New York, September 25, 1789

Dear Sir,—

The duplicate, via Charleston, of your letter of the thirtieth of August, never reached my hand till a day or two before the nomination took place to the office of judge of the district of Georgia. As I had the pleasure and advantage of a particular acquaintance with yourself, and the misfortune to know nothing at all, but by a very distant and general reputation, of the gentleman nominated, I should have been ill qualified to make an impartial decision between the candidates. I feel upon all occasions, I own, a particular pleasure in the appointment to office of gentlemen who are now well affected to the national constitution, who had some experience in life before the revolution, and took an active part in the course and conduct of it.

Union, peace, and liberty to North America, are the objects to which I have devoted my life, and I believe them to be as dear to you as to me. I reckon among my friends all who are in the communion of such sentiments, though they may differ in their opinion of the means of obtaining those ends. I will not say that an energetic government is the only means; but I will hazard an opinion, that a well-ordered, a well-balanced, a judiciously-limited government, is indispensably necessary to the preservation of all or either of those blessings. If the poor are to domineer over the rich, or the rich over the poor, we shall never enjoy the happiness of good government; and without an intermediate power, sufficiently elevated and independent to control each of the contending parties in its excesses, one or the other will forever tyrannize. Gentlemen who had some experience before the revolution, and recollect the general fabric of the government under which they were born and educated, and who are not too much carried away by temporary popular politics, are generally of this opinion. But whether prejudice will not prevail over reason, passion over judgment, and declamation over sober inquiry, is yet to be determined.
I am, &c.

John Adams.

(Source: http://oll.libertyfund.org/)

New York, September 23, 1789

Dear Sir,

The affectionate congratulations on the recovery of my health and the warm expressions of personal friendship which were contained in your favor of the 16th. instant, claim my gratitude. And the consideration that it was written when you were afflicted with a painful malady, greatly increases my obligation for it.

Would to God, my dear Sir, that I could congratulate you upon the removal of that excruciating pain under which you labour! and that your existence might close with as much ease to yourself, as its continuance has been beneficial to our Country and useful to Mankind. Or, if the united wishes of a free people, joined with the earnest prayers of every friend to science and humanity could relieve the body from pains or infirmities, you could claim an exemption on this score. But this cannot be, and you have within yourself the only resource to which we can confidently apply for relief—a philosophic mind.

If to be venerated for benevolence, if to be admired for talents, if to be esteemed for patriotism, if to be beloved for philanthropy can gratify the human mind, you must have the pleasing consolation to know that you have not lived in vain; and I flatter myself that it will not be ranked among the least grateful occurrences of your life to be assured that so long as I retain my Memory, you will be thought on with respect, veneration and affection by Dear Sir Your sincere friend and Obedient Humble Servant

G. Washington

(Source: http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/)

September 17, 1789

Gentlemen of the Senate.

It doubtless is important that all treaties and compacts formed by the United States with other nations, whether civilized or not, should be made with caution and executed with fidelity.

It is said to be the general understanding and practice of nations, as a check on the mistakes and indiscretions of ministers or commissioners, not to consider any treaty negotiated and signed by such officers as final and conclusive until ratified by the sovereign or government from whom they derive their powers. This practice has been adopted by the United States respecting their treaties with European nations, and I am inclined to think it would be advisable to observe it in the conduct of our treaties with the Indians; for though such treaties, being on their part made by their chiefs or rulers, need not be ratified by them, yet, being formed on our part by the agency of subordinate officers, it seems to be both prudent and reasonable that their acts should not be binding on the nation until approved and ratified by the Government. It strikes me that this point should be well considered and settled, so that our national proceedings in this respect may become uniform and be directed by fixed and stable principles.

The treaties with certain Indian nations, which were laid before you with my message of the 25th May last, suggested two questions to my mind, viz: First, whether those treaties were to be considered as perfected and consequently as obligatory without being ratified. If not, then secondly, whether both or either, and which, of them ought to be ratified. On these questions I request your opinion and advice.

