Braintree, December 28, 1788
My dearest Friend
I have received your favours of the 3 and 13th and have opened that to our son, who has been absent from me these 3 Weeks at Newbury, where I suppose he is very well. I am as anxious as you are about your coming home. There are but two Ways, 1. If Coll. Smith can bring you and his Family with you, will be the more obliging and agreeable. 2. If he cannot, I must send your oldest son, with a Coach from Boston, to wait on you. As soon as I can receive a Letter from you, informing me, of the Necessity of it, I will Send him off. I expect him every day from Newbury Port. All has gone very well at home, and all your Friends are in health. Your sisters Family are in affliction by the Death of Gen. Palmer.
You will not expect from me, much upon Public affairs. I shall only Say that the federal or more properly national Spirit runs high and bids fair to defeat every insidious well as open Attempt of its Adversaries. This gives Us a comfortable Prospect of a good Governmant, which is all that will be necessary to our Happiness. Yet I fear that confused and ill digested Efforts at Amendments will perplex for sometime.
I am very sensible of that Affection, which has given the Name to my Grandson, but although I have twice mett the Example of it, I do not approve of the Practice of interfixing the Names of Families. I wish the child every Blessing from other Motives, besides its name.
My Love to Mr. and Mrs. Smith; the sight of them and their two sons with You, will give me high Pleasure. I am with the tenderest Affection your
Jamaica, December 17, 1788
My Dearest Friend
It was not untill yesterday that I received your Letter and Mrs. Cranchs. Mr. McCormick came up and brought them both to my no small satisfaction, and this was the first that I had heard from Home since I left it, except by the News papers which I have engaged George Storer to forward to me. I have written to you every week since I left you, and subjected you to more postage than any Letters are worth, which I did not know untill Saturday when Mr. Jay offerd to Frank my Letters and requested me to have mine sent to him. Members of congress it seems have not that privilege but when they are upon duty. Mr Jay came out on Saturday to visit me. He had been waiting some Time for Mrs. Jay but the children were sick with the Measles and prevented her. Col Smith was gone to Town, so we had all the Talk to ourselves, and very social we were, just as if we had been acquainted Seven years. He espresst a great desire to see you, and thought you might have come on without subjecting yourself to any observations, tho he knew your Reasons were those of Delicacy. I replied to him that your wish to see him was mutual that a visit from him to you would have made you very happy, but that you was become quite a Farmer and had such a fondness for old professions that you talked of returning to the Bar again. He replied with some warmth, that if your Countrymen permitted it, they would deserve to be brought to the Bar -- that you must not think of retiring from publick Life, you had received your portion of the bitter things in politicks it was time you should have some of the sweets. I askt him where he thought the Sweets in the new government were to grow. He smiled and said that he hoped for good things under it. I asked him whether the opposition in Virginia was not likely to become troublesome, particularly when joind by this state. He said it was his opinion that they might be quieted, by the New Governments assureing them that a convention should be called to consider of amendment at a certain period. Col Smith dinned at club on Saturday. Col. Hammilton shew him a Letter from Madison in which he says we consider your Reasons inclusive the Gentleman you have named will certainly have all our votes and interest for vice president but there is interest making amongst the antifeds for Clinton both in Newyork and Virginia, and if the Electors should be of that class tis said General Washington will not have the vote of his own State for president. Col. Wadsworth says he is sure of Connecticut with respect to a vice president. I am rather at a loss to know how to sot. I find there is much inquiry made for me in Newyork. One Lady is sending to know when I am comeing to Town and an other where I shall keep and Tickets for the assembly have been sent up to me. Mr. Jay requested me to make his House my Home, but I have no maid with me and should experience many difficulties in concequence of it if I went where I should be exposed to so much company and I was previously engaged to Mrs. Atkinson, but my Trunk with all my Cloaths is not yet arrived, and I am sadly of, even here having only one gown with me, and I must be obliged to return home without even seeing Newyork should Barnard be driven off to the west Indies. If a good snow comes I shall not wait. The Ladies must stay their curiosity till my Levee Day, and if that never comes, they will they will have no further curiosity about seeing A. A. who it seems was of so much concequence or some body connected with her, that at every Inn upon the Road it was made known that I was comeing. I find the price [illegible] called a Tribute justly paid is in the N. York and Conneticut papers. I see several political maneuvers in our Boston papers particularly the Letter which places you a certain Gentleman in the chair dividing the State into two parties one for the Late and the other for the present Governor, and supposing they mean both to unite in Mr. A. An other piece dated at Braintree, which I am persuaded was never written there I dare say I shall tell you News in out of your own papers.
Mrs. Smith desires me to present her duty to you. She is very weak yet, but otherways well. Mr. Jay upon seeing william cry'd out well here is grandpappa ever again. He is a fine red checked chubby Boy, as good tempered as I ever saw a child. Mrs. Cranch says you are very Solitary and that she cannot get you to see her. They tell me here that the Great Folks in Newyork are never solitary. If the wife is absent why they supply her place. Now rather than my Husband should do so I would stick to him, cleave I believe is the proper word all the days of my Life. I hope the Lads are all well and that Esther takes good care of them and of their things. Mrs. Smith says I am in better Spirits since I got my Letters. I believe it is true. I know I was near home sick before. I think of a thousand things which I ought to be doing, and here I am near 300 miles distant. My Duty to your good Mother. I hope she has recovered from her Fall and is able to visit you sometimes. Pray write me all about the Family and cover your Letters to Mr. Jay. Adieu most affectionately yours
December 13, 1788
My Dear Friend
I hope every post to hear from you but every post has hitherto dissapointed me. A Month is a long time to be absent from Home without learning any thing from you. You have often left me and always was very punctual in writing to me. This is but the Second time I have left you and the first that I have been so long without hearing from you. I have written three times before but have very little to entertain you with politicks are confined much to New york the papers of which give us but little information and winter leaves us very little Scope for Farming or Husbandry. Col. Smith has a fine poultry yard consisting of Turkeys Geese fowls ducks in abundance a pair of very good Horses and two cows two pointers and two water dogs the Island abounds with game and quails partridges ducks and plovers &c.
Having tarried till Mrs. Smith has got well and about House I am anxious to return Home again. I think I could be more usefull there than here. I should have liked to have spent one week in N. York but shall not tarry a day for that purpose after an opportunity offers for my return. I beg you would write me by the post. Mrs. Smith desires me to present her duty to you and Love to all her friends.
Most affectionately yours
Philadelphia, December 10, 1788
Your book, as I prophesied, sells nowhere but in Virginia. A very few copies only have been called for either in New York or in this city. The language in which it is written will account for it. In order to attract notice, I translated the panegyric in the French Mercure, and had it made part of the advertisement. I did not translate the comment on the Federal Constitution, as you wished, because I could not spare the time, as well as because I did not approve the tendency of it. Some of your remarks prove that Horace’s “Cœlum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt” does not hold without exception. In Europe, the abuses of power continually before your eyes have given a bias to your political reflections which you did not feel in equal degree when you left America, and which you would feel less of if you had remained in America. Philosophers on the old continent, in their zeal against tyranny, would rush into anarchy; as the horrors of superstition drive them into Atheism. Here, perhaps, the inconveniences of relaxed government have reconciled too many to the opposite extreme. If your plan of a single Legislature, as in Pennsylvania, &c., were adopted, I sincerely believe that it would prove the most deadly blow ever given to Republicanism. Were I an enemy to that form, I would preach the very doctrines which are preached by the enemies to the government proposed for the United States. Many of our best citizens are disgusted with the injustice, instability, and folly, which characterize the American Administrations. The number has for some time been rapidly increasing. Were the evils to be much longer protracted, the disgust would seize citizens of every description.
It is of infinite importance to the cause of liberty to ascertain the degree of it which will consist with the purposes of society. An error on one side may be as fatal as on the other. Hitherto, the error in the United States has lain in the excess.
All the States except North Carolina and Rhode Island have ratified the proposed Constitution. Seven of them have appointed their Senators, of whom those of Virginia, R. H. Lee and Col. Grayson, alone are among the opponents of the system. The appointments of Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia will pretty certainly be of the same stamp with the majority. The House of Representatives is yet to be chosen everywhere except in Pennsylvania. From the partial returns received, the election will wear a federal aspect, unless the event in one or two particular counties should contradict every calculation. If the eight members from this State be on the side of the Constitution, it will in a manner secure the majority in that branch of the Congress also. The object of the Anti-Federalists is to bring about another general Convention, which would either agree on nothing, as would be agreeable to some, and throw everything into confusion, or expunge from the Constitution parts which are held by its friends to be essential to it. The latter party are willing to gratify their opponents with every supplemental provision for general rights, but insist that this can be better done in the mode provided for amendments.
I remain, with great sincerity, your friend and servant.
Philadelphia, December 8, 1788
This will be handed to you by Mr. Gouverneur Morris who will embark in a few days for Havre, from whence he will proceed immediately to Paris. He is already well known to you by character; and as far as there may be a defect of personal acquaintance I beg leave to supply it by this introduction.
