New York, March 29, 1789
My last was committed in December to Mr. Gouverneur Morris. I was then on my way to Virginia. The elections for the new government commenced shortly after my arrival. The first was of Electors, to Ballot for a President and Vice President. The successful candidates were General Wood, Mr. Zachy Johnson, Genl Edward Stephens, Doctor David Stuart, Mr. W. Fitzhugh of Chatham, Mr. Warner Lewis of Gloucester, Mr. Jno. Harvey, Mr. Walk, of or near Norfolk, Mr. Kello of Southampton. These nine were federalists. The remaining three, Mr. Patrick Henry, Mr. Roane of King and Queen, and Mr. Pride of Amelia, were of the adverse party. Two of the former party did not attend. The votes were unanimous with respect to General Washington, as appears to have been the case in each of the States. The secondary votes were given, among the federal members, chiefly to Mr. J. Adams, one or two being thrown away in order to prevent a possible competition for the Presidency. Governor Clinton was the secondary choice of the anti-federal members. In the succeeding election of Representatives, federalism was also proved to be the prevailing sentiment of the people. The successful candidates on this list are Mr. Moore, late of the Executive Council (from Rockingham,) Mr. Alexander White, Mr. Richard Bland Lee, Mr. John Page, (Rosewell,) Mr. Samuel Griffin, Mr. Brown, member of the old Congress, (from Kentucky,) J. Madison, Col. Parker, (late nav. officer at Norfolk,) Col. Isaac Coles, (of Halifax,) and Col. Bland. Of these, the seven first have been on the side of the Constitution; the three last in the opposition. Col. Parker appears to be very temperate, and it is not probable that both the others will be very inveterate. It was my misfortune to be thrown into a contest with our friend, Col. Monroe. The occasion produced considerable efforts among our respective friends. Between ourselves, I have no reason to doubt that the distinction was duly kept in mind between political and personal views, and that it has saved our friendship from the smallest diminution. On one side I am sure it is the case.
Notwithstanding the lapse of time since the birthday of the new Government, (the 4th of March,) I am under the necessity of informing you that a quorum is not yet formed, either in the Senate or House of Representatives. The season of the year, the peculiar badness of the weather, and the short interval between the epoch of election and that of meeting, form a better apology for the delay than will probably occur on your side of the Atlantic. The deficiency at present in the House of Representatives requires two members only for a Quorum, and in the Senate one only. A few days will, therefore, fit the Body for the first step, to wit, opening the Ballots for the President and Vice President. I have already said that General Washington will be the first by a unanimous suffrage. It is held to be certain that Mr. Adams, though refused a great many votes from different motives, will have the second appointment. A considerable delay will be unavoidable, after the ballots are counted, before the President can be on the spot, and, consequently, before any Legislative act can take place. Such a protraction of the inactivity of the Government is to be regretted on many accounts, but most on account of the loss of revenue. A prospect of the Spring importations led to the appointment of the first meeting at a time which, in other respects, was unseasonable.
It is not yet possible to ascertain precisely the complexion of the new Congress. A little time will be necessary to unveil it, and a little will probably suffice. With regard to the Constitution, it is pretty well decided that the disaffected party in the Senate amounts to two or three members only; and that in the other House it does not exceed a very small minority, some of which will also be restrained by the federalism of the States from which they come. Notwithstanding this character of the Body, I hope and expect that some conciliatory sacrifices will be made, in order to extinguish opposition to the system, or at least break the force of it, by detaching the deluded opponents from their designing leaders. With regard to the system of policy to which the Government is capable of rising, and by which its genius will be appreciated, I wait for some experimental instruction. Were I to advance a conjecture, it would be, that the predictions of an antidemocratic operation will be confronted with at least a sufficient number of the features which have marked the State Governments.
