace which will adjust so many interests. In the meantime I hope peace & profit will be our lot.—I think there is every prospect of a good price for our produce, & particularly our wheat for years to come.—The revolution in France goes on with a slow but steady step. Their West India islands are all in combustion. There is no government in them. Consequently their trade entirely open to us. I shall come to Virginia in September. Most probably early in the month, tho’ I had rather make it a little later if the time to be fixed by the President for removal to Philadelphia will admit it. For I take it for granted the bill will pass the H. of representatives where it has been read once or twice, and will be finally decided on the day after tomorrow. Present me most affectionately to mrs Eppes and the family. I am my Dear Sir Your affectionate friend & servt.
TO EDWARD RUTLEDGE
New York, July 4. 1790.
My Dear Sir,
—Your favor of Apr. 28. came to hand May 11. and found me under a severe indisposition which kept me from all business more than a month, and still permits me to apply but very sparingly. That of June 20. was delivered me two days ago by young mr Middleton whom I was very glad to see, as I am every body & every thing which comes from you. It will give me great pleasure to be of any use to him on his father’s account as well as your’s.
In your’s of Apr. 28. you mention Dr. Turnbull’s opinion that force alone can do our business with the Algerines. I am glad to have the concurrence of so good an authority on that point. I am clear myself that nothing but a perpetual cruize against them, or at least for 8 months of the year & for several years, can put an end to their piracies: and I believe that a confederacy of the nations not in treaty with them can be effected so as to make that perpetual cruise, or our share of it, a very light thing: and I am in hopes this may shortly be the case.—I participate fully of your indignation at the trammels imposed on our commerce with Great Britain. Some attempts have been made in Congress, and others are still making to meet their restrictions by effectual restrictions on our part. It was proposed to double the foreign tonnage for a certain time & after that to prohibit the exportation of our commodities in the vessels of nati[on]s not in treaty with us. This has been rejected. It is now proposed to prohibit any nation from bringing or carrying in their vessels what may not be brought or carried in ours from or to the same ports: also to prohibit those from bringing to us any thing not of their own produce, who prohibit us from carrying to them any thing but our own produce. It is thought however that this cannot be carried. The fear is that it would irritate Great Britain were we to feel any irritation ourselves. You will see by the debates of Congress that there are good men and bold men, & sensible men, who publicly avow these sentiments. Your observation on the expediency of making short treaties are most sound. Our situation is too changing, & too improving, to render an unchangeable treaty expedient for us. But what are these enquiries on the part of the British minister which lead you to think he means to treat? May they not look to some other object? I suspect they do: & can no otherwise reconcile all circumstances. I would thank you for a communication of any facts on this subject.
Some questions have lately agitated the mind of Congress more than the friends of union on catholic principles could have wished. The general assumption of state debts has been as warmly demanded by some states, as warmly rejected by others. I hope still that this question may be so divested of the injustice imputed to it as to be compromised. The question of residence you know was always a heating one. A bill has passed the Senate for fixing this at Philadelphia ten years, & then at George town: and it is rather probable it will pass the lower house. That question then will be put to sleep for ten years; & this and the funding business being once out of the way, I hope nothing else may be able to call up local principles.—If the war between Spain & England takes place, I think France will inevitably be involved in it. In that case I hope the new world will fatten on the follies of the old. If we can but establish the principles of the armed neutrality for ourselves, we must become the carriers for all parties as far as we can raise vessels.
The President had a hair breadth escape: but he is now perfectly re-established, & looks much better than before he was sick.—I expect daily to see your nephew, mr J. Rutledge, arrive here, as he wrote me by the May packet that he would come in that of June. He is a very hopeful young man, sensible, well-informed, prudent, & cool. Our Southern sun has been accused of sometimes sublimating the temper too highly. I wish all could think as coolly, but as soundly & firmly too as you do. Adieu my Dear friend. Yours affectionately
TO JAMES MONROE
New York July 11. 1790.
—I wrote you last on the 20th. of June. The bill for removing the federal government to Philadelphia for 10. years & then to Georgetown has at length passed both houses. The offices are to be removed before the first of December. I presume it will be done during the President’s trip to Virginia about the 1st. of September & October. I hope to set out for Virginia about the 1st of September and to pass three or four weeks at Monticello. Congress will now probably proceed in better humour to funding the public debt. This measure will secure to us the credit we now hold at Amsterdam, where our European paper is above par, which is the case of no other nation. Our business is to have great credit and to use it little. Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace. At present it is essential to let both Spain & England see that we are in a condition for war, for a number of collateral circumstances now render it probable that they will be in that condition. Our object is to feed & theirs to fight. If we are not forced by England, we shall have a gainful time of it.—A vessel from Gibraltar of the 10th. of June tells us O’Hara was busily fortifying & providing there, & that the English Consuls in the Spanish ports on the Mediterranean had received orders to dispatch all their vessels from those ports immediately. The Captain saw 15. Spanish ships of war going to Cadiz. It is said that Arnold is in Detroit reviewing the militia there. Other symptoms indicate a general design on all Louisiana & the two Floridas. What a tremendous position would success in these objects place us in! Embraced from the St. Croix to the St. Mary’s on one side by their possessions, on the other by their fleet, we need not hesitate to say that they would soon find means to unite to them all the territory covered by the ramifications of the Mississippi. Mrs Monroe’s friends were well three or four days ago. We are all disappointed at her not coming here.