My two last were of Ocr. 8 & 17th. They furnished a state of our affairs as they then stood. I shall here add the particulars of most consequence, which have since taken place; remembering however that many details will be most conveniently gathered from the conversation of Mr. Morris who is thoroughly possessed of American transactions.
Notwithstanding the formidable opposition made to the New federal Government, first in order to prevent its adoption, and since in order to place its administration in the hands of disaffected men, there is now both a certainty of its peaceable commencement in March next, and a flattering prospect that it will be administered by men who will give it a fair trial. General Washington will certainly be called to the Executive department. Mr. Adams, who is pledged to support him, will probably be the vice president. The enemies to the Government, at the head & the most inveterate, of whom, is Mr. Henry are laying a train for the election of Governor Clinton, but it cannot succeed unless the federal votes be more dispersed than can well happen. Of the seven States which have appointed their Senators, Virginia alone will have anti-federal members in that branch. Those of N. Hampshire are President Langdon & Judge Bartlett—of Massachusetts Mr. Strong and Mr. Dalton—of Connecticut Docr Johnson and Mr. Elseworth—of N. Jersey Mr. Patterson and Mr. Elmer—of Penna Mr. R. Morris and Mr. McClay—of Delaware Mr. Geo. Reed and Mr. Bassett—of Virgina Mr. R. H. Lee and Col. Grayson. Here is already a majority of the ratifying States on the side of the Constitution. And it is not doubted that it will be reinforced by the appointments of Maryland, S. Carolina and Georgia. As one branch of the Legislature of N. York is attached to the Constitution, it is not improbable that one of the Senators from that State also will be added to the majority. In the House of Representatives the proportion of anti federal members will of course be greater, but cannot if present appearances are to be trusted, amount to a majority, or even a very formidable minority. The election for this branch has taken place as yet no where except in Penna., and here the returns are not yet come in from all the Counties. It is certain however that seven out of the eight, and probable that the whole eight representatives will bear the federal stamp. Even in Virginia where the enemies to the Government form ⅔ of the legislature it is computed that more than half the number of Representatives, who will be elected by the people, formed into districts for the purpose, will be of the same stamp. By some, it is computed that 7 out of the 10 allotted to that State will be opposed to the politics of the present Legislature.
The questions which divide the public at present relate 1. to the extent of the amendments that ought to be made to the Constitution. 2. to the mode in which they ought to be made. The friends of the Constitution, some from an approbation of particular amendments, others from a spirit of conciliation, are generally agreed that the System should be revised. But they wish the revisal to be carried no farther than to supply additional guards for liberty, without abridging the sum of power transferred from the States to the general Government or altering previous to trial, the particular structure of the latter and are fixed in opposition to the risk of another Convention whilst the purpose can be as well answered, by the other mode provided for introducing amendments. Those who have opposed the Constitution, are on the other hand, zealous for a second Convention, and for a revisal which may either not be restrained at all, or extend at least as far as alterations have been proposed by any State. Some of this class, are no doubt, friends to an effective Government, and even to the substance of the particular Government in question. It is equally certain that there are others who urge a second Convention with the insidious hope, of throwing all things into Confusion, and of subverting the fabric just established, if not the Union itself. If the first Congress embrace the policy which circumstances mark out, they will not fail to propose of themselves, every desirable safeguard for popular rights; and by thus separating the well meaning from the designing opponents fix on the latter their true character, and give to the Government its due popularity and stability.
Moustier proves a most unlucky appointment. He is unsocial proud and niggardly and betrays a sort of fastidiousness towards this country. . . . At Boston he imprudently suffered etiquette to prevent even an interview with governor Handcock. The inhabitants, taking part with the governor, neither visited nor invited the count. They were then less apprehensive of a misinterpretation of the neglect as the most cordial intercourse had just preceeded between the town and the French squadron. Both the count and the Marchioness are particularly unpopular among their countrymen here. Such of them as are not under restraint make very free remarks and are anxious for a new diplomatic arrangement. It is but right to add to these particulars, that there is reason to believe that unlucky impressions were made on the count at his first probably by de la Forest the consul a cunning disciple I take it of marbois’ politics and by something in his communication with Jay which he considered as the effect of coldness and sourness toward France.
I am a stranger to the errand on which G. morris goes to Europe. It relates I presume to the affairs of R. Morris, which are still much deranged.
I have received and paid the draught in favor of Docr. Ramsay. I had before paid the order in favor of Mr. Thompson, immediately on the receipt of your letter. About 220 dollars of the balance due on the last state of our account were left in Virginia for the use of your Nephews. There are a few lesser sums which stand on my side of the account which I shall take credit for, when you can find leisure to forward another statement of your friendly advances for me.
I shall leave this place in a day or two for Virga, where my friends who wish me to co-operate in putting our political machine into activity as a member of the House of Representatives, press me to attend. They made me a candidate for the Senate, for which I had not allotted my pretensions. The attempt was defeated by Mr. Henry, who is omnipotent in the present Legislature and who added to the expedients common on such occasions a public philippic agst my federal principles. He has taken equal pains in forming the Counties into districts for the election of Reps. to associate with Orange such as are most devoted to his politics, and most likely to be swayed by the prejudices excited agst. me. From the best information I have of the prevailing temper of the District, I conclude that my going to Virga. will answer no other purpose than to satisfy the Opinions and entreaties of my friends. The trip is in itself very disagreeable both on account of its electioneering appearance, and the sacrifice of the winter for which I had assigned a task which the intermission of Congressional business would have made convenient at New York.
With the sincerest affection & the highest esteem I am Dear Sir,
The letter herewith inclosed for Mr Gordon is from Mr Cyrus Griffin. The other from Mr. Mccarty an American Citizen settled in France, but at present here on business. He appears to be a very worthy man & I have promised to recommend his letter to your care, as a certain channel of conveyance
Paris, December 4, 1788
—Your favor of Aug. 31. came to hand yesterday; and a confidential conveiance offering, by the way of London, I avail myself of it to acknolege the receipt.
I have seen, with infinite pleasure, our new constitution accepted by 11. states, not rejected by the 12th. and that the 13th. happens to be a state of the least importance. It is true, that the minorities in most of the accepting states have been very respectable, so much so as to render it prudent, were it not otherwise reasonable, to make some sacrifice to them. I am in hopes that the annexation of the bill of rights to the constitution will alone draw over so great a proportion of the minorities, as to leave little danger in the opposition of the residue; and that this annexation may be made by Congress and the assemblies, without calling a convention which might endanger the most valuable parts of the system. Calculation has convinced me that circumstances may arise, and probably will arise, wherein all the resources of taxation will be necessary for the safety of the state. For tho’ I am decidedly of opinion we should take no part in European quarrels, but cultivate peace and commerce with all, yet who can avoid seeing the source of war, in the tyranny of those nations who deprive us of the natural right of trading with our neighbors? The products of the U. S. will soon exceed the European demand; what is to be done with the surplus, when there shall be one? It will be employed, without question, to open by force a market for itself with those placed on the same continent with us, and who wish nothing better. Other causes too are obvious, which may involve us in war; and war requires every resource of taxation & credit. The power of making war often prevents it, and in our case would give efficacy to our desire of peace. If the new government wears the front which I hope it will, I see no impossibility in the availing ourselves of the wars of others to open the other parts of America to our commerce, as the price of our neutrality. * * *
Your communications to the Count de Moustier, whatever they may have been, cannot have done injury to my endeavors here to open the W. Indies to us. On this head the ministers are invincibly mute, tho’ I have often tried to draw them into the subject. I have therefore found it necessary to let it lie till war or other circumstance may force it on. Whenever they are in war with England, they must open the islands to us, and perhaps during that war they may see some price which might make them agree to keep them always open. In the meantime I have laid my shoulder to the opening the markets of this country to our produce, and rendering it’s transportation a nursery for our seamen. A maritime force is the only one by which we can act on Europe. Our navigation law (if it be wise to have any) should be the reverse of that of England. Instead of confining importations to home-bottoms or those of the producing nations, I think we should confine exportations to home bottoms or to those of nations having treaties with us. Our exportations are heavy, and would nourish a great force of our own, or be a tempting price to the nation to whom we should offer a participation of it in exchange for free access to all their possessions. This is an object to which our government alone is adequate in the gross, but I have ventured to pursue it, here, so far as the consumption of productions by this country extends. Thus in our arrangements relative to tobacco, none can be received here but in French or American bottoms. This is emploiment for nearly 2000 seamen, and puts nearly that number of British out of employ. By the Arret of Dec. 1787, it was provided that our whale oils should not be received here but in French or American bottoms, and by later regulations all oils but those of France and America are excluded. This will put 100 English whale vessels immediately out of employ, and 150. ere long; and call so many of French & American into service. We have had 6000 seamen formerly in this business, the whole of whom we have been likely to lose. The consumption of rice is growing fast in this country, and that of Carolina gaining ground on every other kind. I am of opinion the whole of the Carolina rice can be consumed here. It’s transportation employs 2500 sailors, almost all of them English at present; the rice being deposited at Cowes & brought from thence here. It would be dangerous to confine this transportation to French & American bottoms the ensuing year, because they will be much engrossed by the transportation of wheat & flour hither, and the crop of rice might lie on hand for want of vessels; but I see no objections to the extensions of our principle to this article also, beginning with the year 1790. However, before there is a necessity of deciding on this I hope to be able to consult our new government in person, as I have asked of Congress a leave of absence for 6. months, that is to say from April to November next. It is necessary for me to pay a short visit to my native country, first to reconduct my family thither, and place them in the hands of their friends, & secondly to place my private affairs under certain arrangements. When I left my own house, I expected to be absent but 5 months, & I have been led by events to an absence of 5 years. I shall hope therefore for the pleasure of personal conferences with your Excellency on the subject of this letter and others interesting to our country, of getting my own ideas set to rights by a communication of yours, and of taking again the tone of sentiment of my own country which we lose in some degree after a certain absence. You know doubtless of the death of the Marquise de Chastellux. The Marquis de La Fayette is out of favor with the court, but high in favor with the nation. I once feared for his personal liberty, but I hope he is on safe ground at present. On the subject of the whale fishery I inclose you some observations I drew up for the ministry here, in order to obtain a correction of their Arret of Sepr last, whereby they had involved our oils with the English in a general exclusion from their ports. They will accordingly correct this, so that our oils will participate with theirs in the monopoly of their markets. There are several things incidentally introduced which do not seem pertinent to the general question. They were rendered necessary by particular circumstances the explanation of which would add to a letter already too long. I will trespass no further then than to assure you of the sentiments of sincere attachment and respect with which I have the honor to be your Excellency’s most obedt. humble servant.