Since my arrival here I have received your favor of November 18th. It had been sent on to Virginia; but not reaching Fredericksburg before I passed that place, it followed me back hither. I am much concerned that your scheme of passing the ensuing summer in your native country has been defeated. Mr. Jay, with whom I have conversed on the subject, tells me that his answer to your public letter has explained the impossibility of giving effect to your wishes, no Congress having been formed under the old Confederation since the receipt of your letter, or, indeed, since the expiration of the last federal year. The most that can now be done will be to obtain from the new authority, as early as possible, some act which may leave the matter to your own discretion. Perhaps it may be neither more inconvenient to your private nor to the public affairs to make your visit in the fall instead of the Spring, and to pass the Winter instead of the Summer in America. The same cause on which you are to charge your disappointment in this instance prevented a decision on the question of outfit, stated in one of your former communications.
With some printed papers containing interesting articles, I inclose a manuscript copy of Col. Morgan’s invitation to persons disposed to seek their fortunes on the Spanish side of the Mississippi. There is no doubt that the project has the sanction of Gardoqui. It is a silly one on the part of Spain, and will probably end like the settlements on the Roman side of the Danube, with the concurrence of the declining empire. But it clearly betrays the plan suggested to you in a former letter, of making the Mississippi the bait for a defection of the Western people. Some of the leaders in Kentucky are known to favor the idea of connection with Spain. The people are as yet inimical to it. Their future disposition will depend on the measures of the new Government.
I omitted to mention that a dispute between the Senate of this State, which was federal, and the other branch, which was otherwise, concerning the manner of appointing Senators for the Congress, was so inflexibly persisted in that no appointment was made during the late session, and must be delayed for a considerable time longer, even if the dispute should on a second trial be accommodated. It is supposed by some that the superintending power of Congress will be rendered necessary by the temper of the parties. The provision for the choice of electors was also delayed until the opportunity was lost; and that for the election of Representatives so long delayed that the result will not be decided till tuesday next. It is supposed that at least three out of the six will be of the federal party. In New Jersey, the inaccuracy of the law providing for the choice of Representatives has produced an almost equal delay, and left room for contests, which, if brought by the disappointed candidates into the House, will add a disagreeable article to the list of its business.
I am much obliged for the two estimates on the subject of our foreign debt, and shall turn your ideas to the account which they deserve.
New York, March 19, 1789
On our arrival here we found that the number of Representatives on the spot had been stationary from the second day of the meeting. Mr. Page, Mr. Lee, & myself raised it to 21, and Mr. S. Griffin and Mr. Moore have been since added. The number of attending Senators continues at 8. When a Quorum will be made up in either House rests on vague conjecture, rather than on any precise information. It is not improbable I think that the present week will supply the deficiency in one, if not in both of them. The States most convenient, are among the defaulters. It will not be known, I am told, in this State, who the Representatives are, till some time next month. The federal party calculate on an equal division of the six. Mr. Lawrence for the City district, Mr. Floyd for the Long Island district, and Mr. Benson for a third. In New Jersey the election has been conducted in a very singular manner. The law having fixed no time expressly for closing the polls, they have been kept open three or four weeks in some of the Counties, by a rival jealousy between the Eastern & Western divisions of the State, and it seems uncertain when they would have been closed if the Governor had not interposed by fixing on a day for receiving the returns, and proclaiming the successful candidates. The day is passed, but I have not heard the result. The Western ticket in favor of Skureman, Boudinot, Cadwallader, & Sennickson if this be the name, is supposed to have prevailed; but an impeachment of the election by the unsuccessful competitors has been talked of. Two of the Representatives from Massachusetts, are also unknown to us. In one of the districts, it is supposed that a disaffected man has prevailed.
An English Packet has been long expected, and is not yet arrived. The state of foreign news remains of consequence little altered. The accounts of latest date through other channels shew that the progress in France towards a Constitutional establishment, is unchecked, and that a coalition between the King and the Commons agst the Nobility & Clergy, will direct the innovations.
With respectful Compliments to Mrs. Washington & the rest of the family, I am Dear Sir truly & affecty Yr Obedt Servt.
Paris, March 18, 1789
—Your favor of Nov. 29, 1788, came to hand the last month. How it happened that mine of Aug. 1787, was fourteen months on it’s way is inconceivable. I do not recollect by what conveyance I sent it. I had concluded however either that it had miscarried or that you had become indolent as most of our countrymen are in matters of correspondence.