OPINION ON WAR BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND SPAIN1
[july 12, 1790.]
Heads of consideration on the conduct we are to observe in the war between Spain and Gt. Britain and particularly should the latter attempt the conquest of Louisiana & the Floridas.2
The dangers to us, should great Britain possess herself of those countries.
She will possess a territory equal to half ours, beyond the Missisipi.
She will reduce that half of ours which is on this side the Missisipi.
by her language, laws, religion, manners, government, commerce, capital.
by the possession of N. Orleans, which draws to it ye dependence of all ye waters of Misspi.
by the markets she can offer them in the gulph of Mexico & elsewhere.
She will take from the remaining part of our States the markets they now have for their produce by furnishing those markets cheaper with the same articles, tobo. rice. indigo. bread. lumber. naval stores. furs.
She will have then possessions double the size of ours, as good in soil & climate.
She will encircle us compleatly, by these possessions on our land board, and her fleets on our sea-board.
instead of two neighbors balancing each other, we shall have one, with more than the strength of both.
Would the prevention of this be worth a War?
consider our abilities to take part in a war.
our operations would be by land only.
how many men should we need to employ?— their cost?
our resources of taxation & credit equal to this.
Weigh the evil of this new accumulation of debt against the loss of markets, & eternal expence & danger from so overgrown a neighbor.
But this is on supposition that France as well as Spain shall be engaged in the war.
for with Spain alone the war would be unsuccessful, & our situation rendered worse.
No need to take a part in the war as yet—we may chuse our own time.
Delay gives us many chances to avoid it altogether.
In such a choice of objects, Gr. Britain may not single out Louisiana & the Floridas.
she may fail in her attempt on them.
France and Spain may recover them.
if all these chances fail, we should have to re-take them. the difference between retaking, & preventing, overbalanced by the benefits of delay.
Delay enables us to be better prepared.
to obtain from the allies a price for our assistance.
Suppose these our ultimate views, What is to be done at this time?
1. as to Spain?
if she be as sensible as we are, that she cannot save Louisiana and the Floridas, might she not prefer their Independance to their Subjection to Gr. Britain?
Does not the proposition of the Ct. d’Estaing furnish us an opening to communicate our ideas on this subject to the court of France, and thro’ them to that of Madrid? And our readiness to join them in guaranteeing the independance of those countries?
this might save us from a war, if Gr. Britain respects our weight in a war.
and if she does not, the object would place the war on popular ground with us.
2. As to England? say to Beckwith
‘that as to a Treaty of commerce, we would prefer amicable to adversary arrangements, tho’ the latter would be infallible, and in our power: that our ideas are that such a treaty should be founded in perfect reciprocity: and wd. therefore be it’s own price:
that as to an Alliance, we can say nothing till it’s object be shewn, & that it is not to be inconsistent with existing engagements: that in the event of a war between Gr. Britain & Spain we are disposed to be strictly neutral: that however we should view with extreme uneasiness any attempt of either power to seize the possessions of the other on our frontier, as we consider our own safety interested in a due balance between our neighbors’ [it might be advantageous to express this latter sentiment, because if there be any difference of opinion in their councils, whether to bend their force against North or South America, or the islands (and certainly there is room for difference) and if these opinions be nearly balanced, that balance might be determined by the prospect of having an enemy the more, or less, according to the object they should select].
TO C. W. F. DUMAS
New York, July 13, 1790.
— * * * Congress are still engaged in their funding bills. The foreign debts did not admit of any difference of opinion. They were settled by a single and unanimous vote; but the domestic debt, requiring modifications and settlements, these produce great difference of opinion, and consequently retard the passage of the funding bill. The States had individually contracted considerable debts for their particular defence, in addition to what was done by Congress Some of the States have so exerted themselves since the war, as to have paid off near the half of their individual debts. Others have done nothing. The State creditors urge, that these debts were as much for general purposes as those contracted by Congress, and insist that Congress shall assume and pay such of them as have not been yet paid by their own States. The States who have exerted themselves most, find that, notwithstanding the great payments they have made, they shall by this assumption, still have nearly as much to pay as if they had never paid anything. They are therefore opposed to it. I am in hopes a compromise will be effected by a proportional assumption, which may reach a great part of the debts, and leave still a part of them to be paid by those States who have paid few or none of their creditors. This being once settled, Congress will probably adjourn, and meet again in December, at Philadelphia. The appearance of war between our two neighbors, Spain and England, would render a longer adjournment inexpedient.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
d. s. mss.
Thursday July 15, 1790.
