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TO BENJAMIN SMITH BARTON - 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 BENJAMIN SMITH BARTON
New York Aug. 12, 1790.
—I have been duly honored with yours of the 7th instant, and in order to answer it must enter into a detail of facts.
In the formation of the higher departments there were some endeavors in Congress to establish a separate minister for the domestic business. This was disapproved by a considerable majority of Congress, and they therefore united that with the foreign business under the department of the Secretary of State.—When I arrived here I found Mr. Alden at the head of the home office, & Mr. Remsen at that of the foreign office. Neither could descend to a secondary appointment, & yet they were each so well acquainted with their respective departments & the papers in them, that it was extremely desirable to keep both. On this ground, of their peculiar familiarity with the papers & proceedings of their respective offices, which made them necessary to me as indexes, I asked permission to appoint two chief clerks. The legislature received the proposition with some jealousy, lest it might be intended to bring forward again the plan of two departments, and tho’ the bill past, it was after considerable delay, and being quite satisfied I had no other view than to be enabled to keep the two gentlemen so peculiarly familiar with the papers under their care. One of them chusing afterwards to engage in another line I could do nothing less, in return to the complaisance of the legislature, than declare that as the ground on which alone they were induced to allow the second office, was now removed, I considered the office as at an end, and that the arrangements should return to the order desired by the legislature: this declaration has been given to some applications already made for this office.
I should have had real pleasure, Sir, in serving you on this occasion, but the preceding detail of facts will serve to shew you that the appointment cannot be renewed. The testimony I have received would otherwise be quite sufficient to convince me that I could not fill the office better than by naming you, were it considered as now existing.
TO THE U. S. INFORMAL AGENT IN GREAT BRITAIN
New York, August 12, 1790.
—Your letter of May the 29th to the President of the United States, has been duly received. You have placed their proposition of exchanging a minister on proper ground. It must certainly come from them, and come in unequivocal form. With those who respect their own dignity so much, ours must not be counted at naught. On their own proposal formally, to exchange a minister, we sent them one. They have taken no notice of that, and talk of agreeing to exchange one now, as if the idea were new. Besides, what they are saying to you, they are talking to us through Quebec; but so informally, that they may disavow it when they please. It would only oblige them to make the fortune of the poor Major, whom they would pretend to sacrifice. Through him, they talk of a minister, a treaty of commerce and alliance. If the object of the latter be honorable, it is useless; if dishonorable, inadmissible. These tamperings prove, they view a war as very possible; and some symptoms indicate designs against the Spanish possessions adjoining us. The consequences of their acquiring all the country on our frontier, from the St. Croix to the St. Mary’s, are too obvious to you to need development. You will readily see the dangers which would then environ us. We wish you, therefore, to intimate to them that we cannot be indifferent to enterprises of this kind. That we should contemplate a change of neighbors with extreme uneasiness; and that a due balance on our borders is not less desirable to us, than a balance of power in Europe has always appeared to them. We wish to be neutral, and we will be so, if they will execute the treaty fairly and attempt no conquests adjoining us. The first condition is just; the second imposes no hardship on them. They cannot complain that the other dominions of Spain would be so narrow as not to leave them room enough for conquest. If the war takes place, we would really wish to be quieted on these two points, offering in return an honorable neutrality. More than this, they are not to expect. It will be proper that these ideas be conveyed in delicate and friendly terms; but that they be conveyed, if the war takes place; for it is in that case alone, and not till it be begun, that we should wish our dispositions to be known. But in no case, need they think of our accepting any equivalent for the posts.
HEADS OF CONSIDERATION ON THE NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, FOR MR. CARMICHAEL1
[Aug. 22d, 1790.]
We have a right to the navigation of the Mississippi—1, by Nature; 2, by Treaty.
It is necessary to us. More than half the territory of the United States is on the waters of that river. Two hundred thousand of our citizens are settled on them, of whom forty thousand bear arms. These have no other outlet for their tobacco, rice, corn, hemp, lumber, house timber, ship timber.
We have hitherto respected the indecision of Spain, because we wish peace;—because our western citizens have had vent at home for their productions.
A surplus of production begins now to demand foreign markets. Whenever they shall say, “We cannot, we will not, be longer shut up,” the United States will be reduced to the following dilemma: 1. To force them to acquiescence. 2. To separate from them, rather than take part in a war against Spain. 3. Or to preserve them in our Union, by joining them in the war.
The 1st is neither in our principles, nor in our power. 2d. A multitude of reasons decide against the second. It may suffice to speak out one: were we to give up half our territory rather than engage in a just war to preserve it, we should not keep the other half long. 3d. The third is the alternative we must adopt.
How are we to obtain that navigation?
(A.) By Force.
I. Acting separately. That we can effect this with certainty and promptitude, circumstances decide.
Objection. We cannot retain New Orleans, for instance, were we to take it.
Answer. A moderate force may be so secured, as to hold out till succored. Our succors can be prompt and effectual. Suppose, after taking it, we withdraw our force. If Spain retakes it by an expedition, we can recover it by a counter-expedition, and so as often as the case shall happen. Their expedition will be slow, expensive, and lead to catastrophes. Ours sudden, economical, and a check can have no consequences. We should associate the country to our Union. The inhabitants wish this. They are not disposed to be of the Spanish government. It is idle in Spain to suppose our Western inhabitants will unite with them. They could be quiet but a short time under a goverment so repugnant to their feelings. Were they to come under it for present purposes, it would be with a view to throw it off soon. Should they remain, they would communicate a spirit of independence to those with whom they should be mixed.
II. Acting in conjunction with Great Britain, and with a view to partition. The Floridas (including New Orleans) would be assigned to us. Louisiana (or all the Western waters of the Mississippi) to them. We confess that such an alliance is not what we would wish. Because it may eventually lead us into embarrassing situations with our best friend, and put the power of two neighbors into the hands of one. L. Lansdowne has declared he gave the Floridas to Spain rather than the United States as a bone of discord with the House of Bourbon, and of re-union with Great Britain. Connolly’s attempt (as well as other facts) proves they keep it in view.
(B.) By Negotiation.
I. What must Spain do of necessity. The conduct of Spain has proved that the occlusion of the Mississippi is system with her. If she opens it now, it will be because forced by imperious circumstances. She will consequently shut it again when these circumstances cease. Treaty will be no obstacle. Irregularities, real or pretended, in our navigators, will furnish color enough. Perpetual broils, and finally war will ensue. Prudence and even necessity, imposes on us the law of settling the matter now, finally, and not by halves. With experience of the past and prospect of the future, it would be imbecility in us to accept the naked navigation. With that, we must have what is necessary to its use, and without which it would be useless to secure its continuance; that is, a port near the mouth to receive our vessels and protect the navigation. But even this will not secure the Floridas and Louisiana against Great Britain. If we are neutral, she will wrest those possessions from Spain. The inhabitants (French, English, Scotch, American) would prefer England to Spain.
II. What then had Spain better do of choice? Cede to us all the territory on our side of the Mississippi: on condition that we guarantee all her possessions on the Western waters of that river, she agreeing further, to subsidize us if the guarantee brings us into the war.