P. S. The observations inclosed, tho’ printed, have been put into confidential hands only.
Labels: Works of Thomas Jefferson
Jamaica, December 3, 1788
My Dearest Friend
This day three weeks I left Home, Since which I have not heard a word from thence. I wrote you from Hartford and once from this place since my arrival. I cannot give you any account either of New York or Jamaica as I got into the first at Seven in the Evening and left it at Nine the next Morning, and in this place my only excursion has been in the garden. The weather has been bad cloudy and rainy ever since I came untill within these two Days, and now it is very cold and Blustering. When I think of the distance I am from Home, the Idea of winter and Snow has double terms for me. I think every Seperation more painfull as I increase in Years. I hope you have found in the Learned and venerable Company you proposed keeping, an ample Compensation for my absence. I imagine however if these cold Nights last a little vital Heat must be wanting. I would recommend to you the Green Baize Gown, and if that will not answer, You recollect the Bear Skin. I hope you will gaurd with all possible precaution against the Riggors of winter, I wish to hear how Mr. John Q A stands this cold. I hope he rest well, and duly excercises. I learn nothing further in politicks for except when Col. Smith goes to Town which is but Seldom, we hear no News and see nobody but the Family. Mrs. Smith remains very well for the Time and young Master grows, but he and William should change Names, as William bears not the least likeness to His Father or Family, and the Young one is very like, for myself I am tolerably a little Homeish. however, the more so perhaps through the fear of not being able to reach it, just when I wish. If our out of Door Family Should increase in my absence, I hope proper attention will be paid to the preservation of the Young family. If it Should be numerous it will be rather expensive, and I would offer to Your consideration whether two of the young Females had not better be put in a condition for disposal, viz. fatted. The Beaf I Suppose is by this time in the cellar, I wish you would mention to Brisler and to Esther, a constant attention to every thing about House to Gaurd against the incroachment of Rats and mice, the cider Should be drawn off, and my Pears and Apples picked over and repack'd. If I Should not reach Home by Christmass, would it not be best to purchase a pork for winter, and to Secure a few legs of pork to Bacon? I wish amongst other things You would frequently caution them about the fires a Nights. I should be loth to trust any one in this Matter but Brisler.
Pray write me by the next post and tell me how You all do.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith present their duty. Pray do not forget to present mine to our vanerable parent little William says Grandpa ha. I should certainly bring him home if it was not winter and such a distance.
Love to Mrs. Cranch and my Neices.
Yours most tenderly
My Trunk has not yet arrived, so that I could not go abroad if I would. Barnard was to Sail the Sunday after I left Town.
Braintree, December 2, 1788
My dearest Friend
Before this time I hope you have the Happiness to See your Daughter out of all Danger and your Son in Law and your two grand children in perfect health. I have no Letter from you, Since that you wrote at Hartford, and I cannot find fault because this is the first I have written to you. We are all very well, and go on very well. Charles came home and Thomas went to Haverhill, last Week.
We are all in a Surry with Politicks. Mr. Dalton and Mr. Strong are Senators and Mr. Lowell will be Representative for the District of Suffolk, as is generally Supposed. Mr. Varnum, Mr. Partridge Coll. Leonard, Mr. Grout Mr. Sedgwick or Mr. Lyman Mr. Jackson or Mr. Dane or Mr. Goodhue, Mr. Thatcher or Col. Sewall, are named for other Districts.
My Love to our Children and Respects and Regards wherever you please.
Dont be uneasy, on account of your Family here, nor in haste to come home before a good Opportunity presents.
I dont enter into any political Details. My Mind has ballanced all Circumstances, and all are reducible to two Articles Vanity and comfort. I have the Whip-BowAlternative in my own Power. If they mortify my Vanity they give me Comfort. They cannot deprive me of Comfort without gratifying my Vanity. I am my dearest Friend yours forever
November 30, 1788
My Dear Sir
Your favor of the 29th ult: was received in N. York—the pleasing one of the 19th Inst. found me in this city, whither I had come with a view either to return to N. York or proceed to Virginia as circumstances might determine—I have not sooner acknowledged your first favor, because it intimated that the subject of it admitted of delay, and I did not wish to precipitate a determination on it—although I did not foresee any addition of lights to guide me—The truth is I am fully satisfied that your calculations of advantage in the purchase are in substance at least well founded—I cannot be less so, that the proposition to me is the genuine offspring of a friendship, which demands the warmest returns and acknowledgements—an opportunity of bettering my private circumstances cannot be prudently disregarded by me—and I need not add that one more acceptable could not be found, than that in which every instance of profit to myself would be a pleasing proof of concurrent profit to you. To these considerations nothing is opposed but an inability to make the contributions which would be due & necessary on my part—and a fixt aversion to becoming a burden in the contract, and to stand in the way perhaps of other friends, who have an equal title to gratification, with the requisite means of giving effect to the plan—I do not know that within 12 months I could command more than one or two hundred pounds, unless I could dispose of property, which is not at present practicable.
You will see from the above explanation that notwithstanding my inclination, I dare not avail myself of your friendship on this occasion—any further than arrangements can be engrafted in the Bargain which will make the bargain contribute itself the means of fulfilling its obligations, and its objects. So far I shall be happy in partaking its benefits in such proportion as you may think fit—not exceeding the reparation in your own behalf—How far the means can be extracted out of the bargain you alone can determine. I apprehend that one at least of the gentlemen on whom you have cast an eye, is in no condition at present to enter into such a speculation. Wadsworth is probablyable—but I cannot even guess his dispositions on the subject—of the other I know nothing—The measures pursued at Richmond are as impolitic as they are otherwise exceptionable—if alterations of a reasonable sort are really in view, they are much more attainable from Congress than from attempts to bring about another convention. It is already decided that the latter mode is a hopeless pursuit—N. H—Mass—Con. N. J. Pena. & Delaware having appointed Senators known to be Bona fide friends to the constitution—From the 1st State will be Langdon & Bartlett—from the 2d Bowdoin & Strong—from N. Jersey, Patterson & Elmer—the others you know—Maryland, S. Carolina & Georgia will make appointments of the like complexions. The elections of Reps for Pena is over, but the result is not yet known from all the counties, little doubt is entertained on one side, that it will prove favorable, though the other side do not renounce its hopes. In the city the majority was nearly as five to one—In Lancaster county still greater I am told, and in one or two others, the proportion not less—The antifederal counties however are farthest off, and have not yet been heard from—In Berks where unanimity almost prevailed on that side, the badness of the day and the height of the waters reduced the number of voters to about 400—although the county must contain several more—In general a small proportion of the people seemed to have voted—How far this is to be charged on the weather or an indifference to the occasion I am not able to say.
I am not yet entirely recovered from the complaint which was reproduced by the journey from N. York hither—Nor am I yet absolutely decided whether I shall go back in consequence of the reappointment to Cong.—or proceed forthwith to Virga—I mean to be a member of the H. of Reps if elected to that service—and to take the proper steps for offering my services. Those of a contrary character I shall certainly decline. Even the electioneering appearance of a trip to Virga. at this crisis is not a little grating to me. Present me in the best manner to Mrs Lee. I am yrs affy
November 23, 1788
I thank you, my dear sir, for yours of the loth. The only part of it which surprises me is what you mention respecting Clinton. I cannot, however, be lieve that the plan will succeed. Nor, indeed, do I think that Clinton would be disposed to exchange his present appointment for that office, or risk his popularity by holding both. At the same time the attempt merits attention, and ought not to be neglected as chimerical or impracticable.