—I have formed an opinion, quite satisfactory to myself, that the adjournment of Congress may be by law, as well as by resolution, without touching the Constitution. I am now copying fair what I had written yesterday on the subject & will have the honor of laying it before you by ten o’clock. The address to the President contains a very full digest of all the arguments urged against the bill on the point of unconstitutionality on the floor of Congress. It was fully combated on that ground, in the Committee of the whole, & on the third reading. The majority (a southern one) overruled the objection, as a majority (a northern one) had overruled the same objection the last session on the Susquehanna residence bill. So that two Majorities, in the two different sessions, & from different ends of the Union have overruled the objection, and may be fairly supposed to have declared the sense of the whole Union. I shall not lose a moment in laying before you my thoughts on the subject.
OPINION ON RESIDENCE BILL
[July 15, 1790.]
Opinion upon the question whether the President should veto the Bill, declaring that the seat of government shall be transferred to the Potomac, in the year 1790.
A bill having passed both houses of Congress, and being now before the President, declaring that the seat of the federal government shall be transferred to the Potomac in the year 1790, that the session of Congress next ensuing the present shall be held in Philadelphia, to which place the offices shall be transferred before the 1st of December next, a writer in a public paper of July 13, has urged on the consideration of the President, that the constitution has given to the two houses of Congress the exclusive right to adjourn themselves; that the will of the President mixed with theirs in a decision of this kind, would be an inoperative ingredient, repugnant to the constitution, and that he ought not to permit them to part, in a single instance, with their constitutional rights; consequently, that he ought to negative the bill.
That is now to be considered:
Every man, and every body of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government. They receive it with their being from the hand of nature. Individuals exercise it by their single will; collections of men by that of their majority; for the law of the majority is the natural law of every society of men. When a certain description of men are to transact together a particular business, the times and places of their meeting and separating, depend on their own will; they make a part of the natural right of self-government. This, like all other natural rights, may be abridged or modified in its exercise by their own consent, or by the law of those who depute them, if they meet in the right of others; but as far as it is not abridged or modified, they retain it as a natural right, and may exercise them in what form they please, either exclusively by themselves, or in association with others, or by others altogether, as they shall agree.
Each house of Congress possesses this natural right of governing itself, and, consequently, of fixing its own times and places of meeting, so far as it has not been abridged by the law of those who employ them, that is to say, by the Constitution. This act manifestly considers them as possessing this right of course, and therefore has nowhere given it to them. In the several different passages where it touches this right, it treats it as an existing thing, not as one called into existence by them. To evince this, every passage of the constitution shall be quoted, where the right of adjournment is touched; and it will be seen that no one of them pretends to give that right; that, on the contrary, every one is evidently introduced either to enlarge the right where it would be too narrow, to restrain it where, in its natural and full exercise, it might be too large, and lead to inconvenience, to defend it from the latitude of its own phrases, where these were not meant to comprehend it, or to provide for its exercise by others, when they cannot exercise it themselves.
“A majority of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members.” Art. 1, Sec. 5. A majority of every collection of men being naturally necessary to constitute its will, and it being frequently to happen that a majority is not assembled, it was necessary to enlarge the natural right by giving to “a smaller number than a majority” a right to compel the attendence of the absent members, and, in the meantime, to adjourn from day to day. This clause, then, does not pretend to give to a majority a right which it knew that majority would have of themselves, but to a number less than a majority, a right to which it knew that lesser number could not have of themselves.
“Neither house, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two houses shall be sitting.” Ibid. Each house exercising separately its natural right to meet when and where it should think best, it might happen that the two houses would separate either in time or place, which would be inconvenient. It was necessary, therefore, to keep them together by restraining their natural right of deciding on separate times and places, and by requiring a concurrence of will.
But, as it might happen that obstinacy, or a difference of object, might prevent this concurrence, it goes on to take from them, in that instance, the right of adjournment altogether, and to transfer it to another, by declaring, Art. 2, Sec. 3, that “in case of disagreement between the two houses, with respect to the time of adjournment, the President may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper.”
These clauses, then, do not import a gift, to the two houses, of a general right of adjournment, which it was known they would have without that gift, but to restrain or abrogate the right it was known they would have, in an instance where, exercised in its full extent, it might lead to inconvenience, and to give that right to another who would not naturally have had it. It also gives to the President a right, which he otherwise would not have had, “to convene both houses, or either of them, on extraordinary occasions.” Thus substituting the will of another, where they are not in a situation to exercise their own.
“Every order, resolution, or vote, to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment), shall be presented to the President for his approbation, &c.” Art. I, Sec. 7. The latitude of the general words here used would have subjected the natural right of adjournment of the two houses to the will of the President, which was not intended. They therefore expressly “except questions of adjournment” out of their operation. They do not here give a right of adjournment, which it was known would exist without their gift, but they defend the existing right against the latitude of their own phrases, in a case where there was no good reason to abridge it. The exception admits they will have the right of adjournment, without pointing out the source from which they will derive it.