You have, indeed, advised me "to execute and enjoin an observance of " the treaty with the Wyandottes, etc. You, gentlemen, doubtless intended to be clear and explicit, and yet, without further explanation, I fear I may misunderstand your meaning, for if by my executing that treaty you mean that I should make it (in a more particular and immediate manner than it now is) the act of Government, then it follows that I am to ratify it. If you mean by my executing it that I am to see that it be carried into effect and operation, then I am led to conclude either that you consider it as being perfect and obligatory in its present state, and therefore to be executed and observed, or that you consider it as to derive its completion and obligation from the silent approbation and ratification which my proclamation may be construed to imply. Although I am inclined to think that the latter is your intention, yet it certainly is best that all doubts respecting it be removed.

Permit me to observe that it will be proper for me to be informed of your sentiments relative to the treaty with the Six Nations previous to the departure of the governor of the Western territory, and therefore I recommend it to your early consideration.

Go WASHINTON

(Source: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/presiden/washpap.htm)

August 7, 1789

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH AN EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, TO BE DENOMINATED THE DEPARTMENT OF WAR

[I] BE IT ENACTED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED, that there shall be an executive department, to be denominated, The department of War, and that there shall be a principal Officer therein, to be called the Secretary for the department of War, who shall perform and execute such duties as shall from time to time be enjoined in, or intrusted to him, by the President of the United States, agreeably to the Constitution, relative to Military Commissions, or to the land or naval forces, ship, or warlike stores of the United States, or to such other matters respecting Military or Naval Affairs, as the President of the United States shall assign to the said department, or relative to the granting of lands to persons entitled thereto, for Military Services rendered to the United States, or relative to Indian Affairs: And furthermore, that the said principal Officer, shall conduct the business of the said department, in such matter as the President of the United States shall from time to time, order or instruct.

[2] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED that there shall be in the said department, an inferior officer, to be appointed by the said principal Officer, to be employed therein as he shall deem proper, and to be called the Chief Clerk in the department of War, and who, whenever the said principal Officer shall be removed from Office by the President of the United States, or in any other case of vacancy, shall during such vacancy, have the charge and custody of all records, books, and papers, appertaining to the said department.

[3] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that the said principal Officer, and every other person to be appointed or employed in the said department, shall before he enters on the execution of his Office or employment, take an oath or afffirmation, well and faithfully to execute the trust committed to him.

[4] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that the Secretary for the department of War to be appointed in consequence of this Act, shall forthwith after his [Page 2029] appointment, be entitled to have the custody and charge of all records, books and papers, in the Office of Secretary for the department of War, heretofore established by the United States in Congress assembled.

FREDERICK AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG
Speaker of the House of Representatives

JOHN ADAMS
Vice President of the United States, and
President of the Senate

Approved August the Seventh 1789

GO. WASHINGTON
President of the United States

Paris, September 6, 1789

Dear Sir,

—I sit down to write to you without knowing by what occasion I shall send my letter. I do it because a subject comes into my head which I would wish to develope a little more than is practicable in the hurry of the moment of making up general despatches.

The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here on the elementary principles of society has presented this question to my mind; and that no such obligation can be transmitted I think very capable of proof. I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, “that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;” that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by any individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of its lands in severalty, it will be taken by the first occupants. These will generally be the wife and children of the decedent. If they have formed rules of appropriation, those rules may give it to the wife and children, or to some one of them, or to the legatee of the deceased. So they may give it to his creditor. But the child, the legatee or creditor takes it, not by any natural right, but by a law of the society of which they are members, and to which they are subject. Then no man can by natural right oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeed him in that occupation, to the paiment of debts contracted by him. For if he could, he might during his own life, eat up the usufruct of the lands for several generations to come, and then the lands would belong to the dead, and not to the living, which would be reverse of our principle. What is true of every member of the society individually, is true of them all collectively, since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of individuals. To keep our ideas clear when applying them to a multitude, let us suppose a whole generation of men to be born on the same day, to attain mature age on the same day, and to die on the same day, leaving a succeeding generation in the moment of attaining their mature age all together. Let the ripe age be supposed of 21. years, and their period of life 34. years more, that being the average term given by the bills of mortality to persons who have already attained 21. years of age. Each successive generation would, in this way, come on and go off the stage at a fixed moment, as individuals do now. Then I say the earth belongs to each of these generations during it’s course, fully, and in their own right. The 2d. generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the 1st., the 3d. of the 2d. and so on. For if the 1st. could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not the living generation. Then no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of it’s own existence. At 21. years of age they may bind themselves and their lands for 34. years to come: at 22. for 33: at 23 for 32. and at 54 for one year only; because these are the terms of life which remain to them at those respective epochs. But a material difference must be noted between the succession of an individual and that of a whole generation. Individuals are parts only of a society, subject to the laws of a whole. These laws may appropriate the portion of land occupied by a decedent to his creditor rather than to any other, or to his child, on condition he satisfies his creditor. But when a whole generation, that is, the whole society dies, as in the case we have supposed, and another generation or society succeeds, this forms a whole, and there is no superior who can give their territory to a third society, who may have lent money to their predecessors beyond their faculty of paying.