In Massachusetts the Electors will, I understand, be appointed by the Legislature, and will be all Federal, and ’t is probable will be, for the most part, in favor of Adams. It is said the same thing will happen in New Hampshire, and, I have reason to believe, it will be the case in Connecticut. In this State it is difficult to form any certain calculation. A large majority of the Assembly was doubtless of an Anti-federal complexion, but the schism in the party, which has been occasioned by the falling off of some of its leaders in the Convention, leaves me not without hope that, if matters are well managed, we may procure a majority for some pretty equal compromise. In the Senate we have the superiority by one. In New Jersey there seems to be no question but that the complexion of the Electors will be Federal, and I suppose, if thought expedient, they may be united in favor of Adams. Pennsylvania you can best judge of. From Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina, I presume, we may count with tolerable assurance on Federal men; and I should imagine, if pains are taken, the danger of an Antifederal Vice-President might itself be rendered the instrument of Union. At any rate, their weight will not be thrown into the scale of Clinton, and I do not see from what quarter numbers can be marshalled in his favor equal to those who will advocate Adams, supposing even a division in the Federal votes.
On the whole I have concluded to support Adams, though I am not without apprehensions on the score we have conversed about. My principal reasons are these: First, he is a declared partisan of deferring to future experience the expediency of amendments in the system, and (although I do not altogether adopt this sentiment) it is much nearer my own than certain other doctrines. Secondly, he is certainly a character of importance in the Eastern States; if he is not Vice-President, one of two worse things will be likely to happen. Either he must be nominated to some important office, for which he is less proper, or will become a malcontent, and give additional weight to the opposition to the government. As to Knox, I cannot persuade myself that he will incline to the appointment. He must sacrifice emolument by it, which must be of necessity a primary object with him.
If it should be thought expedient to endeavor to unite on a particular character, there is a danger of a different kind to which we must not be inattentive—the possibility of rendering it doubtful who is appointed President. You know the Constitution has not provided the means of distinguishing in certain cases, and it would be disagreeable to have a man treading close upon the heels of the person we wish as President. May not the malignity of the opposition be, in some instances, exhibited even against him? Of all this we shall best judge when we know who are our Electors; and we must, in our different circles, take our measures accordingly.
I could console myself for what you mention respecting yourself, from a desire to see you in one of the executive departments, did I not perceive the representation will be defective in characters of a certain description. Wilson is evidently out of the question. King tells me he does not believe he will be elected into either House. Mr. Gouverneur Morris set out to-day for France, by way of Philadelphia. If you are not in one of the branches, the government may sincerely feel the want of men who unite to zeal all the requisite qualifications for parrying the machinations of its enemies. Might I advise, it would be, that you bent your course to Virginia.
Philadelphia, November 23, 1788
My Dear Friend,
Your two favors of the 5th & 10th instant have been duly recd. The appointments for the Senate communicated in the latter, answer to the calculations I had formed, notwithstanding the contrary appearances on which the former was founded. My only surprise is that in the present temper and disproportionate number of the anti federal part of the Assembly, my name should have been honored with so great a vote as it received. When this circumstance is combined with that of the characters which I have reason to believe concurred in it, I should be justly chargeable with a very mistaken ambition, if I did not consider the event in the light which you anticipated. I shall not be surprised if the attempt should be equally successful to shut the door of the other House agst me, which was the real object of my preference as well for the reason formerly suggested to you, as for the additional one that it will less require a stile of life with which my circumstances do not square, & for which an inadequate provision only will probably be made by the public. Being not yet acquainted with the allottment of Orange in the districts, I can form no estimate of the reception that will be given to an offer of my services. The district in which I am told it is likely to be thrown, for the choice of an Elector, is a very monitory sample of what may & probably will be done in that way.
My present situation embarrasses me somewhat. When I left N. York, I not only expected that the Choice for the Senate would be as it is, but was apprehensive yt the spirit of party might chuse to add the supposed mortification of dropping my name from the deputation to Congress for the fraction of a year remaining. I accordingly left that place under arrangements which did not require my return. At the same time, I had it in view, if left entirely to my option, to pass the Winter or part of it there, being desirous of employing some of the time in matters which need access to the papers of Congress, & supposing moreover that I should be there master more of my time yn in Virginia. The opportunity of executing my plan is given me I find by one of the votes of the Assembly. On the other hand I am now pressed by some of my friends to repair to Virginia, as a requisite expedient for counteracting the machinations agst my election into the H. of Reps. To this again I am extremely disinclined for reasons additional to the one above mentioned. It will have an electioneering appearance which I always despised and wish to shun. And as I should shew myself in Orange only, where there will probably be little difficulty, my presence could have no very favorable effect; whilst it is very possible that such a mark of solicitude strengthened by my not declining a reappointment to Congress, and now declining to serve in it, might by a dexterous misinterpretation, be made to operate on the other side. These considerations are strong inducements to join my colleagues at N. York, and leave things to their own course in Virginia. If Orange should fall into a federal district it is probable I shall not be opposed; if otherwise a successful opposition seems unavoidable. My decision however is not finally taken.
Mr Dawson arrived here this morning. He took Anapolis in his way, where he tells me the disputed election of Baltimore engages the whole attention at present.
Will you be good eno’ to enable me to answer the inclosed paper. I do not chuse to trust my recollection of the law on the subject. The enquiry comes from the French Consul at N. York.
You may continue to address yr. letters to N. York till I give you other notice as they will not be lost whatever direction I may take, and will be highly grateful if I should go thither.
Yrs most Affecty.
Paris, November 18, 1788
—My last to you was of the 31st July: since which I have received yours of July 24, Aug. 10 & 23. The first part of this long silence in me was occasioned by a knoledge that you were absent from N. York; the latter part by a want of opportunity, which has been longer than usual. Mr. Shippen being just arrived here, and to set out to-morrow for London, I avail myself of that channel of conveyance. Mr. Carrington was so kind as to send me the 2d vol. of the Amer. phil. transactions, the federalist, and some other interesting pamphlets; and I am to thank you for another copy of the federalist and the report of the instrns. to the ministers for negotiating peace. The latter unluckily omitted exactly the passage I wanted, which was what related to the navigation of the Mississippi. With respect to the Federalist, the three authors had been named to me. I read it with care, pleasure & improvement, and was satisfied there was nothing in it by one of those hands, & not a great deal by a second. It does the highest honor to the third, as being, in my opinion, the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written. In some parts it is discoverable that the author means only to say what may be best said in defence of opinions in which he did not concur. But in general it establishes firmly the plan of government. I confess it has rectified me in several points. As to the bill of rights however I still think it should be added and I am to see that three states have at length considered the perpetual re-eligibility of the president as an article which should be amended. I should deprecate with you indeed the meeting of a new convention. I hope they will adopt the mode of amendment by Congress & the Assemblies, in which case I should not fear any dangerous innovation in the plan. But the minorities are too respectable not to be entitled to some sacrifice of opinion in the majority especially when a great proportion of them would be contented with a bill of rights. Here things internally are going on well. The Notables, now in session, have indeed passed one vote which augurs ill to the rights of the people, but if they do not obtain now so much as they have a right to, they will in the long run. The misfortune is that they are not yet ripe for receiving the blessings to which they are entitled. I doubt, for instance, whether the body of the nation, if they could be consulted, would accept of a Habeas corpus law, if offered them by the King. If the Etats generaux, when they assemble, do not aim at too much, they may begin a good constitution. There are three articles which they may easily obtain, 1, their own meeting periodically. 2, the exclusive right of taxation. 3, the right of registering laws & proposing amendments to them as exercised now by the parliaments. This last would be readily approved by the courts on account of their hostility against the parliaments, & would lead immediately to the origination of laws. The 2d has been already solemnly avowed by the King; and it is well understood there would be no opposition to the first. If they push at much more, all may fail. I shall not enter further into public details, because my letter to Mr. Jay will give them. That contains a request of permission to return to America the next spring, for the summer only. The reasons therein urged, drawn from my private affairs, are very cogent. But there is another more cogent on my mind, tho’ of a nature not to be explained in a public letter. It is the necessity of attending my daughters myself to their own country, and depositing them safely in the hands of those with whom I can safely leave them. I have deferred this request as long as circumstances would permit, and am in hopes it will meet with no difficulty. I have had too many proofs of your friendship not to rely on your patronage of it, as, in all probability, nothing can suffer by a short absence. But the immediate permission is what I am anxious about; as by going in April & returning in October I shall be sure of pleasant & short passages out & in. I must intreat your attention, my friend, to this matter, and that the answers may be sent me thro’ several channels.
Mr. Limozin at Havre, sent you by mistake a package belonging to somebody else. I do not know what it contained, but he has written to you on the subject, & prayed me to do the same. He is likely to suffer if it be not returned.