Should Great Britain possess herself of the Floridas and Louisiana, her governing principles are conquest, colonization, commerce, monopoly. She will establish powerful colonies in them. These can be poured into the Gulf of Mexico for any sudden enterprise there, or invade Mexico, their next neighbor, by land. Whilst a fleet co-operates along shore, and cuts off relief. And proceed successively from colony to colony.
With respect to us, if Great Britain establishes herself on our whole land-board our lot will be bloody and eternal war, or indissoluble confederacy. Which ought we to choose? What will be the lot of the Spanish colonies in the jaws of such a confederacy? What will secure the ocean against the monopoly?
Safer for Spain that we should be her neighbor, than England. Conquest not in our principles: inconsistent with our government. Not our interest to cross the Mississippi for ages. And will never be our interest to remain united with those who do. Intermediate chances save the trouble of calculating so far forward.
Consequences of this cession, and guarantee: 1. Every subject of difference will be removed from between Spain and the United States. 2. Our interest will be strongly engaged in her retaining her American possessions. 3. Spain will be quieted as to Louisiana, and her territories west of that. 4. She may employ her whole force in defence of her islands and Southern possessions. 5. If we preserve our neutrality, it will be a very partial one to her. 6. If we are forced into the war, it will be, as we wish, on the side of the House of Bourbon. 7. Her privateers will commit formidable depredation on the British trade, and occupy much of their force. 8. By withholding supplies of provision, as well as by concurring in expeditions, the British islands will be in imminent danger. 9. Their expenses of precaution, both for their continental and insular possessions, will be so augmented as to give a hope of running their credit down. In fine, for a narrow slip of barren, detached and expensive country, Spain secures the rest of her territory, and makes an ally where she might have a dangerous enemy.
OPINION ON FOREIGN DEBT
[August 26. 1790.]
Opinion respecting our foreign debt.
On consideration of the letter of our banker, of January 25th, 1790, the Secretary of the Treasury’s answer to it, and the draught of powers and instructions to him, I am of opinion, as I always have been, that the purchase of our debt to France by private speculators, would have been an operation extremely injurious to our credit; and that the consequence foreseen by our banker, that the purchasers would have been obliged, in order to make good their payments, to deluge the markets of Amsterdam with American paper of all sorts, and to sell it at any price, was a probable one. And the more so, as we know that the particular individuals who were engaged in that speculation, possess no means of their own adequate to the payments they would have had to make. While we must not doubt that these motives, together with a proper regard for the credit of the United States, had real and full weight with our bankers, towards inducing them to counterwork these private speculations; yet, to ascribe their industry in this business wholly to these motives, might lead to a too great and dangerous confidence in them. It was obviously their interest to defeat all such speculations, because they tended to take out of their hands, or at least to divide with them, the profits of the great operation of transferring the French debt to Amsterdam, an object of first-rate magnitude to them, and on the undivided enjoyments of which they might count, if private speculators could be baffled. It has been a contest of dexterity and cunning, in which our champions have obtained the victory. The manœuvre of opening a loan of three millions of florins, has, on the whole, been useful to the United States, and though unauthorized, I think should be confirmed. The measure proposed by the Secretary of the Treasury, of sending a superintendent of their future operations, will effectually prevent their doing the like again, and the funding laws leave no danger that such an expedient might at any future time be useful to us.
The report of the Secretary of the Treasury and the draught of instructions, present this plan to view: First, to borrow on the best terms we can, not exceeding those limited by the law, such a sum as may answer all demands of principal or interest of the foreign debts, due, or to become due before the end of 1791. (This I think he supposes will be about three and a half millions of dollars.) Second, to consider two of the three millions of florins already borrowed by our bankers as, so far, an execution of this operation; consequently, there will remain but about two and a half millions of dollars to be borrowed on the old terms. Third, to borrow no more as yet, towards completing the transfer of the French debt to Amsterdam, unless we can do it on more advantageous terms. Fourth, to consider the third million of florins already borrowed by our bankers, as, so far, an execution of the powers given the President to borrow two millions of dollars, by the act of the 12th of August. The whole of this appears to me to be wise. If the third million be employed in buying up our foreign paper, on the exchange of Amsterdam, by creating a demand for that species of paper, it will excite a cupidity in the monied men to obtain more of it by new loans, and consequently enable us to borrow more and on lower terms. The saving of interest, too, on the sum so to be bought, may be applied in buying up more principal, and thereby keep this salutary operation going.
I would only take the liberty of suggesting the insertion of some such clause as the following, into the instructions: “The agents to be employed shall never open a loan for more than one million of dollars at a time, nor open a new loan till the preceding one has been filled, and expressly approved by the President of the United States.” A new man, alighting on the exchange of Amsterdam, with powers to borrow twelve millions of dollars, will be immediately beset with bankers and brokers, who will pour into his ear, from the most unsuspected quarters, such informations and suspicions as may lead him exactly into their snares. So wonderfully dexterous are they in wrapping up and complicating their propositions, they will make it evident, even to a clear-headed man, (not in the habit of this business,) that two and two make five. The agent, therefore, should be guarded, even against himself, by putting it out of his power to extend the effect of any erroneous calculation beyond one million of dollars. Were he able, under a delusive calculation, to commit such a sum as twelve millions of dollars, what would be said of the government? Our bankers told me themselves that they would not choose, in the conduct of this great loan, to open for more than two or three millions of florins at a time, and certainly never for more than five. By contracting for only one million of dollars at a time, the agent will have frequent occasions of trying to better the terms. I dare say that this caution, though not expressed in the instructions, is intended by the Secretary of the Treasury to be carried into their execution. But, perhaps, it will be desirable for the President, that his sense of it also should be expressed in writing.
TO THE U. S. CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES IN FRANCE
New York, August 26. 1790.
—My last letters to you have been of the 26th of July, and 10th instant. Yours of May the 16th, No. 31, has come to hand.
I enclose you sundry papers, by which you will perceive, that the expression in the eleventh article of our treaty of amity and commerce with France, viz. “That the subjects of the United States shall not be reputed Aubaines in France, and consequently shall be exempted from the Droit d’Aubaine, or other similar duty, under what name soever,” has been construed so rigorously to the letter, as to consider us as Aubaines in the colonies of France. Our intercourse with those colonies is so great, that frequent and important losses will accrue to individuals, if this construction be continued. The death of the master or supercargo of a vessel, rendered a more common event by the unhealthiness of the climate, throws all the property which was either his, or under his care, into contest. I presume that the enlightened Assembly now engaged in reforming the remains of feudal abuse among them, will not leave so inhospitable an one as the Droit d’Aubaine existing in France, or any of its dominions. If this may be hoped, it will be better that you should not trouble the minister with any application for its abolition in the colonies as to us. This would be erecting into a special favor to us, the extinction of a general abuse, which will, I presume, extinguish of itself. Only be so good as to see, that in abolishing this odious law in France, its abolition in the colonies also, be not omitted by mere oversight; but if, contrary to expectations, this fragment of barbarism be suffered to remain, then it will become necessary that you bring forward the enclosed case, and press a liberal and just exposition of our treaty, so as to relieve our citizens from this species of risk and ruin hereafter. Supposing the matter to rest on the eleventh article only, it is inconceivable, that he, who with respect to his personal goods is as a native citizen in the mother country, should be deemed a foreigner in its colonies. Accordingly, you will perceive by the opinions of Dr. Franklin and Dr. Lee, two of our ministers who negotiated and signed the treaty, that they considered the rights stipulated for us in France, were meant to exist in all the dominions of France.