The change in this country since you left it is such as you can form no idea of. The frivolities of conversation have given way entirely to politics. Men, women & children talk nothing else: and all you know talk a great deal. The press groans with daily productions, which in point of boldness make an Englishman stare, who hitherto has thought himself the boldest of men. A complete revolution in this government has, within the space of two years (for it began with the Notables of 1787) been effected merely by the force of public opinion, aided indeed by the want of money which the dissipations of the court had brought on. And this revolution has not cost a single life, unless we charge to it a little riot lately in Bretagne which began about the price of bread, became afterwards political and ended in the loss of 4. or 5. lives. The assembly of the states general begins the 27th of April. The representation of the people will be perfect. But they will be alloyed by an equal number of nobility & clergy. The first great question they will have to decide will be whether they shall vote by orders or persons, & I have hopes that the majority of the nobles are already disposed to join the tiers etat in deciding that the vote shall be by persons. This is the opinion à la mode at present, and mode has acted a wonderful part in the present instance. All the handsome young women, for example, are for the tiers etat, and this is an army more powerful in France than the 200,000 men of the king. Add to this that the court itself is for the tiers etat, as the only agent which can relieve their wants; not by giving money themselves (they are squeezed to the last drop) but by pressing it from the non-contributing orders. The king stands engaged to pretend no more to the power of laying, continuing or appropriating taxes, to call the States general periodically, to submit lettres de cachet to legal restrictions, to consent to freedom of the press, and that all this shall be fixed by a fundamental constitution which shall bind his successors. He has not offered a participation in the legislature, but it will surely be insisted on. The public mind is so ripened on all these subjects, that there seems to be now but one opinion. The clergy indeed think separately, & the old men among the Nobles. But their voice is suppressed by the general one of the nation. The writings published on this occasion are some of them very valuable: because, unfettered by the prejudices under which the English labour, they give a full scope to reason, and strike out truths as yet unperceived & unacknoleged on the other side the channel. An Englishman, dosing under a kind of half reformation, is not excited to think by such gross absurdities as stare a Frenchman in the face wherever he looks whether it be towards the throne or the altar. In fine I believe this nation will in the course of the present year have as full a portion of liberty dealt out to them as the nation can bear at present, considering how uninformed the mass of their people is. This circumstance will prevent their immediate establishment of the trial by jury. The palsied state of the executive in England is a fortunate circumstance for France, as it will give them time to arrange their affairs internally. The consolidation & funding their debts will give them a credit which will enable them to do what they please. For the present year the war will be confined to the two empires & Denmark, against Turkey & Sweden. It is not yet evident whether Prussia will be engaged. If the disturbances of Poland break out into overt acts, it will be a power divided in itself, & so of no weight. Perhaps by the next year England & France may be ready to take the field. It will depend on the former principally, for the latter, tho she may be then able, must wish still a little time to see her new arrangements well under way. The English papers & English ministry say the king is well. He is better, but not well: no malady requires a longer time to ensure against its return, than insanity. Time alone can distinguish accidental insanity from habitual lunacy.
The operations which have taken place in America lately, fill me with pleasure. In the first place they realize the confidence I had that whenever our affairs go obviously wrong the good sense of the people will interpose and set them to rights. The example of changing a constitution by assembling the wise men of the State, instead of assembling armies, will be worth as much to the world as the former examples we had given them. The constitution too which was the result of our deliberations, is unquestionably the wisest ever yet presented to men, and some of the accommodations of interest which it has adopted are greatly pleasing to me who have before had occasions of seeing how difficult those interests were to accommodate. A general concurrence of opinion seems to authorize us to say it has some defects. I am one of those who think it a defect that the important rights not placed in security by the frame of the constitution itself were not explicitly secured by a supplementary declaration. There are rights which it is useless to surrender to the government, and which governments have yet always been fond to invade. These are the rights of thinking, and publishing our thoughts by speaking or writing; the right of free commerce; the right of personal freedom. There are instruments for administering the government, so peculiarly trust-worthy, that we should never leave the legislature at liberty to change them. The new constitution has secured these in the executive & legislative departments; but not in the judiciary. It should have established trials by the people themselves, that is to say by jury. There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation, and which place them so totally at the mercy of their governors, that those governors, whether legislative or executive, should be restrained from keeping such instruments on foot, but in well-defined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army. We are now allowed to say such a declaration of rights, as a supplement to the constitution where that is silent, is wanting to secure us in these points. The general voice has legitimated this objection. It has not however authorized me to consider as a real defect what I thought and still think one, the perpetual re-eligibility of the president. But three states out of 11. having declared against this, we must suppose we are wrong according to the fundamental law of every society, the lex majoris partis, to which we are bound to submit. And should the majority change their opinion, & become sensible that this trait in their constitution is wrong, I would wish it to remain uncorrected, as long as we can avail ourselves of the services of our great leader, whose talents and whose weight of character I consider as peculiarly necessary to get the government so under way as that it may afterwards be carried on by subordinate characters.