Supposing that the funding their foreign debt will be among the first operations of the new government, I send you two estimates, the one by myself, the other by a gentleman infinitely better acquainted with the subject, shewing what fund will suffice to discharge the principal and interest as it shall become due, aided by occasional loans, which the same fund will repay. I inclose them to you, because collating them together, and with your own ideas, you will be able to devise something better than either. But something must be done. This government will expect, I fancy, a very satisfactory provision for the paiment of their debt, from the first session of the new Congress. Perhaps in this matter, as well as the arrangement of your foreign affairs, I may be able when on the spot with you, to give some information & suggest some hints, which may render my visit to my native country not altogether useless. I consider as no small advantage the resuming the tone of mind of my constituents, which is lost by long absence, and can only be recovered by mixing with them: and shall particularly hope for much profit & pleasure, by contriving to pass as much time as possible with you. Should you have a trip to Virginia in contemplation for that year, I hope you will time it so as that we may be there together. I will camp you at Monticello where, if illy entertained otherwise, you shall not want for books. In firm hope of a happy meeting with you in the spring or early in summer I conclude with assurances of the sincere esteem & attachment with which I am, Dear Sir, your affectionate friend & servant.
Labels: Works of Thomas Jefferson
November 18, 1788
Your last two letters have duly come to hand, and the Count de Moustier has delivered me the watch you committed to his charge. Your obliging attention to this matter claims my particular acknowledgments. I will make no apology for asking you to take the additional trouble of forwarding the enclosed to the General. I take the liberty of passing it through you, that you may, by perusing the contents, know the situation of the business.
The demand of fifty guineas is to me quite unexpected. I am sorry to add that there is too good evidence that it cost a mere trifle to the General. This, however, I mention in confidence. Nor shall I give you any further trouble on the subject. Whatever may be proper will be done.
Mrs. Hamilton requests her affectionate remembrances to Mrs. Washington, and joins me in the best wishes for you both.
P. S.—Your last letter, on a certain subject, I have received. I feel a conviction that you will finally see your acceptance to be indispensable. It is no compliment to say that no other man can sufficiently unite the public opinion or can give the requisite weight to the office in the commencement of the government. These considerations appear to me of themselves decisive. I am not sure that your refusal would not throw every thing into confusion. I am sure that it would have the worst effect imaginable. Indeed, as I hinted in a former letter, I think circumstances leave no option.
Hartford, November 16, 1788
My Dearest Friend
We Reached this place last evening and put up at a Mr. Aves private Lodgings, where we are very well accomodated. I am delighted with the view I have had of this State, the River is in full sight from the House and the fields yet retain their verdure. Lands I am told are valued here at a hundred pounds per acre, and it is not unusuall to let the Farms upon this River st four pounds per annum per acre. Manure is generally carried out in the fall. So much for Farming which is in your own Way, besides I have learnt a New Method of preserving pumpkins which is in my own way. I hope to make the journey usefull to me by further observations. I followd your injunctions Stricktly kept open the windows, walkt some times &c. but still no remedy against evening air. The day's being short and the evenings fine we wisht to improve the good weather and get on our journey as fast as possible, so rode late in the Evening by which means I got a bad cold, or rather added to that which I had when I left Home, it is however going off today. I hope you are relieved from yours and that without the assistance of Bridgham prescription. I think of you very often and how I shall get back to you. I find the weather full cold enough now for travelling with comfort. We have a very easy carriage good carefull driver and able Horses, yet find thirty miles as much as we can accomplish in one day. Some of the Road Rough enough as you well remember. Our Landlord who is an intelligent man fell into politicks to day, inquired who were talkd of for Senators in our state, &c. but finding no politicians in comapny few observations were made. He was high in praise of Dr. Johnson and Judge Elsworth, hop'd the rest of the States would send as good Men and then he did not believe that the House of Lords in England could equal them, did no like pensilvana's sending chusing a Man who had never been heard of before, he might be a good Man, but he wanted thoses Men in office whose Fame had resounded throughout all the States. I ventured to ask him who we talkd of for representatives. He said Col. Wadsworth would be one, but that much had not been said upon the Subject yet. Our Friend Trumble lives within a few doors of this House. I have sent my compliments to him to come and take a dish of Tea with us, the Messenger is not yet returnd. We propose persuing our journey early in the morning and hope to reach New York by thursday Night.
I hope to hear from you by Genll. Knox or Mr. Jarvis, pray see that our son exercises daily. I shall wnat to know a little of politicks, but ofwith them I suppose you will tell me I share no Buisness. I design to be vastly prudent I assure you hear all and say little I hope you will be in good Spirits all the Time I am gone, remembering Solomans advise that a merry Heart was good like a medicine. Love to all my friends.
Have had a charming visit from Trumble we were so happy and sociable. I wisht you had been here to have shard it, we talkd of Books a little politicks, &c. &c. and so long that, the post is just going, and I have only time to say a good Night and that I am yours most tenderly
Dont leave my Letters upon the table.
November 9, 1788
My Dear Sir:
Your last letter but one met me at Albany attending court, from whence I am but just returned. Yours of the 2d inst. is this moment handed me.
I am very sorry for the schism you hint at among the Federalists, but I have so much confidence in the good management of the fast friends of the Constitution, that I hope no ill consequences will ensue from that disagreement. It will, however, be worthy of great care to avoid suffering a difference of opinion on collateral points, to produce any serious division between those who have hitherto drawn together on the great national question.
Permit me to add that I do not think you should allow any line to be run between those who wish to trust alterations to future experience, and those who are desirous of them at the present juncture. The rage for amendments is in my opinion rather to be parried by address than encountered with open force. And I shall therefore be loth to learn that your parties have been arranged professedly upon the distinction I have mentioned. The mode in which amendments may best be made, and twenty other matters, may serve as pretexts for avoiding the evil and securing the good.
On the question between Mr. H. and Mr. A., Mr. King will probably have informed you that I have, upon the whole, concluded that the latter ought to be supported. My measures will be taken accordingly. I had but one scruple, but after mature consideration, I have relinquished it. Mr. A., to a sound understanding, has always appeared to me to add an ardent love for the public good, and, as his further knowledge of the world seems to have corrected those jealousies which he is represented to have once been influenced by, I trust nothing of the kind suggested in my former letter will disturb the harmony of the administration. Let me continue to hear from you, and believe me to be, with very great esteem and regard, etc.
New York, November 5, 1788
The inclosed memorandum was put into my hands by Mr. St. John, the French Consul. He is a very worthy man & entitled, by his philanthropy and zealous patronage of whatever he deems useful, to much esteem and regard. You will therefore oblige me by putting it in my power to afford him the little gratification he asks. I have another request to trouble you with, which concerns myself. Col. H. Lee tells me that he has purchased the tract of land thro’ which the Canal at the great falls is to run, and on which the basin will be, for £4000. The tract contains 500 Acres only and is under the incumbrance of a Rent of £150 Sterlg per annum; but, on the other hand derives from its situation, as he supposes, a certain prospect of becoming immensely valuable. He paints it in short as the seat of an early Town, the lots of which will be immediately productive, and possessing other peculiar advantages which make the bargain inestimable. In addition to many instances of his friendship he tenders me a part in it, and urges my acceptance on grounds of advantage to myself alone. I am thoroughly persuaded that I am indebted for the proposal to the most disinterested and affectionate motives; but knowing that the fervor with which he pursues his objects sometimes affects the estimate he forms of them, and being in no condition to make hazardous experiments, it is advisable for me to have the sanction of other judgments to his opinions. You are well acquainted with the situation and can at once decide whether it presents the material and certain advantages on which Col. Lee calculates. A general intimation therefore of the light in which the matter strikes you, will lay me under a very particular obligation. I am by no means sure that in any result it will be in my power to profit by Col. Lee’s friendship, but it may be of some consequence whether the opportunity be worth attending to or not.
My information from Richmond is very unpropitious to federal policy. Yours is no doubt more full and more recent. A decided and malignant majority may do many things of a disagreeable nature; but I trust the Constitution is too firmly established to be now materially vulnerable. The elections for the Legislature of Penna. N. Jersey, & Maryland, ensure measures of a contrary complexion in those States. Indeed Virginia is the only instance among the ratifying States in which the Politics of the Legislature are at variance with the sense of the people, expressed by their Representatives in Convention. We hear nothing from Massachuts or N. Hampshire since the meeting of their General Courts. It is understood that both the appointments & arrangements for the Government will be calculated to support and as far as possible to dignify it. The public conversation seems to be not yet settled on the Vice President. Mr. Hancock & Mr. Adams have been most talked of. The former it is said rejects the idea of any secondary station; and the latter does not unite the suffrages of his own State, and is unpopular in many other places. As other candidates however are not likely to present themselves, and New England will be considered as having strong pretensions, it seems not improbable that the question will lie between the Gentlemen above named. Mr. Jay & Genl Knox have been mentioned; but it is supposed that neither of them will exchange his present situation for an unprofitable dignity.
I shall leave this in a day or two, and am not yet finally determined how far my journey may be continued Southward. A few lines on the subject above mentioned will either find me in Philada, or be there taken care of for me. Should anything occur here or elsewhere worth your attention, it shall be duly communicated by, Dear Sir your very respectful and Affectionate Servant.