Considering this question under the second article of the treaty also, we are exempted from the Droit d’Aubaine in all the Dominions of France; for by that article, no particular favor is to be granted to any other nation, which shall not immediately become common to the other party. Now, by the forty-fourth article of the treaty between France and England, which was subsequent to ours, it is stipulated, “que dans tout ce qui concerne—les successions des biens mobiliers—les sujets des deux hautes parties contractantes auront dans les États respectifs les mêmes privileges, libertés et droits, que la nation la plus favorisée.” This gave to the English the general abolition of the Droit d’Aubaine, enjoyed by the Hollanders under the first article of their treaty with France, of July the 23d, 1773, which is in these words. “Les sujets des E. G. des P. U. des pays-bas ne seront point assujettis au Droit d’Aubaine dans les États de S. M. T. C.” This favor then, being granted to the English subsequent to our treaty, we become entitled to it of course by the article in question. I have it not in my power at this moment, to turn to the treaty between France and Russia, which was also posterior to ours. If by that, the Russians are exempted from the Droit d’Aubaine, “dans les États de S. M. T. C.” it is a ground the more for our claiming the exemption. To these, you will be pleased to add such other considerations of reason, friendship, hospitality and reciprocity, as will readily occur to yourself.
About two or three weeks ago, a Mr. Campbell called on me, and introduced himself by observing that his situation was an awkward one, that he had come from Denmark with an assurance of being employed here in a public character, that he was actually in service, though un-announced. He repeated conversations which had passed between Count Bernstorff and him, and asked me when a minister would be appointed to that court, or a character sent to negotiate a treaty of commerce; he had not the scrip of a pen to authenticate himself, however informally. I told him our government had not yet had time to settle a plan of foreign arrangements; that with respect to Denmark particularly, I might safely express to him those sentiments of friendship which our government entertained for that country, and assurances that the King’s subjects would always meet with favor and protection here; and in general, I said to him those things which being true, might be said to anybody. You can perhaps learn something of him from the Baron de Blome. If he be an unauthorized man, it would be well it should be known here, as the respect which our citizens might entertain, and the credit they might give to any person supposed to be honored by the King’s appointment, might lead them into embarrassment.
You know the situation of the new loan of three millions of florins going on at Amsterdam. About one half of this is destined for an immediate payment to France; but advantage may be gained by judiciously timing the payment. The French colonies will doubtless claim in their new constitution, a right to receive the necessaries of life from whomsoever will deliver them cheapest; to wit, grain, flour, live stock, salted fish, and other salted provisions. It would be well that you should confer with their deputies, guardedly, and urge them to this demand, if they need urging. The justice of the National Assembly will probably dispose them to grant it, and the clamors of the Bordeaux merchants may be silenced by the clamors and arms of the colonies. It may co-operate with the influence of the colonies, if favorable dispositions towards us can be excited in the moment of discussing this point. It will therefore be left to you to say when the payment shall be made, in confidence that you will so time it, as to forward this great object; and when you make this payment, you may increase its effect, by adding assurances to the minister, that measures have been taken which will enable us to pay up, within a very short time, all arrears of principal and interest now due; and further, that Congress has fully authorized our government to go on and pay even the balance not yet due, which we mean to do, if that money can be borrowed on reasonable terms; and that favorable arrangements of commerce between us and their colonies, might dispose us to effect that payment with less regard to terms. You will, of course, find excuses for not paying the money which is ready and put under your orders, till you see that the moment has arrived when the emotions it may excite, may give a decisive cast to the demands of the colonies.
TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR
New York Aug. 26. 1790.
—On the hasty view which the shortness of time permits me to take of the Treaty of Hopewell, the act of cession of N. Carolina & the act of acceptance by Congress, I hazard the following sentiments:
Were the treaty of Hopewell, and the act of acceptance of Congress to stand in any point in direct opposition to each other, I should consider the act of acceptance as void in that point; because the treaty is a law made by two parties, and not revocable by one of the parties either acting alone or in conjunction with a third party. If we consider the acceptance as a legislative act of Congress, it is the act of one party only; if we consider it as a treaty between Congress & N. Carolina, it is but a subsequent treaty with another power, & cannot make void a preceding one, with a different power.
But I see no such opposition between these two instruments. The Cherokees were entitled to the sole occupation of the lands within the limits guaranteed to them. The State of North Carolina, according to the jus gentium established for America by universal usage, had only a right of preemption of these lands against all other nations. It could convey then to it’s citizens only this right of preemption, and the right of occupation could not be united to it until obtained by the U. S. from the Cherokees. The act of cession of N. Carolina only preserves the rights of it’s citizens, in the same state as they would have been, had that act never been passed. It does not make imperfect titles, perfect; but only prevents their being made worse. Congress, by their act, accept on these conditions. The claimants of N. C. then and also the Cherokees are exactly where they would have been, had neither the act of cession nor that of acceptance been ever made; that is, the latter possess the right of occupation, & the former the right of preemption.
Tho’ these deductions seem clear enough, yet the question would be a disagreeable one between the general government, a particular government, & individuals, and it would seem very desireable to draw all the claims of preemption within a certain limit, by commuting for those out of it, and then to purchase of the Cherokees the right of occupation.
OPINION ON COURSE OF UNITED STATES TOWARDS GREAT BRITAIN AND SPAIN1
[Aug. 28, 1790]
Opinion upon the question what the answer of the President should be in case Lord Dorchester should apply for permission to march troops through the territory of the United States, from Detroit to the Mississippi.
I am so deeply impressed with the magnitude of the dangers which will attend our government, if Louisiana and the Floridas be added to the British empire, that, in my opinion, we ought to make ourselves parties in the general war expected to take place, should this be the only means of preventing the calamity.
But I think we should defer this step as long as possible; because war is full of chances, which may relieve us from the necessity of interfering; and if necessary, still the later we interfere, the better we shall be prepared.
It is often indeed more easy to prevent the capture of a place, than to retake it. Should it be so in the case in question, the difference between the two operations of preventing and retaking, will not be so costly as two, three, or four years more of war.
So that I am for preserving neutrality as long, and entering into the war as late, as possible.
If this be the best course, it decides, in a good degree, what should be our conduct, if the British ask leave to march troops through our territory, or march them without leave.
It is well enough agreed, in the laws of nations, that for a neutral power to give or refuse permission to the troops of either belligerent party to pass through their territory, is no breach of neutrality, provided the same refusal or permission be extended to the other party.