I must give you sincere thanks for the details of small news contained in your letter. You know how precious that kind of information is to a person absent from his country, and how difficult it is to be procured. I hope to receive soon permission to visit America this summer, and to possess myself anew, by conversation with my countrymen, of their spirits & their ideas. I know only the Americans of the year 1784. They tell me this is to be much a stranger to those of 1789. This renewal of acquaintance is no indifferent matter to one acting at such a distance as that instructions cannot be received hot and hot. One of my pleasures too will be that of talking over the old & new with you.
Paris, March 15, 1789
—I wrote you last on the 12th of Jan. since which I have received yours of Octob 17, Dec 8 & 12. That of Oct. 17. came to hand only Feb 23. How it happened to be four months on the way, I cannot tell, as I never knew by what hand it came. Looking over my letter of Jan 12th, I remark an error of the word “probable” instead of “improbable,” which doubtless however you had been able to correct. Your thoughts on the subject of the Declaration of rights in the letter of Oct 17. I have weighed with great satisfaction. Some of them had not occurred to me before, but were acknoleged just in the moment they were presented to my mind. In the arguments in favor of a declaration of rights, you omit one which has great weight with me, the legal check which it puts into the hands of the judiciary. This is a body, which if rendered independent & kept strictly to their own department merits great confidence for their learning & integrity. In fact what degree of confidence would be too much for a body composed of such men as Wythe, Blair & Pendleton? On characters like these the “civium ardor prava jubentium” would make no impression. I am happy to find that on the whole you are a friend to this amendment. The Declaration of rights is like all other human blessings alloyed with some inconveniences, and not accomplishing fully it’s object. But the good in this instance vastly overweighs the evil. I cannot refrain from making short answers to the objections which your letter states to have been raised. 1. That the rights in question are reserved by the manner in which the federal powers are granted. Answer. A constitutive act may certainly be so formed as to need no declaration of rights. The act itself has the force of a declaration as far as it goes; and if it goes to all material points nothing more is wanting. In the draught of a constitution which I had once a thought of proposing in Virginia, & printed afterwards, I endeavored to reach all the great objects of public liberty, and did not mean to add a declaration of rights. Probably the object was imperfectly executed; but the deficiencies would have been supplied by others, in the course of discussion. But in a constitutive act which leaves some precious articles unnoticed, and raises implications against others, a declaration of rights becomes necessary by way of supplement. This is the case of our new federal constitution. This instrument forms us into one state as to certain objects, and gives us a legislative & executive body for these objects. It should therefore guard us against their abuses of power within the field submitted to them. 2. A positive declaration of some essential rights could not be obtained in the requisite latitude. Answer. Half a loaf is better than no bread. If we cannot secure all our rights, let us secure what we can. 3. The limited powers of the federal government & jealousy of the subordinate governments afford a security which exists in no other instance. Answer. The first member of this seems resolvable into the first objection before stated. The jealousy of the subordinate governments is a precious reliance. But observe that those governments are only agents. They must have principles furnished them whereon to found their opposition. The declaration of rights will be the text whereby they will try all the acts of the federal government. In this view it is necessary to the federal government also; as by the same text they may try the opposition of the subordinate governments. 4. Experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights. True. But tho it is not absolutely efficacious under all circumstances, it is of great potency always, and rarely inefficacious. A brace the more will often keep up the building which would have fallen with that brace the less. There is a remarkable difference between the characters of the Inconveniences which attend a Declaration of rights, & those which attend the want of it. The inconveniences of the Declaration are that it may cramp government in it’s useful exertions. But the evil of this is short-lived, trivial & reparable. The inconveniences of the want of a Declaration are permanent, afflicting & irreparable. They are in constant progression from bad to worse. The executive in our governments is not the sole, it is scarcely the principal object of my jealousy. The tyranny of the legislatures is the most formidable dread at present, and will be for long years. That of the executive will come in it’s turn, but it will be at a remote period. I know there are some among us who would now establish a monarchy. But they are inconsiderable in number and weight of character. The rising race are all republicans. We were educated in royalism; no wonder if some of us retain that idolatry still. Our young people are educated in republicanism, an apostasy from that to royalism is unprecedented & impossible. I am much pleased with the prospect that a declaration of rights will be added; and hope it will be done in that way which will not endanger the whole frame of the government, or any essential part of it.