These are all the passages of the constitution (one only excepted, which shall be presently cited) where the right of adjournment is touched; and it is evident that none of these are introduced to give that right; but every one supposes it to be existing, and provides some specific modification for cases where either a defeat in the natural right, or a too full use of it, would occasion inconvenience.
The right of adjournment, then, is not given by the constitution, and consequently it may be modified by law without interfering with that instrument. It is a natural right, and, like all other natural rights, may be abridged or regulated in its exercise by law; and the concurrence of the third branch in any law regulating its exercise is so efficient an ingredient in that law, that the right cannot be otherwise exercised but after a repeal by a new law. The express terms of the constitution itself show that this right may be modified by law, when, in Art. I, Sec. 4, (the only remaining passage on the subject not yet quoted) it says, “The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be the first Monday in December, unless they shall, by law, appoint a different day.” Then another day may be appointed by law; and the President’s assent is an efficient ingredient in that law. Nay, further, they cannot adjourn over the first Monday of December but by a law. This is another constitutional abridgment of their natural right of adjournment; and completing our review of all the causes in the constitution which touch that right, authorizes us to say no part of that instrument gives it; and that the houses hold it, not from the constitution, but from nature.
A consequence of this is, that the houses may, by a joint resolution, remove themselves from place to place, because it is a part of their right of self-government; but that as the right of self-government does not comprehend the government of others, the two houses cannot, by a joint resolution of their majorities only, remove the executive and judiciary from place to place. These branches possessing also the rights of self-government from nature, cannot be controlled in the exercise of them but by a law, passed in the forms of the constitution. The clause of the bill in question, therefore, was necessary to be put into the form of a law, and to be submitted to the President, so far as it proposes to effect the removal of the Executive and Judiciary to Philadelphia. So far as respects the removal of the present houses of legislation thither, it was not necessary to be submitted to the President; but such a submission is not repugnant to the constitution. On the contrary, if he concurs, it will so far fix the next session of Congress at Philadelphia that it cannot be changed but by a regular law.
The sense of Congress itself is always respectable authority. It has been given very remarkably on the present subject. The address to the President in the paper of the 13th is a complete digest of all the arguments urged on the floor of the Representatives against the constitutionality of the bill now before the President; and they were overruled by a majority of that house, comprehending the delegation of all the States south of the Hudson, except South Carolina. At the last cession of Congress, when the bill for remaining a certain term in New York and then removing to Susquehanna or Germantown was objected to on the same ground, the objection was overruled by a majority comprehending the delegations of the northern half of the union with that of South Carolina. So that the sense of every State in the union has been expressed, by its delegation, against this objection South Carolina excepted, and excepting also Rhode Island, which has never yet had a delegation in place to vote on the question. In both these instances the Senate concurred with the majority of the Representatives. The sense of the two houses is stronger authority in this case, as it is given against their own supposed privilege.
It would be as tedious, as it is unnecessary, to take up and discuss one by one, the objections proposed in the paper of July 13. Every one of them is founded on the supposition that the two houses hold their right of adjournment from the constitution. This error being corrected, the objections founded on it fall of themselves.
It would also be work of mere supererogation to show that, granting what this writer takes for granted (that the President’s assent would be an inoperative ingredient, because excluded by the constitution, as he says), yet the particular views of the writer would be frustrated, for on every hypothesis of what the President may do, Congress must go to Philadelphia. 1. If he assents to the bill, that assent makes good law of the part relative to the Patomac; and the part for holding the next session at Philadelphia is good, either as an ordinance, or a vote of the two houses, containing a complete declaration of their will in a case where it is competent to the object; so that they must go to Philadelphia in that case. 2. If he dissents from the bill it annuls the part relative to the Patomac; but as to the clause for adjourning to Philadelphia, his dissent being as inefficient as his assent, it remains a good ordinance or vote, of the two houses for going thither, and consequently they must go in this case also. 3. If the President withholds his will out of the bill altogether, by a ten days’ silence, then the part relative to the Potomac becomes a good law without his will, and that relative to Philadelphia is good also, either as a law, or an ordinance, or a vote of the two houses; and consequently in this case also they go to Philadelphia.
TO WILLIAM TEMPLE FRANKLIN
New York July 16, 1790.
—On further reflection it appears to me that the houses you mentioned of Mrs. Buddin’, would suit me so perfectly that I must beg the favor of you to insure me the refusal of two of them adjoining to each other, on the best terms you can. Houses will doubtless rise in the first moment, but as the residence of Congress really calls for but a very few houses, such as those, (probably not a dozen) I suppose there will be new buildings immediately erected more than equal to the new demand. This ought to be a consideration with the proprietor to be moderate, in order to ensure the continuance of a tenant. My object in taking two houses is to assign the lower floor of both to my public offices, and the first floor and both gardens entirely to my own use. Perhaps the third floor of one of them might also be necessary for dead office papers, machines, &c. I should wish for such a gallery on the back of the building as I have had erected here. It might cost about £150. on which I would pay the usual additional rent. This need only be spoken of so as to prepare them for agreeing to make the addition. A good neighbor is a very desirable thing. Mr. Randolph the Attorney Genl. is probably now in Philadelphia, & I think would like the same part of the town. I wish the 3d. house (my two being secured) could be proposed to him. I beg your pardon for giving you so much trouble, but your kind offer brought it on you.