If we give leave of passage then to the British troops, Spain will have no just cause of complaint against us, provided we extend the same leave to her when demanded.
If we refuse, (as indeed we have a right to do,) and the troops should pass notwithstanding, of which there can be little doubt, we shall stand committed. For either we must enter immediately into the war, or pocket an acknowledged insult in the face of the world; and one insult pocketed soon produces another.
There is indeed a middle course, which I should be inclined to prefer; that is, to avoid giving any answer. They will proceed notwithstanding, but to do this under our silence, will admit of palliation, and produce apologies, from military necessity; and will leave us free to pass it over without dishonor, or to make it a handle of quarrel hereafter, if we should have use for it as such. But, if we are obliged to give an answer, I think the occasion not such as should induce us to hazard that answer which might commit us to the war at so early a stage of it; and therefore that the passage should be permitted.
If they should pass without having asked leave, I should be for expressing our dissatisfaction to the British court, and keeping alive an altercation on the subject, till events should decide whether it is most expedient to accept their apologies, or profit of the aggression as a cause of war.
OPINION ON ST. CLAIR EXPEDITION
[August 29, 1790.]
Opinion on the question whether it will be expedient to notify to Lord Dorchester the real object of the expedition preparing by Governor St. Clair.
On considering more fully the question whether it will be expedient to notify to Lord Dorchester the real object of the expedition preparing by Governor St. Clair, I still think it will not be expedient. For, if the notification be early, he will get the Indians out of the way, and defeat our object. If it be so late as not to leave him time to withdraw them before our stroke be struck, it will then be so late also as not to leave him time to withdraw any secret aids he may have sent them. And the notification will betray to him that he may go on without fear in his expedition against the Spaniards, and for which he may yet have sufficient time after our expedition is over. On the other hand, if he should suspect our preparations are to prevent his passing our territory, these suspicions may induce him to decline his expedition, as, even should he think he could either force or steal a passage, he would not divide his troops, leaving (as he would suppose) an enemy between them able to take those he should leave, and cut off the return of those he should carry. These suspicions, too, would mislead both him and the Indians, and so enable us to take the latter more completely by surprise, and prevent him from sending secret aid to those whom he would not suppose the objects of the enterprise; thus effecting a double purpose of preventing his enterprise, and securing our own. Might it not even be expedient, with a view to deter his enterprise, to instruct Governor St. Clair either to continue his pursuit of the Indians till the season be too far advanced for Lord Dorchester to move; or, on disbanding his militia, to give them general orders (which might reach the ears of Lord Dorchester) to be ready to assemble at a moment’s warning, though no such assembly be really intended?
Always taking care neither to say nor do, against their passage, what might directly commit either our peace or honor.
TO ALEXANDER DONALD
New York Aug. 29. 1790.
—Your favor of July 2. is now before me. The consulates of the W. Indies had been already filled. Mr. Braxton’s name however shall be kept on the list of candidates, and all shall be done for him which can be justly done, that is to say, between equal competitors your recommendation shall turn the scale in his favor as far as shall depend on me. The suggestion for your other friend was also too late. Mr. Joshua Johnson had been already decided on by the President. I will continue my attentions to Mr. B’s affair. The papers have not been returned to me, which is of good augury. The President sets out tomorrow for Virginia. I shall do the same the next day. He will return to Philadelphia in November, I in October. In the mean time it is expected the flames of war will be kindled between our two neighbors. Since it is so decreed by fate, we have only to pray their souldiers may eat a great deal. Our crops of wheat are good in quantity & quality, & those of corn very promising. So far also this (I hope our last) crop of tobacco looks well. Little will be done in that way the next year, & less and less every year after.
TO WILLIAM SHORT
Philadelphia Sep. 6. 1790.
—I am here on my way to Virginia, to which place I set out tomorrow. The President left this morning on his way to Mount Vernon. He engaged me some time ago to get him some wines from France, to wit, 40 dozen of Champagne, 30 doz. of Sauterne, 20 doz. of Bordeaux de Segur, and 10 doz. of Frontignan, and he took a note of their prices in order to furnish me with a bill of exchange sufficient to cover the costs & charges. In the multiplicity of his business before his departure he has forgot to do this: and it remains that we do not permit him to be disappointed of his wine by this omission. But how to do it? For the amount of the whole I suppose will be 3000.# and the being obliged to set up a house in New York, then to abandon it & remove here, has really put me out of condition to advance such a sum here. I think however it can be done, without incommoding you by your drawing on the bankers in Amsterdam. On the President’s return here (about the 1st of December) bills shall be remitted you, and by using these for your own purposes instead of making new draughts for your salary on the bankers, all will stand right without any special mention in the public accounts. I will make any necessary explanations at the Treasury, should any be necessary.
I write for wines for my own use at the same time. These will amount to about 550. livres. I have sent out to seek for a bill of exchange to that amount. If it can be got today I will inclose it herein. If not, I will charge the person with whom I leave the present letter not to send it off till he has got such a bill and to inclose one herewith, and forward a duplicate by some other opportunity. I leave the letter to Fenwick open, to the end that you may see the arrangements I take to leave you no other trouble than to forward it to him & to let him know how he shall be furnished with money to pay for the wines. The bill for my part shall be made paiable to you.
The new constitution of this State has passed. The chair of government was to have been disputed between Morris & Mifflin, but the former has declined, and his friends set up Sinclair in opposition to Mifflin.
P. S. I am excessively anxious for the success of your mission to Amsterdam, that the business may be done, & so well done as to place you advantageously in the public view.
TO WILLIAM SHORT
Monticello Sep. 30. 1790.
—I wrote you last from Philadelphia. Your public letter of June 29, and private of June 14 & 29 are delivered to me here. My several letters, private, will have left me little to add on the subject of your stay in Europe. One circumstance only in your letters must be corrected, that is, your idea of my influence in the foreign affairs. You have forgotten your countrymen altogether, as well as the nature of our government, which renders it’s heads too responsible to permit them to resign the direction of affairs to those under them. The public would not be satisfied with that kind of resignation, & be assured it does not exist, & consequently that your destination does not depend on me. I think it possible that it will be established into a maxim of the new government to discontinue its foreign servants after a certain time of absence from their own country, because they lose in time that sufficient degree of intimacy with it’s circumstances which alone can enable them to know & pursue it’s interests. Seven years have been talked of. Be assured it is for your happiness & success to return. Every day increases your attachment to Europe & renders your future reconcilement to your own country more desperate: and you must run the career of public office here if you mean to stand on high & firm ground hereafter. Were you here now, you would be put into the Senate of Congress in the place of Grayson whose successor is to be chosen next month (for the late appointment was only for the fragment of his time which remained). There would scarcely be a dissenting vote to your appointment. But it is too late for that. Monroe will be pressed into the service, really against his will. But, two years hence will come on another election in the place of R. H. L. who will unquestionably be dropped. If you were to be here a few months before, I would forfeit every thing if you were not elected. It will be for 6 years, and is the most honorable & independent station in our government, one where you can peculiarly raise yourself in the public estimation. I cannot then but recommend it to you to have this in your view. I do not exactly see to what your late mission to Amsterdam may lead. Either to nothing, or something infirm, and by which you ought not to suffer yourself to be led on to the loss of an appointment here which will not recur for years, & never under such certainty. Your compeer in a neighboring kingdom is a proof of the necessity of refreshing his acquaintance with his own country, and will do wisely if he does as Bourgoin announced to you.