I have hitherto avoided public news in my letters to you, because your situation insured you a communication of my letters to Mr. Jay. This circumstance being changed, I shall in future indulge myself in these details to you. There had been some slight hopes that an accommodation might be affected between the Turks & two empires but these hopes do not strengthen, and the season is approaching which will put an end to them for another campaign at least. The accident to the King of England has had great influence on the affairs of Europe. His mediation joined with that of Prussia, would certainly have kept Denmark quiet, and so have left the two empires in the hands of the Turks & Swedes. But the inactivity to which England is reduced, leaves Denmark more free, and she will probably go on in opposition to Sweden. The K. of Prussia too had advanced so far that he can scarcely retire. This is rendered the more difficult by the troubles he has excited in Poland. He cannot well abandon the party he had brought forward there so that it is very possible he may be engaged in the ensuing campaign. France will be quiet this year, because this year at least is necessary for settling her future constitution. The States will meet the 27th of April: and the public mind will I think by that time be ripe for a just decision of the Question whether they shall vote by orders or persons. I think there is a majority of the nobles already for the latter. If so, their affairs cannot but go on well. Besides settling for themselves a tolerably free constitution, perhaps as free a one as the nation is yet prepared to bear, they will fund their public debts. This will give them such a credit as will enable them to borrow any money they may want, & of course to take the field again when they think proper. And I believe they mean to take the field as soon as they can. The pride of every individual in the nation suffers under the ignominies they have lately been exposed to and I think the states general will give money for a war to wipe off the reproach. There have arisen new bickerings between this court & the Hague, and the papers which have passed shew the most bitter acrimony rankling at the heart of this ministry. They have recalled their ambassador from the Hague without appointing a successor. They have given a note to the Diet of Poland which shews a disapprobation of their measures. The insanity of the King of England has been fortunate for them as it gives them time to put their house in order. The English papers tell you the King is well: and even the English ministry say so. They will naturally set the best foot foremost: and they guard his person so well that it is difficult for the public to contradict them. The King is probably better, but not well by a great deal. 1. He has been bled, and judicious physicians say that in his exhausted state nothing could have induced a recurrence to bleeding but symptoms of relapse. 2. The Prince of Wales tells the Irish deputation he will give them a definitive answer in some days; but if the king had been well he could have given it at once. 3. They talk of passing a standing law for providing a regency in similar cases. They apprehend then they are not yet clear of the danger of wanting a regency. 4. They have carried the king to church; but it was his private chapel. If he be well why do not they shew him publicly to the nation, & raise them from that consternation into which they have been thrown by the prospect of being delivered over to the profligate hands of the prince of Wales. In short, judging from little facts which are known in spite of their teeth the King is better, but not well. Possibly he is getting well, but still, time will be wanting to satisfy even the ministry that it is not merely a lucid interval. Consequently they cannot interrupt France this year in the settlement of her affairs, & after this year it will be too late.