TO FRANCIS EPPES
New York, July 25, 1790.
—I have duly received your favor of May 30, inclosing Mr. Ross’s accounts &c. I observe that almost the whole of the balance he makes, results from turning money into tobacco at 20/. and then turning it back again into money at 36/. If there was ever any agreement between Mr. Ross & me to pay him any part of the account in tobacco, it must be paid him in tobacco. But neither justice nor generosity can call for referring any thing to any other scale than that of hard money. Paper money was a cheat. Tobacco was the counter-cheat. Every one is justifiable in rejecting both except so far as his contracts bind him. I shall carry these papers to Virginia, and there settle the matter. War or no war, between England & Spain is still a doubtful question. If there be war, France will probably take part in it. This we cannot help, and therefore we must console ourselves with the good price for wheat which it will bring us.
The assumption of the state debts will, I believe, be agreed to; somewhat on the plan mentioned to you in my last. They assume particularly for the state of Virginia the exact quota she will be liable to of the whole sum assumed, but the same justice is not done to the other states. More is given to some, who owed more, & less to others who owed & asked less. It is a measure of necessity. I hope to set out about the beginning of Sep. for Monticello. I am in hopes the season will invite Mrs. Eppes & yourself to make an excursion there, which will make me very happy. It is a society which will ever be dear to me.
TO COLONEL JOHN HARVIE
New York, July 25, 1790.
—I received yesterday your favor of July 12, by Mr. Austin and am glad of the occasion it’s acknowledgment furnishes me of resuming a correspondence which distance & business have long interrupted, but which has never wanted the urgency of motives of sincere friendship on my part. Mr. Austin shall certainly receive every aid I can give him. That which he asks from Congress I suppose very doubtful. No body can say where such a precedent would carry them. A contract to supply government with the lead it may want I should think him entitled to on principles of sound policy.
It is still uncertain whether there will be war between Spain & England. If there is, France will probably embark in it. Her revolution is so far advanced that it cannot be disturbed by a war. Perhaps it may improve their constitution by adapting it to that circumstance. As yet appearances indicate war, tho’ there is a leading fact against it, that of a British Ambassador having actually gone to Madrid. Be this as it will, there will be war enough to give us high prices for wheat for years to come; & this single commodity will make us a great & happy nation.
The assumption will I believe pass in the form in which you see it in the publick papers. That is to say a fixed sum will be assumed & divided among the States. The partition is governed by a combination of their census & their circumstances. The greatest proportions by far are given to Massachusets & S. Carolina because they were indebted in a still higher proportion. That Virginia might not lose [the] benefit from the paiements she has made of her domestic debt, [th]ey assume for her exactly what it is supposed she will have to [fu]rnish of the whole sum assumed. It is imagined too this sum will [cov]er the whole of her remaining domestic debt. To other States which [ow]ed & asked less, less is apportioned. With respect to Virginia, the [m]easure is thus divested of it’s injustice. It remains liable, however, [to] others founded in policy. I have no doubt that the states should be [l]eft to do whatever acts they can do as well as the general government, and that they could have availed themselves of resources [f]or this paiment which are cut off from the general government by the prejudices existing against direct taxation in their hands. [They] must push therefore the tax on imports as far as it will bear, [and] this is not a proper object to bear all the taxes of a state. However, the impossibility that certain states could ever pay the debts they had contracted, the acknowledgement that nine tenths of these debts were contracted for the general defence as much as those contracted by Congress directly, the clamours of the creditors within those states, and the possibility that these might defeat the funding any part of the public debt, if theirs also were not assumed, were motives not to be neglected. I saw the first proposition for this assumption with as much aversion as any man, but the development of circumstances have convinced me that if it is obdurately rejected, something much worse will happen. Considering it therefore as one of the cases in which mutual sacrifice & accommodation is necessary, I shall see it pass with acquiescence. It is to be observed that the sums to be assumed, are to be on account only.—McGillivray & his chiefs are here. We hope good from this visit. Congress I think will adjourn between the 6th and 13th of August. The President will very soon after set out for Virginia. I shall avail myself of this interregnum to visit Virginia.
OPINION ON INDIAN TRADE
[July 29th, 1790.]
Opinion in regard to the continuance of the monopoly of the commerce of the Creek nation, enjoyed by Col. McGillivray:
Colonel McGillivray, with a company of British merchants, having hitherto enjoyed a monopoly of the commerce of the Creek nation, with a right of importing their goods duty free, and considering these privileges as the principal sources of his power over that nation, is unwilling to enter into treaty with us, unless they can be continued to him. And the question is how this may be done consistently with our laws, and so as to avoid just complaints from those of our citizens who would wish to participate of the trade?