I know not what to do in the case of Tolozon & Baqueville. [?] Indeed I can do nothing till I see the President. They must not lose their perquisite; it is a part of their livelihood. But I think that delicacy should yield to the inflexibility of our constitution. Assure them of my friendly recollection of their attentions, and my resolution that some how or other they must accept the usual present. I will write further after having consulted the President, whom I shall not see however till December. The house at Paris will certainly not be taken by the public for the use of their legation. You will have seen that by the new arrangement, that article will be at their own charge. Very possibly, and very probaably, my successor may take it. Be that as it may, I have nothing to do with it after the expiration of six months from the day of the notification. It is well known to M. de Langeac, and to M. Perrier, the Notary that the notification I had given of determining the lease was to be void, and the lease to go on as if nothing had happened except as to the single circumstance of an abatement of the rent, which was therefore provided by a kind of marginal note, and no new lease. They may call it prorogation or what they please,—no new commencement was meant. Besides if it had been an absolutely new lease, I was not obliged to keep it one day. I had exactly the same kind of lease, with the same condition from Gueraud for the house in Tete-bout. I entered it Oct. 16. 1784 and determined the lease March 10, 1786, by a notification given Sep. 10, 1785. Gueraud was sufficiently litigious & desirous to continue the lease, but knew he could not. The objection too that it must be given up at no other time but the beginning of a term is contrary to the express letter of the lease. I gave up Gueraud’s house the 10th of March: & my notification to the Count de Langeac in Oct. 1788 was that his lease should finish Apr 16, 1789. Both admitted my right to do so & accepted the notification. If Langeac & his notary Perrier (for I trusted to his notary because he had a candid appearance) have used words of a contrary import, it is one of those cheats against which the diplomatic indemnities were meant to be a protection. Foreign ministers are not bound to an acquaintance with the laws of the land. They are priviledged by their ignorance of them. They are bound by the laws of natural justice only. These are in my favor, be the laws of the land & it’s forms what they will. I shall fulfil substantially my real engagement with the Count de Langeac and will certainly disregard the snares of formality in which they meant to take me. Give up the house at all events on the day six months from the notification.—I am really sorry Petit does not come. I am sure he will be disappointed in the expectation of employment from my successor. Besides that it will be some time in the next year before he can go. Should he be a married man, as all Americans are, his wife will not employ a maitre d’hotel who cannot speak English, if she employs one at all. I still wish him to come. If he will not, I think Madme de Corny, when she reformed her house, parted with her maitre d’hotel, and with great reluctance, and that she speaks of him to me in very high terms. I wish you would enquire about him, and barely sound him to see if he will come on moderate wages, & having his passage paid. But do not engage him till I write from Philadelphia where perhaps I may be able to get one. Your brother did not come to New York. I know he was well when we last heard from Kentucky. Remember me to all my friends but most particularly those of the hotels de la Fayette, de la Rochefoucault, de Tessí, de Corny, the two Abbés, & all others as if named. I have only room left to assure you of the sincere esteem & attachment with which I am my dear Sir Your affectionate friend & servt.
TO ZACHARIAH JOHNSON
Monticello Octob. 7, 1790.
—As the Assembly will soon meet, I presume you will be passing down to it a few days before. I shall be at home at that time, and will always be glad to see you here, when I am here: but particularly I wish it at this time, as it is highly interesting to our country that it should take up a particular matter now in it’s power, and which never will be so again.1 This subject can only be opened in private conference. Knowing the weight you have justly acquired with our public councils, & your zeal to promote the public interest, I have taken the liberty of asking to see you on your way down. My house will be a convenient stage for you the first day, and if you can have time to tarry a day with me, it will be very desireable to me, & I trust not unfruitful for our State in general & our particular part of it.
TO FRANCIS KINLOCH
Philadelphia, Nov. 26, 1790.
—Your favor of Apr. 26. 1789. did not come to my hands till the 4th. of the last month when it found me on my way to Virginia. It should not otherwise have been so long unanswered. I am certainly flattered by the approbation you are so good as to express of the Notes on Virginia. The passage relative to the English, which has excited disagreeable sensations in your mind, is accounted for by observing that it was written during the war, while they were committing depredations in my own country and on my own property never practised by a civilized nation. Perhaps their conduct and dispositions towards us since the war have not been as well calculated as they might have been to excite more favorable dispositions on our part. Still as a political man they shall never find any passion in me either for or against them. Whenever their avarice of commerce will let them meet us fairly half way, I should meet them with satisfaction, because it would be for our benefit; but I mistake their character if they do this under present circumstances.
The rumours of war seem to pass away. Such an event might have produced to us some advantages; but it might also have exposed us to dangers; and on the whole I think a general peace more desireable. Be so good as to present my respects to Mrs. Kinloch & to be assured of the esteem & respect with which I am dear Sir your most obedt. & most humble servant.
TO THE U. S. INFORMAL AGENT IN GREAT BRITAIN
Philadelphia. Nov. 26. 1790.
—I have yet to acknowledge the receipt of your two favors of Apr. 10. & July 7. By the latter it would seem as if you had written an intermediate one which has never come to hand; and the letter of July 7. itself was not received till the 14th. of October, while I was in Virginia from which I am but just returned. The President is not yet returned, tho’ expected to-morrow. The Declaration & Counterdeclaration established with us a full expectation that peace would be continued: perhaps this is still the most rational opinion, tho’ the English papers continue to talk of preparations for war. That such an event would have ensured good prices for our produce, and so far have been advantageous, is probable. But it would have exposed us to risks also, which are better deferred, for some years at least. It is not to be expected that our system of finance has met your approbation in all it’s parts. It has excited even here great opposition; and more especially that part of it which transferred the state debts to the general government. The states of Virginia & N. Carolina are peculiarly dissatisfied with this measure. I believe however that it is harped on by many to mask their disaffection to the government on other grounds. It’s great foe in Virginia is an implacable one.1 He avows it himself, but does not avow all his motives for it. The measures and tone of the government threaten abortion to some of his speculations; most particularly to that of the Yazoo territory. But it is too well nerved to be overawed by individual opposition. It is proposed to provide additional funds, to meet the additional debt, by a tax on spirituous liquors, foreign and home-made, so that the whole interest will be paid by taxes on consumption. If a sufficiency can now be raised in this way to pay the interest at present, it’s increase by the increase of population (suppose 5. per cent. per annum), will alone sink the principle within a few years, operating, as it will, in the way of compound interest. Add to this what may be done by throwing in the aid of western lands & other articles as a sinking fund, and our prospect is really a bright one.