New York, November 2, 1788
My Dear Friend,
I rec’d yesterday your favor of the 23d. ult. The first countenance of the assembly corresponds with the picture which my imagination had formed of it. The views of the greater part of the opposition to the federal government, and particularly of its principal leader, have ever since the Convention, been regarded by me as permanently hostile, and likely to produce every effort that might endanger or embarrass it. The defects which drew forth objections from many quarters, were evidently of little consequence in the eye of Mr H—ry. His own arguments proved it. His enmity was levelled, as he did not scruple to insinuate agst the whole system; and the destruction of the whole system I take to be still the secret wish of his heart, and the real object of his pursuit. If temperate and rational alterations only were his plan, is it conceivable that his coalition and patronage would be extended to men whose particular ideas on the subject must differ more from his own than of others who share most liberally in his hatred?
My last letter with Col. Carrington’s communications to which it referred will have sufficiently explained my sentiments with regard to the Legislative Service under the new Constitution. My first wish is to see the Government put into quiet and successful operation; and to afford any service, that may be acceptable from me, for that purpose. My second wish if that were to be consulted, would prefer, for reasons formerly hinted, an opportunity of contributing that service in the House of Reps. rather than in the Senate; provided the opportunity be attainable from the spontaneous suffrage of the Constituents. Should the real friends to the Constitution think this preference inconsistent with any primary object, as Col. Carrington tells me is the case with some who are entitled to peculiar respect, and view my renouncing it as of any material consequence, I shall not hesitate to comply.—You will not infer from the freedom with which these observations are made, that I am in the least unaware of the probability that whatever my inclinations or those of my friends may be, they are likely to be of little avail in the present case. I take it for certain that a clear majority of the assembly are enimies to the Govt. and I have no reason to suppose that I can be less obnoxious than others on the opposite side. An election into the Senate therefore can hardly come into question. I know also that a good deal will depend on the arrangements for the election of the other branch; and that much may depend moreover on the steps to be taken by the candidates which will not be taken by me. Here again therefore there must be great uncertainty, if not improbability of my election. With these circumstances in view it is impossible that I can be the dupe of false calculations even if I were in other cases disposed to indulge them. I trust it is equally impossible for the result whatever it may be, to rob me of any reflections which enter into the internal fund of comfort and happiness. Popular favor or disfavor, is no criterion of the character maintained with those whose esteem an honorable ambition must court. Much less can it be a criterion of that maintained with oneself. And when the spirit of party directs the public voice, it must be a little mind indeed that can suffer in its own estimation, or apprehend danger of suffering in that of others.
The Sepr. British Packet arrived yesterday, but I do not find that she makes any addition to the stock of European intelligence. The change in the French Minister is the only event of late date of much consequence; and that had arrived through several other channels. I do not know that it is even yet authenticited; but it seems to be doubted by no one, particularly among those who can best decide on its credibility.
With the utmost affection I am my dear sir
Mount Vernon, October 26, 1788
My dear Sir:
I have been lately favored with the receipt of your letters of the 24th and 30th of September, with their enclosures, and thank you sincerely for your free and friendly communications. As the period is now rapidly approaching which must decide the fate of the new Constitution, as to the manner of its being carried into execution, and probably as to its usefulness, it is not wonderful that we should all feel an unusual degree of anxiety on the occasion. I must acknowledge my fears have been greatly alarmed, but still I am not without hopes. From the good beginning that has been made in Pennsylvania, a State from which much was to be feared, I cannot help foreboding well of the others. That is to say, I flatter myself a majority of them will appoint foederal members to the several branches of the new government. I hardly should think that Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia, would be for attempting premature amendments. Some of the rest may, also, in all probability be apprehensive of throwing our affairs into confusion, by such ill-timed expedients.
There will however, be no room for the advocates of the Constitution to relax in their exertions; for if they should be lulled into security, appointments of Antifoederal men may probably take place, and the consequences, which you so justly dread, be realized. Our Assembly is now in session; it is represented to be rather antifoederal, but we have heard nothing of its doings. Mr. Patrick Henry, R.H. Lee and Madison are talked of for the Senate. Perhaps as much opposition, or, in other words, as great an effort for early amendments, is to be apprehended from this State, as from any but New York. The constant report is, that North Carolina will soon accede to the new Union. A new Assembly is just elected in Maryland, in which it is asserted the number of Foederalists greatly predominates; and that being the case, we may look for favorable appointments, in spite of the rancour and activity of a few discontented, and I may say apparently unprincipled men.
I would willingly pass over in silence that part of your letter, in which you mention the persons who are Candidates for the two first Offices in the Executive, if I did not fear the omission might seem to betray a want of confidence. Motives of delicacy have prevented me hitherto from conversing or writing on this subject, whenever I could avoid it with decency. I may, however, with great sincerity and I believe without offending against modesty or propriety say to you, that I most heartily wish the choice to which you allude may not fall upon me: and that, if it should, I must reserve to myself the right of making up my final decision, at the last moment when it can be brought into one view, and when the expediency or inexpediency of a refusal can be more judiciously determined than at present. But be assured, my dear Sir, if from any inducement I shall be persuaded ultimately to accept, it will not be (so far as I know my own heart) from any of a private or personal nature. Every personal consideration conspires to rivet me (if I may use the expression) to retirement. At my time of life, and under my circumstances, nothing in this world can ever draw me from it, unless it be a conviction that the partiality of my Countrymen had made my services absolutely necessary, joined to a fear that my refusal might induce a belief that I preferred the conservation of my own reputation and private ease, to the good of my Country. After all, if I should conceive myself in a manner constrained to accept, I call Heaven to witness, that this very act would be the greatest sacrifice of my personal feelings and wishes that ever I have been called upon to make. It would be to forego repose and domestic enjoyment, for trouble, perhaps for public obloquy: for I should consider myself as entering upon an unexplored field, enveloped on every side with clouds and darkness.
From this embarrassing situation I had naturally supposed that my declarations at the close of the war would have saved me; and that my sincere intentions, then publicly made known, would have effectually precluded me for ever afterwards from being looked upon as a Candidate for any office. This hope, as a last anchor of worldly happiness in old age, I had still carefully preserved; until the public papers and private letters from my Correspondents in almost every quarter, taught me to apprehend that I might soon be obliged to answer the question, whether I would go again into public life or not.
You will see, my dear Sir, from this train of reflections, that I have lately had enough of my own perplexities to think of, without adverting much to the affairs of others. So much have I been otherwise occupied, and so little agency did I wish to have in electioneering, that I have never entered into a single discussion with any person nor to the best of my recollection expressed a single sentiment orally or in writing respecting the appointment of a Vice President. From the extent and respectability of Massachusetts it might reasonably be expected, that he would be chosen from that State. But having taken it for granted, that the person selected for that important place would be a true Foederalist; in that case, I was altogether disposed to acquiesce in the prevailing sentiments of the Electors, without giving any unbecoming preference or incurring any unnecessary ill-will. Since it here seems proper to touch a little more fully upon that point, I will frankly give you my manner of thinking, and what, under certain circumstances, would be my manner of acting.
For this purpose I must speak again hypothetically for argument’s sake, and say, supposing I should be appointed to the Administration and supposing I should accept it, I most solemnly declare, that whosoever shall be found to enjoy the confidence of the States so far as to be elected Vice President, cannot be disagreeable to me in that office. And even if I had any predilection, I flatter myself, I possess patriotism enough to sacrifice it at the shrine of my Country; where, it will be unavoidably necessary for me to have made infinitely greater sacrifices, before I can find myself in the supposed predicament: that is to say, before I can be connected with others, in any possible political relation. In truth, I believe that I have no prejudices on the subject, and that it would not be in the power of any evil-minded persons, who wished to disturb the harmony of those concerned in the government, to infuse them into my mind. For, to continue the same hypothesis one step farther, supposing myself to be connected in office with any gentleman of character, I would most certainly treat him with perfect sincerity and the greatest candour in every respect. I would give him my full confidence, and use my utmost endeavours to co-operate with him, in promoting and rendering permanent the national prosperity; this should be my great, my only aim, under the fixed and irrevocable resolution of leaving to other hands the helm of the State, as soon as my service could possibly with propriety be dispensed with.
I have thus, my dear Sir, insensibly been led into a longer detail than I intended; and have used more egotism than I could have wished; for which I urge no other apology, than but my opinion of your friendship, discretion and candour. With sentiments of real esteem etc.
Labels: Papers of George Washington
Philadelphia, October 25, 1788
The Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of slavery and the relief of free negroes unlawfully held in bondage has taken the liberty to ask your Excellency’s acceptance of a few copies of their Constitution and the laws of Pennsylvania which relate to one of the objects of their Institution; also, of a copy of Thomas Clarkson’s excellent Essay upon the Commerce and Slavery of the Africans.