Our citizens, at this time, are not permitted to trade in that nation. The nation has a right to give us their peace, and to withhold their commerce, to place it under whatever monopolies or regulations they please. If they insist that only Colonel McGillivray and his company shall be permitted to trade among them, we have no right to say the contrary. We shall even gain some advantage in substituting citizens of the United States instead of British subjects, as associates of Colonel McGillivray, and excluding both British and Spaniards from the country.
Suppose, then, it be expressly stipulated by treaty, that no person be permitted to trade in the Creek country, without a license from the President, that but a fixed number shall be permitted to trade there at all, and that the goods imported for and sent to the Creek nation, shall be duty free. It may further be either expressed that the person licensed shall be approved by the leader or leaders of the nation, or without this, it may be understood between the President and McGillivray that the stipulated number of licenses shall be sent to him blank, to fill up. A treaty made by the President, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senate is a law of the land, and a law of superior order, because it not only repeals past laws, but cannot itself be repealed by future ones.1 The treaty, then, will legally control the duty acts, and the acts for licensing traders, in this particular instance. When a citizen applies for a license, who is not of McGillivray’s partnership, he will be told that but a given number could be licensed by the treaty, and that the number is full. It seems that in this way no law will be violated, and no just cause of complaint will be given; on the contrary, the treaty will have bettered our situation though not in the full degree which might have been wished.
TO THE U. S. CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES IN SPAIN
New York, August 2, 1790.
—This letter will be delivered to you by Colonel Humphreys, whose character is so well known to you as to need no recommendations from me. The present appearances of war between our two neighbors Spain and England, cannot but excite all our attention. The part we are to act is uncertain, and will be difficult. The unsettled state of our dispute with Spain, may give a turn to it very different from what we would wish. As it is important that you should be fully apprized of our way of thinking on this subject, I have sketched, in the enclosed paper,1 general heads of consideration arising from present circumstances. These will be readily developed by your own reflections, and in conversations with Colonel Humphreys; who, possessing the sentiments of the executive on this subject, being well acquainted with the circumstances of the Western country in particular, and of the state of our affairs in general, comes to Madrid expressly for the purpose of giving you a thorough communication of them. He will, therefore, remain there as many days or weeks as may be necessary for this purpose. With this information, written and oral, you will be enabled to meet the minister in conversations on the subject of the navigation of the Mississippi, to which we wish you to lead his attention immediately. Impress him thoroughly with the necessity of an early, and even an immediate settlement of this matter, and of a return to the field of negotiation for this purpose; and though it must be done delicately, yet he must be made to understand unequivocally, that a resumption of the negotiation is not desired on our part, unless he can determine, in the first opening of it, to yield the immediate and full enjoyment of that navigation. (I say nothing of the claims of Spain to our territory north of the thirty-first degree, and east of the Mississippi. They never merited the respect of an answer; and you know it has been admitted at Madrid, that they were not to be maintained.) It may be asked, what need of negotiation, if the navigation is to be ceded at all events? You know that the navigation cannot be practised without a port, where the sea and river vessels may meet and exchange loads, and where those employed about them may be safe and unmolested. The right to use a thing, comprehends a right to the means necessary to its use, and without which it would be useless. The fixing on a proper port, and the degree of freedom it is to enjoy in its operations, will require negotiation, and be governed by events. There is danger, indeed, that even the unavoidable delay of sending a negotiator here, may render the mission too late for the preservation of peace. It is impossible to answer for the forbearance of our western citizens. We endeavor to quiet them with the expectation of an attainment of their rights by peaceable means. But should they, in a moment of impatience, hazard others, there is no saying how far we may be led; for neither themselves nor their rights will ever be abandoned by us.
You will be pleased to observe, that we press these matters warmly and firmly, under this idea, that the war between Spain and Great Britain will be begun before you receive this; and such a moment must not be lost. But should an accommodation take place, we retain, indeed, the same object and the same resolutions unalterably; but your discretion will suggest, that in that event, they must be pressed more softly, and that patience and persuasion must temper your conferences, till either these may prevail, or some other circumstance turn up, which may enable us to use other means for the attainment of an object which we are determined, in the end, to obtain at every risk.
TO THE PRESIDENT
d. s. mss.
Friday, August 6, 1790.
Th Jefferson has the honor to inform the President that in a conversation with Mr. Hawkins yesterday evening, it came out that he had seen Mc.Gillivray’s letter to Govr. Houston, & Houston’s answer: he thinks they were dated the latter end of 1784, but is sure they were some time in the year preceding the treaty of Galphinton to which he was sent. He recites the substance and purport of Mc.Gilivray’s letter but does not recollect that of Houston’s. Previous to the treaty of Galphinton, some of the Indians disavowed to him that of Augusta, & declared the lands ceded were of those which belonged to the whole nation, & not to the lower creeks in particular. I am not certain whether he did not say this conversation was in 1784. but I am sure he repeated it as precedent to the treaty of Galphinton.
TO THE U. S. CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES IN FRANCE
New York, August 10, 1790.