A pretty important expedition has been undertaken against the Indians north of the Ohio. As yet we have no news of it’s success. The late elections of members of Congress have changed about a third or fourth of them. It is imagined the session of Congress, which is to begin within 10. days will end on the 3d. of March, with the federal year; as a continuance over that day would oblige them to call forward the new members. The admission of Vermont & Kentuckey into Congress, will be decided on in this session.
TO WILLIAM TEMPLE FRANKLIN
Philadelphia Nov. 27, 1790.
—I am favored with yours of Oct. 13. The President is not yet arrived. Your general desire being known, I will take care that your special preferences shall also be known should circumstances give place to it. Your grandfather sent me only one sheet of Mitchell’s map, and it makes part of the testimony he was desired to give on the subject of the disputed river of St. Croix, being referred to in his letter accompanying it. I therefore take the liberty of proposing to you to give you a complete copy of the same map, or the price of it, in exchange for the remaining sheets to which the one in our possession belonged.
I am in the hopes you will continue in the mind of publishing Dr. Franklin’s works in 8vo. otherwise I think you will find few purchasers, till the Irish printers by a cheaper edition intercept the wishes of those who like books of a handy size. I am sure your delicacy needs no hint from me against the publication of such letters or papers from Dr. Franklin as Min. Plen. of the U. S. as might not yet be proper to put into the possession of every body. Wishing you the best success in your pursuits I am with great esteem Dr. Sir your most obedt. and most humble servt.
OPINION ON CAPITAL
[November 29, 1790.]
Opinion on proceedings to be had under the Residence act.
A territory not exceeding ten miles square (or, I presume, one hundred square miles in any form) to be located by metes and bounds.
Three commissioners to be appointed. I suppose them not entitled to any salary.
[If they live near the place they may, in some instances, be influenced by self interest, and partialities; but they will push the work with zeal. If they are from a distance, and northwardly, they will be more impartial, but may affect delays.]
The commissioners to purchase or accept “such quantity of land on the east side of the river as the President shall deem proper for the United States,” viz., for the federal Capitol, the offices, the President’s house and gardens, the town house, market house, public walks and hospital. For the President’s house, offices and gardens, I should think two squares should be consolidated. For the Capitol and offices, one square. For the market, one square. For the public walks, nine squares consolidated.
The expression “such quantity of land as the President shall deem proper for the United States,” is vague. It may therefore be extended to the acceptance or purchase of land enough for the town; and I have no doubt it is the wish, and perhaps expectation. In that case, it will be to be laid out in lots and streets. I should propose these to be at right angles, as in Philadelphia, and that no street be narrower than one hundred feet, with foot ways of fifteen feet. Where a street is long and level, it might be one hundred and twenty feet wide. I should prefer squares of at least two hundred yards every way, which will be about eight acres each.
The commissioners should have some taste in architecture, because they may have to decide between different plans.
They will, however, be subject to the President’s direction in every point.
When the President shall have made up his mind as to the spot for the town, would there be any impropriety in his saying to the neighboring land holders, “I will fix the town here if you will join and purchase and give the lands.” They may well afford it by the increase of value it will give to their own circumjacent lands.
The lots to be sold out in breadths of fifty feet; their depths to extend to the diagonal of the square.
I doubt much whether the obligation to build the houses at a given distance from the street, contributes to its beauty. It produces a disgusting monotony; all persons make this complaint against Philadelphia. The contrary practice varies the appearance, and is much more convenient to the inhabitants.
In Paris it is forbidden to build a house beyond a given height; and it is admitted to be a good restriction. It keeps down the price of ground, keeps the houses low and convenient, and the streets light and airy. Fires are much more manageable where houses are low.
TO NOAH WEBSTER
Philadelphia. Dec. 4. 1790.
—Your favor of Oct. 4. came to my hands on the 20. of November. Application was made a day or two after to Mr. Dobson for the copies of your essays, which were received, and one of them lodged in the office. For that intended for myself be pleased to accept my thanks. I return you the order on Mr. Allen, that on Dobson having been made use of instead of it. I submit to your consideration whether it might not be advisable to record a second time your right to the Grammatical institutes, in order to bring the lodging of the copy in my office within the 6. months made a condition in the law? I have not at this moment an opportunity of turning to the law to see if that may be done: but I suppose it possible that the failure to fulfil the legal condition on the first record might excite objections against the validity of that.
In mentioning me in your essays,1 and canvassing my opinions, you have done what every man has a right to do, and it is for the good of society that that right should be freely exercised. No republic is more real than that of letters, and I am the last in principles, as I am the least in pretensions, to any dictatorship in it. Had I other dispositions, the philosophical & dispassionate spirit with which you have expressed your own opinions in opposition to mine, would still have commanded my approbation. A desire of being set right in your opinion, which I respect too much not to entertain that desire, induces me to hazard to you the following observations. It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several states, that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors: that there are certain portions of right not necessary to enable them to carry on an effective government, & which experience has nevertheless proved they will be constantly encroaching on, if submitted to them: that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious against wrong, and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion: of the second, trial by jury, Habeas corpus laws, free presses. These were the settled opinions of all the states, of that of Virginia, of which I was writing, as well as of the others. The others had in consequence delineated these unceded portions of right, and these fences against wrong, which they meant to exempt from the power of their governors, in instruments called declarations of rights & constitutions: and as they did this by Conventions which they appointed for the express purpose of reserving these rights, and of delegating others to their ordinary legislative, executive and judiciary bodies, none of the reserved rights can be touched without resorting to the people to appoint another convention for the express purpose of permitting it. Where the constitutions then have been so formed by conventions named for this express purpose they are fixed & unalterable but by a convention or other body to be specially authorized. And they have been so formed by, I believe, all the States, except Virginia. That State concurs in all these opinions, but has run into the wonderful error that her constitution, tho made by the ordinary legislature, cannot yet be altered by the ordinary legislature. I had therefore no occasion to prove to them the expediency of a constitution alterable only by a special convention. Accordingly I have not in my notes advocated that opinion, tho it was & is mine, as it was and is theirs. I take that position as admitted by them: and only proceed to adduce arguments to prove that they were mistaken in supposing their constitution could not be altered by the common legislature. Among other arguments I urge that the Convention which formed the constitution had been chosen merely for ordinary legislation; that they had no higher power than every subsequent legislature was to have; that all their acts are consequently repealable by subsequent legislatures; that their own practice at a subsequent session proved they were of this opinion themselves; that the opinion & practice of several subsequent legislatures had been the same, and so conclude “that their constitution is alterable by the common legislature.” Yet these arguments urged to prove that their constitution is alterable, you cite as if urged to prove that it ought not to be alterable, and you combat them on that ground. An argument which is good to prove one thing, may become ridiculous when exhibited as intended to prove another thing. I will beg the favor of you to look over again the passage in my Notes, and am persuaded you will be sensible that you have misapprehended the object of my arguments, and therefore have combated them on a ground for which they were not intended. My only object in this is the rectification of your own opinion of me, which I repeat that I respect too much to neglect. I have certainly no view of entering into the contest whether it be expedient to delegate unlimited powers to our ordinary governors? My opinion is against that expediency; but my occupations do not permit me to undertake to vindicate all my opinions, nor have they importance enough to merit it. It cannot, however, but weaken my confidence in them when I find them opposed to yours, there being no one who respects the latter more than Sir your most obedt & most humble servt.