The Society have heard, with great regret, that a considerable part of the slaves who have been sold in the Southern States have been imported in Vessels fitted out in the state over which your Excellency presides. From your Excellency’s station, they hope your influence will be exerted, hereafter, to prevent a practice which is so evidently repugnant to the political principles and form of government lately adopted by citizens of the United States and which cannot fail of delaying the employment of the blessings of peace and liberty by drawing down the displeasure of the great and impartial Ruler of the Universe upon our country. I am, in behalf of the Society Sir, your most obedient servant
To His Excellency John Langdon, Esq. President of New Hampshire
Philadelphia, October 24, 1788
I received and read with great Pleasure, my dear and much respected Friend’s Letter of the 12th July. It gave me the clearest and most satisfactory Account of the present State of Affairs in your Country that I have hitherto been able to obtain. You judge rightly that they must be interesting to me. I love France. I have 1000 Reasons for doing so: and whatever promotes or impedes her Happiness, affects me as if she were my Mother. I hope all will end to the general Advantage of the Nation.
Having now finish’d my Term as President, and promising myself to engage no more in public Business, I hope to enjoy during the small Remains of Life that are left me, the Leisure I have so long wish’d for. I have begun already to employ it in compleating the personal History you mention. It is now brought down to my Fiftieth Year. What is to follow will be of more important Transactions: But it seems to me that what is done will be of more general Use to young Readers; as exemplifying strongly the Effects of prudent and imprudent Conduct in the Commencement of a life of Business.
Our public Affairs begin to wear a more quiet Aspect. The Disputes about the Faults of the new Constitution are subsided. The first Congress will probably mend the principal Ones, and future Congresses the rest. That which you mention did not pass unnoticed in the Convention. Many, if I remember right, were for making the President incapable of being chosen after the first four Years: but a Majority were for leaving the Electors free to chuse whom they pleased, and it was alledged that such Incapability might tend to make the President less attentive to the Duties of his Office, and to the Interests of the People, than he would be if a second Choice depended on their good Opinion of them. We are making Experiments in Politicks; what Knowledge we shall gain by them will be more certain: tho’ perhaps we may hazard too much in that Mode of acquiring it.
I thank you much for the Dissertation sur la Nyctalopie. It was quite a Novelty to me, having never before heard of such a Malady. One of our most ancient Physicians assures me; that tho’ he had some Knowledge of the Distemper from his Reading, he never knew an Instance of it in any Part of North America. Indeed we have no Chalk in this Country, nor any Soil so white as to dazzle the Eyes when the Sun’s Light is reflected from it. The Dissertation mentions that there are terres crétacées, &c. Are those terres white?
Be pleased to make my Respects acceptable to Made la Duchesse d’Enville, whose many Civilities and Kindnesses to me when in France, I shall ever remember with Gratitude. My best Wishes attend you and all that are dear to you. May I here desire to be remembered kindly to the Marquis de Condorcet and l’Abbé Rochon? With the greatest and most sincere Esteem and Respect, I am, ever, Your obliged and most obedient Servant
October 24, 1788
Having now finished my term in the Presidentship, and resolving to engage no more in public affairs, I hope to be a better correspondent for the little time I have to live. I am recovering from a long continued gout, and am dilligently employed in writing the History of my Life, to the doing of which the persuasions contained in your letter of January 31, 1783, have not a little contributed. I am now in the year 1756 just before I was sent to England. To shorten the work, as well as for other reasons, I omit all facts and transactions that may not have a tendency to benefit the young reader, by showing him from my example, and my success in emerging from poverty, and acquiring some degree of wealth, power, and reputation, the advantages of certain modes of conduct which I observed, and of avoiding the errors which were prejudicial to me. If a writer can judge properly of his own work, I fancy on reading over what is already done, that the book may be found entertaining, interesting, and useful, more so than I expected when I began it. If my present state of health continues, I hope to finish it this winter: when done you shall have a manuscript copy of it, that I may obtain from your judgment and friendship, such remarks as may contribute to its improvement.
The violence of our party debates about the new constitution seems much abated, indeed almost extinct, and we are getting fast into good order. I kept out of those disputes pretty well, having wrote only one little piece, which I send you inclosed.
I regret the immense quantity of misery brought upon mankind by this Turkish war; and I am afraid the King of Sweeden may burn his fingers by attacking Russia. When will princes learn arithmetick enough to calculate if they want pieces of one another’s territory, how much cheaper it would be to buy them, than to make war for them even though they were to give an hundred years purchase? But if glory cannot be valued, and therefore the wars for it cannot be subject to arithmetical calculation so as to show their advantage or disadvantage, at least wars for trade, which have gain for their object may be proper subjects for such compensation; and a trading nation as well as a single trader ought to calculate the probabilities of profit and loss, before engaging in any considerable adventure. This however nations seldom do, and we have had frequent instances of their spending more money in wars for acquiring or securing branches of commerce, that an hundred years’ profit or the full empjoyment of them can compensate.
Remember me affectionately to good Dr. Price and to the honest heretic Dr. Priestly. I do not call him honest by way of distinction; for I think all the heretics I have known have been virtuous men. They have the virtue of fortitude or they would not venture to own their heresy; and they cannot afford to be deficient in any of the other virtues, as that would give advantage to their many enemies; and they have not like orthodox sinners, such a number of friends to excuse or justify them. Do not, however mistake me. It is not to my good friend’s heresy that I impute his honesty. On the contrary, ’tis his honesty that has brought upon him the character of heretic. I am ever, my dear friend, yours sincerely,
New York, October 21, 1788
I send you the enclosed paper chiefly for the sake of the Edict which fixes on May for the meeting of the States general in France. Letters from Mr. Jefferson authenticate the document. They mention also the disgrace as it is called of the Marquis. The struggle at present in that Kingdom seems to be entirely between the Monarchy & aristocracy, and the hopes of the people merely in the competition of their enemies for their favor. It is probable however that both the parties contain real friends to liberty who will make events subservient to their object.
The Count Moustier and the Marchioness Brehan are to set out this day for Mount Vernon. I take it for granted you are not only apprised of the intended visit, but of the time at which the guests may be expected.
The State of Connecticut has made choice of Docr. Johnson and Mr. Elsworth for its Senators, and has referred that of its representatives to the people at large, every individual citizen to vote for every Representative.
I have not heretofore acknowledged your last favor, nothing material having turned up for some time, and the purpose of Col. Carrington to see you on his way to Virginia superseding all the ordinary communications through the epistolary channel. It gives me much pleasure to find that both the opposition at first and finally the accession to the vote fixing N. York for the first meeting of the New Congress has your approbation. My fears that the measure would be made a handle of by the opposition are confirmed in some degree by my late information from Virga. Mr. Pendleton the Chancellor tells me he has already met taunts from that quarter on this specimen of Eastern equity & impartiality. Whether much noise will be made will depend on the policy which Mr. Henry may find it convenient to adopt. As N. York is at the head of his party, he may be induced by that circumstance not to make irritating reflections; though the fact is that the party in this [State] which is with him is supposed to be indifferent & even secretly averse to the residence of Congress here. This however may not be known to him.
I am Dear Sir Yours most respectfully & Affectely.
New York, October 20, 1788
I acknowledge with much pleasure your favor of the 6th instant. The “balmy” nature of the resolutions concerning the Mississippi will I hope have the effect you suggest; though the wounds given to some & the pretexts given to others by the proceedings which rendered them necessary, will not I fear be radically removed. The light in which the temporary seat of the new Government is viewed & represented by those who were governed by antecedent jealousies of this end of the Union, is a natural one, and the apprehension of it was among the most persuasive reasons with me for contending with some earnestness for a less eccentric position. A certain degree of impartiality or the appearance of it, is necessary in the most despotic Governments. In republics this may be considered as the vital principle of the Administration. And in a federal Republic founded on local distinctions involving local jealousies, it ought to be attended to with a still more scrupulous exactness.
I am glad to find you concurring in the requisite expedients for preventing anti federal elections, and a premature Convention. The circular letter from this State has united and animated the efforts on the adverse side with respect to both these points. An early Convention threatens discord and mischief. It will be composed of the most heterogeneous characters—will be actuated by the party spirit reigning among their constituents—will comprehend men having insidious designs agst the Union—and can scarcely therefore terminate in harmony or the public good. Let the enemies to the System wait until some experience shall have taken place, and the business will be conducted with more light as well as with less heat. In the mean time the other mode of amendments may safely be employed to quiet the fears of many by supplying those further guards for private rights which can do no harm to the system in the judgment even of its most partial friends, and will even be approved by others who have steadily supported it.
It appears from late foreign intelligence that war is likely to spread its flames still farther among the unfortunate inhabitants of the old world. France is certainly enough occupied already with her internal fermentations. At present the struggle is merely between the Aristocracy and the Monarchy. The only chance in favor of the people lies in the mutual attempts of the Competitors to make their side of the question the popular one. The late measures of the Court have that tendency. The nobility and Clergy who wish to accelerate the States General wish at the same time to have it formed on the antient model established on the feudal idea, which excluded the people almost altogether. The Court has at length agreed to convene this assembly in May, but is endeavouring to counteract the aristocratic policy, by admitting the people to a greater share of representation. In both the parties there are some real friends to liberty who will probably take advantage of circumstances to promote their object. Of this description on the anti court side is our friend the Marquis. It is not true I believe that he is in the Bastile but true that he is in disgrace, as the phrase there is.