As you will be in a situation to know when the leave of absence will be granted me, which I have asked, will you be so good as to communicate it by a line to Mr. Lewis & Mr. Eppes? I hope to see you in the summer, and that if you are not otherwise engaged, you will encamp with me at Monticello for awhile.
Paris, March 13, 1789
— You say that I have been dished up to you as an antifederalist, and ask me if it be just. My opinion was never worthy enough of notice to merit citing; but since you ask it I will tell it you. I am not a Federalist, because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all. Therefore I protest to you I am not of the party of federalists. But I am much farther from that of the Antifederalists. I approved, from the first moment, of the great mass of what is in the new constitution, the consolidation of the government, the organization into Executive legislative & judiciary, the subdivision of the legislative, the happy compromise of interests between the great & little states by the different manner of voting in the different houses, the voting by persons instead of states, the qualified negative on laws given to the Executive which however I should have liked better if associated with the judiciary also as in New York, and the power of taxation. I thought at first that the latter might have been limited. A little reflection soon convinced me it ought not to be. What I disapproved from the first moment also was the want of a bill of rights to guard liberty against the legislative as well as executive branches of the government, that is to say to secure freedom in religion, freedom of the press, freedom from monopolies, freedom from unlawful imprisonment, freedom from a permanent military, and a trial by jury in all cases determinable by the laws of the land. I disapproved also the perpetual reeligibility of the President. To these points of disapprobation I adhere. My first wish was that the 9. first conventions might accept the constitution, as the means of securing to us the great mass of good it contained, and that the 4. last might reject it, as the means of obtaining amendments. But I was corrected in this wish the moment I saw the much better plan of Massachusetts and which had never occurred to me. With respect to the declaration of rights I suppose the majority of the United States are of my opinion: for I apprehend all the antifederalists, and a very respectable proportion of the federalists think that such a declaration should now be annexed. The enlightened part of Europe have given us the greatest credit for inventing this instrument of security for the rights of the people, and have been not a little surprised to see us so soon give it up. With respect to the re-eligibility of the president, I find myself differing from the majority of my countrymen, for I think there are but three states out of the 11. which have desired an alteration of this. And indeed, since the thing is established, I would wish it not to be altered during the life of our great leader, whose executive talents are superior to those I believe of any man in the world, and who alone by the authority of his name and the confidence reposed in his perfect integrity, is fully qualified to put the new government so under way as to secure it against the efforts of opposition. But having derived from our error all the good there was in it I hope we shall correct it the moment we can no longer have the same name at the helm. These, my dear friend, are my sentiments, by which you will see I was right in saying I am neither federalist nor antifederalist; that I am of neither party, nor yet a trimmer between parties. These my opinions I wrote within a few hours after I had read the constitution, to one or two friends in America. I had not then read one single word printed on the subject. I never had an opinion in politics or religion which I was afraid to own. A costive reserve on these subjects might have procured me more esteem from some people, but less from myself. My great wish is to go on in a strict but silent performance of my duty; to avoid attracting notice & to keep my name out of newspapers, because I find the pain of a little censure, even when it is unfounded, is more acute than the pleasure of much praise. The attaching circumstance of my present office is that I can do it’s duties unseen by those for whom they are done.—You did not think, by so short a phrase in your letter, to have drawn on yourself such an egotistical dissertation.
Philadelphia, March 8, 1789
We arrived here yesterday evening where we have met with Mr. Dawson just from New York. When he left it, 18 representatives and 8 senators had assembled. It is not certain when the deficiencies will be made up. The most favorable conjectures postpone it to Monday se’nnight. The members attending are chiefly from the Eastward. I do not learn that a single member, except Mr. White is from a State South of Pennsylva; unless, indeed, Dr Tucker is to be included in the exception. The N. Jersey Reps are not yet announced. Mr. Clarke it is supposed will be one, Mr. Cadwallader, Mr. Boudinot, and Mr. Skureman, are talked of as the others.