—This letter, with the very confidential papers it encloses, will be delivered to you by Mr. Barrett with his own hands. If there be no war between Spain and England, they need to be known to yourself alone. But if that war be begun, or whenever it shall begin, we wish you to communicate them to the Marquis de La Fayette, on whose assistance we know we can count in matters which interest both our countries. He and you will consider how far the contents of these papers may be communicated to the Count de Montmorin, and his influence be asked with the court of Madrid. France will be called into the war, as an ally, and not on any pretence of the quarrel being in any degree her own. She may reasonably require then, that Spain should do everything which depends on her, to lessen the number of her enemies. She cannot doubt that we shall be of that number, if she does not yield our right to the common use of the Mississippi, and the means of using and securing it. You will observe, we state in general the necessity, not only of our having a port near the mouth of the river (without which we could make no use of the navigation at all) but of its being so well separated from the territories of Spain and her jurisdiction, as not to engender daily disputes and broils between us. It is certain, that if Spain were to retain any jurisdiction over our entrepôt, her officers would abuse that jurisdiction, and our people would abuse their privileges in it. Both parties must foresee this, and that it will end in war. Hence the necessity of a well-defined separation. Nature has decided what shall be the geography of that in the end, whatever it might be in the beginning, by cutting off from the adjacent countries of Florida and Louisiana, and enclosing between two of its channels, a long and narrow slip of land, called the Island of New Orleans. The idea of ceding this, could not be hazarded to Spain, in the first step; it would be too disagreeable at first view; because this island, with its town, constitutes, at present, their principal settlement in that part of their dominions, containing about ten thousand white inhabitants of every age and sex. Reason and events, however, may, by little and little, familiarize them to it. That we have a right to some spot as an entrepôt for our commerce, may be at once affirmed. The expediency, too, may be expressed, of so locating it as to cut off the source of future quarrels and wars. A disinterested eye, looking on a map, will remark how conveniently this tongue of land is formed for the purpose; the Iberville and Amit channel offering a good boundary and convenient outlet, on the one side, for Florida, and the main channel an equally good boundary and outlet, on the other side, for Louisiana; while the slip of land between, is almost entirely morass or sandbank; the whole of it lower than the water of the river, in its highest floods, and only its western margin (which is the highest ground) secured by banks and inhabited. I suppose this idea too much even for the Count de Montmorin at first, and that, therefore, you will find it prudent to urge, and get him to recommend to the Spanish court, only in general terms, “a port near the mouth of the river, with a circumjacent territory sufficient for its support, well defined, and extraterritorial to Spain,” leaving the idea to future growth.
I enclose you the copy of a paper distributed by the Spanish commandant on the west side of the Mississippi, which may justify us to M. de Montmorin, for pushing this matter to an immediate conclusion. It cannot be expected we shall give Spain time, to be used by her for dismembering us.
It is proper to apprize you of a circumstance, which may show the expediency of being in some degree on your guard, even in your communications to the court of France. It is believed here, that the Count de Moustier, during his residence with us, conceived the project of again engaging France in a colony upon our continent, and that he directed his views to some of the country on the Mississippi, and obtained and communicated a good deal of matter on the subject to his court. He saw the immediate advantage of selling some yards of French cloths and silks to the inhabitants of New Orleans. But he did not take into account what it would cost France to nurse and protect a colony there, till it should be able to join its neighbors, or to stand by itself; and then what it would cost her to get rid of it. I hardly suspect that the court of France could be seduced by so partial a view of the subject as was presented to them, and I suspect it the less, since the National Assembly has constitutionally excluded conquest from the object of their government. It may be added, too, that the place being ours, their yards of cloth and silk would be as freely sold as if it were theirs.
You will perceive by this letter and the papers it encloses, what part of the ideas of Count d’Estaing correspond with our views. The answer to him must be a compound of civility and reserve, expressing our thankfulness for his attentions, that we consider them as proofs of the continuance of his friendly dispositions, and that though it might be out of our system to implicate ourselves in trans-Atlantic guarantees, yet other parts of his plans are capable of being improved to the common benefit of the parties. Be so good as to say to him something of this kind verbally, and so as that the matter may be ended as between him and us.
On the whole, in the event of war, it is left to the judgment of the Marquis de La Fayette and yourself, how far you will develop the ideas now communicated to the Count de Montmorin, and how far you will suffer them to be developed to the Spanish court.
I enclose you a pamphlet by Hutchins for your further information on the subject of the Mississippi; and am, with sentiments of perfect esteem and attachment, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
TO THE U. S. SECRET AGENT
New York, August 11, 1790.
—The President having thought proper to confide several special matters in Europe to your care, it will be expedient that you take your passage in the first convenient vessel bound to the port of London.
When there, you will be pleased to deliver to Mr. G. Morris and to Mr. Johnson, the letters and papers you will have in charge for them, to communicate to us from thence any interesting public intelligence you may be able to obtain, and then to take as early a passage as possible to Lisbon.