DRAFT OF PARAGRAPHS FOR PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE1
[Dec. 8. 1790.]
The laws you have already passed for the establishment of a judiciary system have opened the doors of justice to all descriptions of persons. You will consider in your wisdom whether improvements in that system may yet be made; and particularly whether an uniform process of execution, or sentences issuing from the federal courts be not desirable thro’ all the states.
The patronage of our commerce, of our merchants and seamen, has called for the appointment of Consuls in foreign countries. It seems expedient to regulate by law the exercise of that jurisdiction, and of those functions which are permitted them, either by express convention, or by a friendly indulgence in the places of their residence. The Consular Convention too, with his most Christian Majesty has stipulated, in certain cases, the aid of the national authority to his Consuls established here. Some legislative provision is requisite to carry these stipulations into full effect.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Department of State. Dec. 9. 1790.
—I have now the honour to return you the letter from the President of the Assembly of representatives for the community of Paris to the President and members of Congress, which you had received from the President of the Senate with the opinion of that house that it should be opened by you, and their request that you would communicate to Congress such parts of it as in your opinion might be proper to be laid before the legislature.
The subject of it is the death of the late Dr. Franklin. It conveys expressions from that respectable city to the legislature of the United States, of the part they take in that loss, and information that they had ordered a solemn and public Oration for the transmission of his virtues and talents to posterity; copies of which for the members of Congress accompany their letter: & it is on the whole an evidence of their marked respect & friendship towards these United States.
I am of opinion their letter should be communicated to Congress, who will take such notice of this friendly advance as their wisdom shall conceive to be proper.
REPORT ON WESTERN LANDS
[December 14, 1790.]
Report by the Secretary of State to the President of the United States on the Report of the Secretary of the Government north-west of the Ohio.
The Secretary of State having had under his consideration the report made by the Secretary of the Government north-west of the Ohio, of his proceedings for carrying into effect the resolution of Congress of August 29th, 1788, respecting the lands of the inhabitants of Port Vincennes, makes the following report thereon to the President of the United States:
The resolution of Congress of August 29th, 1788, had confirmed in their possessions and titles the French and Canadian inhabitants and other settlers at that post, who, in or before the year 1783, had settled there, and had professed themselves citizens of the United States or any of them, and had made a donation to every head of a family, of the same description of four hundred acres of land, part of a square to be laid off adjoining the improvements at the post.
The Secretary of the north-western government, in the absence of the Governor, has carried this resolution into effect, as to all the claims to which he thought it could be clearly applied: there remain, however, the following description of cases, on which he asks further instructions:
1. Certain cases within the letter of the resolution, but rendered doubtful by the condition annexed, to the grants of lands in the Illinois country. The cases of these claimants, fifteen in number, are specially stated in the papers hereto annexed, number 2, and the lands are laid off for them but remain ungranted till further orders.
2. Certain persons who, by removals from one part of the territory to another, are not of the letter of the resolutions, but within its equity, as they conceive.
3. Certain heads of families, who became such soon after the year 1783, who petition for a participation of the donation, and urge extraordinary militia service to which they are exposed.
4. One hundred and fifty acres of land within the village granted under the former government of that country, to the Piankeshaw Indians, and on their removal sold by them in parcels to individual inhabitants, who in some instances have highly improved them both before and since the year 1783.
5. Lands granted both before and after 1783, by authority from the commandant of the post, who, according to the usage under the French and British governments, thinking himself authorized to grant lands, delegated that authority to a court of civil and criminal jurisdiction, whose grants before 1783, amount to twenty-six thousand acres, and between that and 1787, (when the practice was stopped,) to twenty-two thousand acres. They are generally in parcels from four hundred acres down to the size of house lots; and some of them under considerable improvement. Some of the tenants urge that they were induced by the court itself to come and settle these lands under assurance of their authority to grant them, and that a loss of the lands and improvements will involve them in ruin. Besides these small grants, there are some much larger, sometimes of many leagues square, which a sense of their impropriety has prevented the grantees from bringing forward. Many pretended grants, too, of this class are believed to be forgeries, and are, therefore, to be guarded against.
6. Two thousand four hunderd acres of good land, and three thousand acres of sunken land, held under the French, British, and American governments, as commons for the use of the inhabitants of the village generally, and for thirty years past kept under inclosure for these purposes.
The legislature alone being competent to authorize the grant of lands in cases as yet unprovided for by the laws, the Secretary of State is of opinion that the report of the Secretary of the north-western government, with the papers therein referred to, should be laid before Congress for their determination. Authentic copies of them are herewith enclosed to the President of the United States.
OPINION ON TERRITORIAL AUTHORITY
[December 14, 1790.]
Opinion on certain proceedings of the Executive in the North-western Territory.
The Secretary of State having had under his consideration, the journal of the proceedings of the Executive in the North-western Territory, thinks it his duty to extract therefrom, for the notice of the President of the United States, the articles of April 25th, June 6th, 28th, and 29th. Some of which are hereto annexed.
Conceiving that the regulations, purported in these articles, are beyond the competence of the executive of the said government, that they amount, in fact, to laws, and as such, could only flow from its regular legislature; that it is the duty of the general government to guard its subordinate members from the encroachments of each other, even when they are made through error or inadvertence, and to cover its citizens from the exercise of powers not authorized by the law, the Secretary of State is of opinion that the said articles be laid before the Attorney General for consideration, and if he finds them to be against law, that his opinion be communicated to the Governor of the North-western Territory, for his future conduct.
REPORT ON BRITISH NEGOTIATIONS
[December 15, 1790.]
Report on certain letters from the President to Mr. Gouverneur Morris, and from Mr. Morris to the President, relative to our difficulties with England—1790.
The Secretary of State having had under consideration the two letters of October 13th, 1789, from the President of the United States to Mr. Gouverneur Morris; and those of Mr. Morris to the President, of January 22d, April 7th, 13th, May 1st, 29th, July 3d, August 16th, and September 18th, referred to him by the President, makes the following report thereon:
The President’s letter of January 22d, authorized Mr. Morris to enter into conference with the British ministers in order to discover their sentiments on the following subjects:
1. Their retention of the western posts contrary to the treaty of peace.
2. Indemnification for the negroes carried off against the stipulations of the same treaty.
3. A treaty for the regulation of the commerce between the two countries.
4. The exchange of a minister.
The letters of Mr. Morris before mentioned state the communications, oral and written, which have passed between him and the ministers; and from these the Secretary of State draws the following inferences:
1. That the British court is decided not to surrender the post in any event; and that they will urge as a pretext that though our courts of justice are now open to British subjects, they were so long shut after the peace as to have defeated irremedially the recovery of debts in many cases. They suggest, indeed, the idea of an indemnification on our part. But probably were we disposed to admit their right to indemnification, they would take care to set it so high as to insure a disagreement.