I find that the communication made you from Kentucky corresponds with an official letter to Congs from Govr. St. Clair, which speaks of the same emissary, and the same errand. Notice has been transmitted of the affair to the Executive of Virga, in order that regular steps may be taken, if sufficient ground be afforded, for apprehending the incendiary. The project of G. M.1 for establishing a Colony beyond the Mississippi is also going on. It is the opinion of Mr. Brown, as explained to Mr. Griffin, that emigrations to the Spanish territory will be enticed from Kentucky, as rapidly, as the allurements of the latter place have obtained them from the Atlantic States. All these circumstances point out the conduct which the New Govt ought to pursue with regard to the Western Country & Spain.
I dropped you a few lines from Baltimore mentioning the unanimity of the Electoral Votes of S. Carola & Georgia for a Presid, & the manner in which the Secondary votes were disposed of.
I am Dr Sir Yr truly Affecte.
March 4, 1789
My Dear Friend,—
I find, on inquiry, that you are elected Vice-President, having three or four times the number of votes of any other candidate। Maryland threw away their votes on Colonel Harrison, and South Carolina on Governor Rutledge, being, with some other States which were not unanimous for you, apprehensive that this was a necessary step to prevent your election to the chair. In this point they were mistaken, for the President, as I am informed from pretty good authority, has a unanimous vote. It is the universal wish of all that I have conferred with, and indeed their expectation, that both General Washington and yourself will accept; and should either refuse, it will have a very disagreeable effect. The members present met to-day in the City Hall; there being about eleven senators and thirteen representatives, and not constituting a quorum in either house, they adjourned till to-morrow.
Mrs. Gerry and the ladies join me in sincere regards to yourself, your lady, Colonel and Mrs. Smith; and be assured, I remain, &c.
Labels: Works of John Adams
Paris, March 4, 1789
—My last to you was of the 25th of December. Tho’ the establishment of packet boats with you, and suppression of them with us, puts it in your power perhaps to give me better details of American affairs than I can you, I shall nevertheless continue to communicate to you what I know, persuaded it is better you should hear a thing twice than not hear it at all.
I mentioned to you in my last that the Convention of Virginia had proposed to Congress the method of amending by Congress & the assemblies. Since that the assembly of that state, a much more anti-federal body, has proposed the other method of amendment by a federal convention. But this will not take. The elections for the new Congress are almost universally federal, which proves the people in general to be so. The following is a list of the federal Senate so far as Notice of the elections have reached me. 1. N. Hampshire Presidt. Langdon & Judge Bartlett. 2. Massachusetts, Strong & Dalton. 3. Connecticut Dr. Johnson & Elsworth. 4. N. Jersey. Patterson & Elmer. 5. Pennsylvania. R. H. Morris & McClurg. 6. Delaware. Reed & Basset. 7. Virginia. R. H. Lee & Grayson. 8. Maryland Chas. Carroll of Carrolton, & John Henry. It is thought Mr Izard will be one from S. Carolina. Genl. Schuyler is expected for N. York, but as late as the 10th. of January that assembly had not yet been able to agree on Senators. I hear nothing from Georgia. N. Carolina has fixed a day for another convention, but a very distant one. It is the anti-federalism of Virginia which levens the mass. Rhode island has again refused to call a convention. Genl. Washington, tho’ with vast reluctance, will undertake the presidency if called to it, & there was no doubt he would be so called. The only candidates for the vice presidency, with their own consent, are Mr. Hancock and Mr. J. Adams. The latter, it was thought, would be chosen. The friends of the new constitution agree pretty generally to add a declaration of rights to it, and the opposition becomes daily weaker, so that the government, confided generally to friendly hands, and gaining on the esteem of the nation, begins this very day, under the most auspicious appearances.