New York, October 17, 1788
I have written a number of letters to you since my return here, and shall add this by another casual opportunity just notified to me by Mr. St. John. Your favor of July 31 came to hand the day before yesterday. The pamphlets of the Marquis Condorcet & Mr. Dupont referred to in it have also been received. Your other letters inclosed to the Delegation have been and will be disposed of as you wish; particularly those to Mr Eppes & Col. Lewis.
Nothing has been done on the subject of the outfit, there not having been a Congress of nine States for some time, nor even of seven for the last week. It is pretty certain that there will not again be a quorum of either number within the present year, and by no means certain that there will be one at all under the old Confederation. The Committee finding that nothing could be done have neglected to make a report as yet. I have spoken with a member of it in order to get one made, that the case may fall of course and in a favorable shape within the attention of the New Government. The fear of a precedent will probably lead to an allowance for a limited time of the salary, as enjoyed originally by foreign ministers, in preference to a separate allowance for outfit. One of the members of the treasury board, who ought, if certain facts have not escaped his memory, to witness the reasonableness of your calculations, takes occasion I find to impress a contrary idea. Fortunately his influence will not be a very formidable obstacle to right.
The States which have adopted the New Constitution are all proceeding to the arrangements for putting it into action in March next. Pennsylva. alone has as yet actually appointed deputies & that only for the Senate. My last mention that these were Mr. R. Morris & a Mr. McClay. How the other elections there & elsewhere will run is matter of uncertainty. The Presidency alone unites the conjectures of the public. The vice president is not at all marked out by the general voice. As the President will be from a Southern State, it falls almost of course for the other part of the Continent to supply the next in rank. South Carolina may however think of Mr. Rutledge unless it should be previously discovered that votes will be wasted on him. The only candidates in the Northern States brought forward with their known consent are Handcock and Adams, and between these it seems probable the question will lie. Both of them are objectionable & would I think be postponed by the general suffrage to several others if they would accept the place. Handcock is weak ambitious a courtier of popularity, given to low intrigue, and lately reunited by a factious friendship with S. Adams. J. Adams has made himself obnoxious to many, particularly in the Southern States by the political principles avowed in his book. Others recollecting his cabal during the war against general Washington, knowing his extravagant self-importance, and considering his preference of an unprofitable dignity to some place of emolument better adapted to private fortune as a proof of his having an eye to the presidency, conclude that he would not be a very cordial second to the General, and that an impatient ambition might even intrigue for a premature advancement. The danger would be the greater if particular factious characters, as may be the case, should get into the public councils. Adams it appears, is not unaware of some of the obstacles to his wish, and thro a letterto Smith has thrown out popular sentiments as to the proposed president.
The little pamphlet herewith inclosed will give you a collective view of the alterations which have been proposed for the new Constitution. Various and numerous as they appear they certainly omit many of the true grounds of opposition. The articles relating to Treaties, to paper money, and to contracts, created more enemies than all the errors in the System positive & negative put together. It is true nevertheless that not a few, particularly in Virginia have contended for the proposed alterations from the most honorable & patriotic motives; and that among the advocates for the Constitution there are some who wish for further guards to public liberty & individual rights. As far as these may consist of a constitutional declaration of the most essential rights, it is probable they will be added; though there are many who think such addition unnecessary, and not a few who think it misplaced in such a Constitution. There is scarce any point on which the party in opposition is so much divided as to its importance and its propriety. My own opinion has always been in favor of a bill of rights; provided it be so framed as not to imply powers not meant to be included in the enumeration. At the same time I have never thought the omission a material defect, nor been anxious to supply it even by subsequent amendment, for any other reason than that it is anxiously desired by others. I have favored it because I supposed it might be of use, and if properly executed could not be of disservice. I have not viewed it in an important light—1. because I conceive that in a certain degree, though not in the extent argued by Mr. Wilson, the rights in question are reserved by the manner in which the federal powers are granted. 2 because there is great reason to fear that a positive declaration of some of the most essential rights could not be obtained in the requisite latitude. I am sure that the rights of conscience in particular, if submitted to public definition would be narrowed much more than they are likely ever to be by an assumed power. One of the objections in New England was that the Constitution by prohibiting religious tests, opened a door for Jews Turks & infidels. 3. because the limited powers of the federal Government and the jealousy of the subordinate Governments, afford a security which has not existed in the case of the State Governments, and exists in no other. 4. because experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights on those occasions when its controul is most needed. Repeated violations of these parchment barriers have been committed by overbearing majorities in every State. In Virginia I have seen the bill of rights violated in every instance where it has been opposed to a popular current. Notwithstanding the explicit provision contained in that instrument for the rights of Conscience, it is well known that a religious establishment wd have taken place in that State, if the Legislative majority had found as they expected, a majority of the people in favor of the measure; and I am persuaded that if a majority of the people were now of one sect, the measure would still take place and on narrower ground than was then proposed, notwithstanding the additional obstacle which the law has since created. Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents. This is a truth of great importance, but not yet sufficiently attended to; and is probably more strongly impressed on my mind by facts, and reflections suggested by them, than on yours which has contemplated abuses of power issuing from a very different quarter. Whereever there is an interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done, and not less readily by a powerful & interested party than by a powerful and interested prince. The difference so far as it relates to the superiority of republics over monarchies, lies in the less degree of probability that interest may prompt more abuses of power in the former than in the latter; and in the security in the former agst an oppression of more than the smaller part of the Society, whereas in the former [latter] it may be extended in a manner to the whole. The difference so far as it relates to the point in question—the efficacy of a bill of rights in controuling abuses of power—lies in this: that in a monarchy the latent force of the nation is superior to that of the Sovereign, and a solemn charter of popular rights must have a great effect, as a standard for trying the validity of public acts, and a signal for rousing & uniting the superior force of the community; whereas in a popular Government, the political and physical power may be considered as vested in the same hands, that is in a majority of the people, and, consequently the tyrannical will of the Sovereign is not [to] be controuled by the dread of an appeal to any other force within the community. What use then it may be asked can a bill of rights serve in popular Governments? I answer the two following which, though less essential than in other Governments, sufficiently recommend the precaution: 1. The political truths declared in that solemn manner acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free Government, and as they become incorporated with the national sentiment, counteract the impulses of interest and passion. 2. Altho. it be generally true as above stated that the danger of oppression lies in the interested majorities of the people rather than in usurped acts of the Government, yet there may be occasions on which the evil may spring from the latter source; and on such, a bill of rights will be a good ground for an appeal to the sense of the community. Perhaps too there may be a certain degree of danger, that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers may by gradual & well timed advances, finally erect an independent Government on the subversion of liberty. Should this danger exist at all, it is prudent to guard agst it, especially when the precaution can do no injury. At the same time I must own that I see no tendency in our Governments to danger on that side. It has been remarked that there is a tendency in all Governments to an augmentation of power at the expence of liberty. But the remark as usually understood does not appear to me well founded. Power when it has attained a certain degree of energy and independence goes on generally to further degrees. But when below that degree, the direct tendency is to further degrees of relaxation, until the abuses of liberty beget a sudden transition to an undue degree of power. With this explanation the remark may be true; and in the latter sense only is it, in my opinion applicable to the Governments in America. It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the Government have too much or too little power, and that the line which divides these extremes should be so inaccurately defined by experience.
Supposing a bill of rights to be proper the articles which ought to compose it, admit of much discussion. I am inclined to think that absolute restrictions in cases that are doubtful, or where emergencies may overrule them, ought to be avoided. The restrictions however strongly marked on paper will never be regarded when opposed to the decided sense of the public, and after repeated violations in extraordinary cases they will lose even their ordinary efficacy. Should a Rebellion or insurrection alarm the people as well as the Government, and a suspension of the Hab. Corp. be dictated by the alarm, no written prohibitions on earth would prevent the measure. Should an army in time of peace be gradually established in our neighborhood by Britn. or Spain, declarations on paper would have as little effect in preventing a standing force for the public safety. The best security agst these evils is to remove the pretext for them. With regard to Monopolies, they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in Government. But is it clear that as encouragements to literary works and ingenious discoveries, they are not too valuable to be wholly renounced? Would it not suffice to reserve in all cases a right to the public to abolish the privilege at a price to be specified in the grant of it? Is there not also infinitely less danger of this abuse in our Governments than in most others? Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions. Where the power as with us is in the many not in the few the danger cannot be very great that the few will be thus favored. It is much more to be dreaded that the few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many.
I inclose a paper containing the late proceedings in Kentucky. I wish the ensuing Convention may take no step injurious to the character of the district, and favorable to the views of those who wish ill to the U. States. One of my late letters communicated some circumstances which will not fail to occur on perusing the objects of the proposed Convention in next month. Perhaps however there may be less connection between the two cases than at first one is ready to conjecture.
I am, Dr sir with the sincerest esteem & affectn,