2. That as to indemnification for the negroes, their measures for concealing them were in the first instance so efficacious, as to reduce our demand for them, so far as we can support it by direct proof, to be very small indeed. Its smallness seems to have kept it out of discussion. Were other difficulties removed, they would probably make none of this article.
3. That they equivocate on every proposal of a treaty of commerce, and authorize in their communications with Mr. Morris the same conclusions which have been drawn from those they had had from time to time with Mr. Adams, and those through Major Beckwith; to wit, that they do not mean to submit their present advantages in commerce to the risk which might attend a discussion of them, whereon some reciprocity could not fail to be demanded. Unless, indeed, we would agree to make it a treaty of alliance as well as commerce, so as to undermine our obligations with France. This method of stripping that rival nation of its alliances, they tried successfully with Holland, endeavored at it with Spain, and have plainly and repeatedly suggested to us. For this they would probably relax some of the rigors they exercise against our commerce.
4. That as to a minister, their Secretary for foreign affairs is disposed to exchange one, but meets with opposition in his cabinet, so as to render the issue uncertain.
From the whole of which, the Secretary of State is of opinion that Mr. Morris’ letters remove any doubts which might have been entertained as to the intentions and dispositions of the British cabinet.
That it would be dishonorable to the the United States, useless and even injurious, to renew the propositions for a treaty of commerce, or for the exchange of a minister; and that these subjects should now remain dormant, till they shall be brought forward earnestly by them.
That the demands of the posts, and of indemnification for the negroes should not be again made till we are in readiness to do ourselves the justice which may be refused.
That Mr. Morris should be informed that he fulfilled the object of his agency to the satisfaction of the President, inasmuch as he has enabled him to judge of the real views of the British cabinet, and that it is his pleasure that the matters committed to him be left in the situation in which the letter shall find them.
That a proper compensation be given to Mr. Morris for his services herein, which having been begun on the 22d of January, and ended the 18th of September, comprehended a space of near eight months; that the allowance to an agent may be properly fixed anywhere between the half and the whole of what is allowed to a Chargé d’affaires; which, according to the establishment of the United States at the time of this appointment, was at the rate of $3,000 a year; consequently, that such a sum of between one and two thousand dollars be allowed him as the President shall deem proper, on a view of the interference which this agency may have had with Mr. Morris’ private pursuits in Europe.
TO THE U. S. CONSUL AT LONDON
Philadelphia, December 17, 1790.
—Though not yet informed of the receipt of my letter, covering your commission as consul for the United States, in the port of London, yet knowing that the ship has arrived by which it went, I take for granted the letter and commission have gone safe to hand, and that you have been called into the frequent exercise of your office for the relief of our seamen, upon whom such multiplied acts of violence have been committed in England, by pressgangs, pretending to take them for British subjects, not only without evidence, but against evidence. By what means may be procured for our seamen, while in British ports, that security for their persons which the laws of hospitality require, and which the British nation will surely not refuse, remains to be settled. In the meantime, there is one of these cases, wherein so wilful and so flagrant a violation has been committed by a British officer, on the person of one of our citizens, as requires that it be laid before his government, in friendly and firm reliance of satisfaction for the injury, and of assurance for the future, that the citizens of the United States, entering the ports of Great Britain, in pursuit of a lawful commerce, shall be protected by the laws of hospitality in usage among nations.
It is represented to the President of the United States, that Hugh Purdie, a native of Williamsburg, in Virginia, was, in the month of July last, seized in London by a party of men, calling themselves press-officers, and pretending authority from their government to do so, notwithstanding his declarations and the evidence he offered of his being a native citizen of the United States; and that he was transferred on board the Crescent, a British ship of war, commanded by a Captain Young. Passing over the intermediate violences exercised on him, because not peculiar to his case (so many other American citizens having suffered the same), I proceed to the particular one which distinguishes the present representation. Satisfactory evidence having been produced by Mr. John Brown Cutting, a citizen of the United States, to the Lords of the Admiralty, that Hugh Purdie was a native citizen of the same States, they, in their justice, issued orders to the Lord Howe, their Admiral, for his discharge. In the meantime, the Lord Howe had sailed with the fleet of which the Crescent was. But, on the 27th of August, he wrote to the board of admiralty, that he had received their orders for the discharge of Hugh Purdie, and had directed it accordingly. Notwithstanding these orders, the receipt of which at sea Captain Young acknowledges, notwithstanding Captain Young’s confessed knowledge, that Hugh Purdie was a citizen of the United States, from whence it resulted that his being carried on board the Crescent and so long detained there, had been an act of wrong, which called for expiatory conduct and attentions, rather than new injuries on his part towards the sufferer, instead of discharging him according to the orders he had received, on his arrival in port, which was on the 14th of September, he, on the 15th, confined him in irons for several hours, then had him bound and scourged in presence of the ship’s crew, under a threat to the executioner that if he did not do his duty well, he should take the place of the sufferer. At length he discharged him on the 17th, without the means of subsistence for a single day. To establish these facts, I enclose you copies of papers communicated to me by Mr. Cutting, who laid the case of Purdie before the board of admiralty, and who can corroborate them by his personal evidence. He can especially verify the letter of Captain Young, were it necessary to verify a paper, the original of which is under the command of his Majesty’s ministers, and this paper is so material, as to supersede of itself all other testimony, confessing the orders to discharge Purdie, that yet he had whipped him, and that it was impossible, without giving up all sense of discipline, to avoid whipping a free American citizen. We have such confidence in the justice of the British government, in their friendly regard to these States, in their respect for the honor and good understanding of the two countries, compromitted by this act of their officer, as not to doubt their due notice of him, indemnification to the sufferer, and a friendly assurance to these States that effectual measures shall be adopted in future, to protect the persons of their citizens while in British ports.
By the express command of the President of the United States, you are to lay this case, and our sense of it, before his Britannic Majesty’s minister for Foreign Affairs, to urge it on his particular notice by all the motives which it calls up, and to communicate to me the result.
TO THE U. S. CONSUL AT LONDON
Philadelphia, December 23. 1790.
—The vexations of our seamen and their sufferings under the press-gangs of England, have become so serious as to oblige our government to take serious notice of it. The particular case has been selected where the insult to the United States has been the most barefaced, the most deliberately intentional, and the proof the most complete. The enclosed letter to you is on that subject, and has been written on the supposition that you would show the original to the Duke of Leeds, and give him a copy of it, but as of your own movement, and not as if officially instructed so to do. You will be pleased to follow up this matter as closely as decency will permit, pressing it in firm but respectful terms, on all occasions. We think it essential that Captain Young’s case may be an example to others. The enclosed letters are important. Be so good as to have them conveyed by the surest means possible.
[1 ]In the Jefferson MSS. is a first draft of this, which varies enough from the above to make comparison interesting. It is as follows:
9. Their expences of precaution, both for their continental and insular poss’ns will be so augmented, as to give a hope of running their credit down.