The revolution in this country seems to be going on well. In Burgundy & Franche compté indeed there is great stubbornness in the privileged orders, and in Bretagne they have proceeded to blows, which however are stopped for the present. In the west of the Kingdom it seems as if the rights of the tiers etat would be acknoleged and by a majority of the nobles. The circumstance from which I fear the worst is that the States general are too numerous. I see great difficulty in preventing 1200 people from becoming a mob. Should confusion be prevented from this circumstance, I suppose the states general, with the consent of the King, will establish some of the leading features of a good constitution. They have indeed a miserable old canvas to work on, covered with daubings which it will be difficult to efface. But some they will efface, & some soften, so as to make a tolerable thing of it, perhaps a good one. The war in the North is likely to spread: & the King of England seems recovering his senses. But time will be requisite to shew whether it be a lucid interval only, whether it be permanent, or whether it be anything more than a recovery from insanity to imbecility which is the most ordinary case. In either event, time is necessary to give such confidence in his state of mind, as that his Ministers may venture to take a part in the war; and that time will suffice to enable this nation to arrange it’s internal affairs so solidly as to put them more in condition, than ever they were at any period of their history, to act the part they may chuse in foreign affairs. How happy is it for us that we are beyond the reach of those storms which are eternally desolating Europe. We have indeed a neighbor with whom misunderstandings are possible: but they must be the effect of interests ill calculated. Nothing is more demonstrable than is the unity of their & our interest for ages to come.
I have had a letter from Admiral Paul Jones dated St. Petersburgh Jan. 31. He was well and just arrived there on the call of the Empress. He has commanded on the Black Sea during the last campaign, but does not know where he is to act the ensuing one.—My last accounts from Lediard (another bold countryman of ours) were from Grand Cairo. He was just then plunging into the unknown regions of Africa, probably never to emerge again. If he returns, he has promised me to go to America and penetrate from Kentucke to the Western side of the Continent. I do not know whether you are informed that in the years 1787–1788. he went from here bound for Kamschatka, to cross over thence to the Western coast of our continent & pass through to the Eastern one. He was arrested par ordre superieure within two or three days journey of Kamschatka, conveyed back to the confines of Poland, & there turned adrift. He arrived here last June, & immediately set out for Africa. I received some time ago a very interesting history del luxo de España, and the charming poems of M. Yriarte, tho’ they have not been mentioned in any of your letters I presume it is you I am to thank for them, which I do very cordially. I know nothing, since my last, more precise on the time of my departure, but I think it would be better you should address no letters to me at this place which may arrive between the middle of April & November. Mr. Short will transact the business of the legation during my absence, as I expect.
Alexandria, March 1, 1789
My dear friend,
This is the first convenient opportunity I have had for dropping you a line since I last came into the State. Your sanction to my remaining in N. York during the crisis of the elections, conveyed through Col. Carrington, never came to hand till I had arrived in Orange. It coincided so fully with my inclination, and indeed with my judgment, that had it been received in due time, I do not know but I should have disregarded all the pressing exhortations which stood opposed to your opinion. I am persuaded however that my appearance in the district was more necessary to my election than you then calculated. In truth it has been evinced by the experiment, that my absence would have left a room for the calumnies of antifederal partizans which would have defeated much better pretensions than mine. In Culpeper which was the critical County, a continued attention was necessary to repel the multiplied fasehoods which circulated. Whether I ought to be satisfied or displeased with my success, I shall hereafter be more able to judge. My present anticipations are not flattering. I see on the lists of Representatives a very scanty proportion who will share in the drudgery of business. And I foresee contentions first between federal and antifederal parties, and then between Northern & Southern Parties, which give additional disagreeableness to the prospect. Should the State Elections give an antifederal colour to the Legislatures, which from causes not antifederal in the people, may well happen, difficulties will again start up in this quarter, which may have a still more serious aspect on the Congressional proceedings.
In my last or one of my last letters was inclosed a Quere from Mr. St. John the French Consul at New York, relating to the law here which regulates the recording of deeds &c. As I shall on my return be applied to for an answer, I will thank you for the proper one as soon as your leisure will allow.
I shall go on from this tomorrow. On my arrival I shall attend as far as I can to whatever may deserve your perusal. Besides the private satisfaction which I shall have in the continuance of our correspondence, I promise myself the benefit of your suggestions on public subjects.
Present me respectfully to Mrs. R. and rely on the Affection with which I remain, Yrs truly.
As your neighborhood gives you frequent interviews with the Presidt of Wm & Mary, remind him of my best regards for him.