At Lisbon, you will deliver the letter with which you are charged for the Chevalier Pinto, putting on it the address proper to his present situation. You know the contents of this letter, and will make it the subject of such conferences with him, as may be necessary to obtain our point of establishing there the diplomatic grade which alone coincides with our system, and of insuring its reception and treatment with the requisite respect. Communicate to us the result of your conferences, and then proceed to Madrid.
There you will deliver the letters and papers which you have in charge for Mr. Carmichael, the contents of all which are known to you. Be so good as to multiply, as much as possible, your conferences with him, in order to possess him fully of the special matters sketched out in those papers, and of the state of our affairs in general.
Your stay there will be as long as its object may require, only taking care to return to Lisbon by the time you may reasonably expect that our answers to your letters, to be written from Lisbon, may reach that place. This cannot be earlier than the first or second week of January. These answers will convey to you the President’s further pleasure.
Through the whole of this business, it will be best that you avoid all suspicion of being on any public business. This need be known only to the Chevalier Pinto and Mr. Carmichael. The former need not know of your journey to Madrid, or if it be necessary, he may be made to understand that it is a journey of curiosity, to fill up the interval between writing your letters and receiving the answers. To every other person, it will be best that you appear as a private traveller.
The President of the United States allows you from this date, at the rate of two thousand two hundred and fifty dollars a year, for your services and expenses, and moreover, what you may incur for the postage of letters; until he shall otherwise order.
[1 ]In reply to an address presented to Jefferson while on his way to New York.
[1 ]From the Southern Bivouac, ii., 430.
[1 ]Now his son-in-law, having married Martha Jefferson at Monticello on February 28, 1790.
[1 ]The President. See ante, page 37.
[1 ]Italic is cipher in original.
[1 ]This relates to the beginning of the “Yazoo” imbroglio.
[1 ]The son of Jefferson’s cousin, George Jefferson.
[1 ]Jefferson sent this to the President, with the following note:
[2 ]Among the Jefferson MSS. is a single sheet, containing what is evidently the first, or rough draft of this paper. As it varies in several respects, it is included here for purposes of comparison.Heads of consideration on the conduct we are to observe in the war between Spain and Gr. Britain, and particularly should the latter attempt the conquest of Louisiana and the Floridas. The danger to us shd. G. B. possess herself of Louisiana and the Floridas. Beyond the Missi. a territory equal to half ours. She would reduce our Cis-Missi. possessions. Because N. Orleans will draw to it the dependence of all those waters. By her language, laws, religion, manners, govnt., commerce, capitals. By the markets she can offer them in the gulph of Mexico. She would then have a territory the double of ours. She would take away the markets of the Atlantic States,By furnishing the same articles cheaper, tobo., rice, indigo, bread, lumber, fur. She would encircle us completely, her possessions forming a line on our land boards, her fleets on our sea board. Instead of two neighbors balancing each other, we should have one with ye strength of both. Would the prevention of this be worth a War? Consider our abilities to make a war. Our operations would be by land only. How many men would it need to employ?—their cost? Our resources by taxation and credit equal to this. Weigh the evil of this new accumulation of debt.Against the loss of market and eternal danger and expence of such a neighbor. But no need to take a part as yet. We may choose our own time for that. Delay gives us many chances to avoid it altogether. They may not single out that object. They may fail in it. France and Spain may recover it. The difference between prevention and retaking, overbaled. by benefits of delay. Enables us to be better prepared. To stipulate with Spain and France advantages for our assistance. Suppose these our ultimate views, what is to be done at this time? 1. As to Spain.If she be as sensible as we are, that she cannot save Louisiana and the Floridas, might she not prefer their Independce. to their Subjectn. to Gr. Br.?Can we not take advantage of Ct. D’Estaing’s propos’n to communicate thro’ the court of France our ideas on this subject and our readiness to join them in guarantee?This might save us from a war, if Gr. Br. respects our weight in a war. If she does not, it would place the war on popular ground. 2. As to England, say to B.That as to a treaty of commerce we hd. never desired it but on terms of perfect reciprocity.That therefore we never thought to give any price for it but itself.That we had wished for it to avoid giving mutual bonds to the commerce of both nations.But that we have the measures in our own power which may save us from loss.That as to the alliance they propose, it would involve us against France and Spain.And considered even in a moral view, no price could repay such an abandonmt. of character.That we are truly disposed to remain strictly neutral. Tho’ we must confess yt. we shd. view in a very serious light attempts to extend themselves along our frontier, and destroy all balance in our neighborhood. [The latter sentiment it might be advantageous to express, because if there be any difference of op’n in her councils whether to bend their force agt. North or South America (and certainly there is room for difference) and if these operations be nearly balanced, the possibility of drawing an enemy the more on themselves, might determine the balance.]
[1 ]At a later period, upon reviewing this opinion, the following note was appended by Jefferson: “Unless with the consent or default of the other contracting party. It may well be doubted, too, and perhaps denied that the treaty power can control a law. The question here proposed was then of the first impression. Subsequent investigations have proved that the contrary position is the more general truth.”
[1 ]See infra page 129.