What is true of a generation all arriving to self-government on the same day, and dying all on the same day, is true of those on a constant course of decay and renewal, with this only difference. A generation coming in and going out entire, as in the first case, would have a right in the 1st year of their self dominion to contract a debt for 33. years, in the 10th. for 24. in the 20th. for 14. in the 30th. for 4. whereas generations changing daily, by daily deaths and births, have one constant term beginning at the date of their contract, and ending when a majority of those of full age at that date shall be dead. The length of that term may be estimated from the tables of mortality, corrected by the circumstances of climate, occupation &c. peculiar to the country of the contractors. Take, for instance, the table of M. de Buffon wherein he states 23,994 deaths, and the ages at which they happened. Suppose a society in which 23,994 persons are born every year and live to the ages stated in this table. The conditions of that society will be as follows. 1st. it will consist constantly of 617,703 persons of all ages. 2dly. of those living at any one instant of time, one half will be dead in 24. years 8. months. 3dly. 10,675 will arrive every year at the age of 21. years complete. 4thly. it will constantly have 348,417 persons of all ages above 21. years. 5ly. and the half of those of 21. years and upwards living at any one instant of time will be dead in 18. years 8. months, or say 19. years as the nearest integral number. Then 19. years is the term beyond which neither the representatives of a nation, nor even the whole nation itself assembled, can validly extend a debt.

To render this conclusion palpable by example, suppose that Louis XIV. and XV. had contracted debts in the name of the French nation to the amount of 10.000 milliards of livres and that the whole had been contracted in Genoa. The interest of this sum would be 500 milliards, which is said to be the whole rent-roll, or nett proceeds of the territory of France. Must the present generation of men have retired from the territory in which nature produced them, and ceded it to the Genoese creditors? No. They have the same rights over the soil on which they were produced, as the preceding generations had. They derive these rights not from their predecessors, but from nature. They then and their soil are by nature clear of the debts of their predecessors. Again suppose Louis XV. and his contemporary generation had said to the money lenders of Genoa, give us money that we may eat, drink, and be merry in our day; and on condition you will demand no interest till the end of 19. years, you shall then forever after receive an annual interest of1 125. per cent. The money is lent on these conditions, is divided among the living, eaten, drank, and squandered. Would the present generation be obliged to apply the produce of the earth and of their labour to replace their dissipations? Not at all.

I suppose that the received opinion, that the public debts of one generation devolve on the next, has been suggested by our seeing habitually in private life that he who succeeds to lands is required to pay the debts of his ancestor or testator, without considering that this requisition is municipal only, not moral, flowing from the will of the society which has found it convenient to appropriate the lands become vacant by the death of their occupant on the condition of a paiment of his debts; but that between society and society, or generation and generation there is no municipal obligation, no umpire but the law of nature. We seem not to have perceived that, by the law of nature, one generation is to another as one independant nation to another.

The interest of the national debt of France being in fact but a two thousandth part of it’s rent-roll, the paiment of it is practicable enough; and so becomes a question merely of honor or expediency. But with respect to future debts; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19. years? And that all future contracts shall be deemed void as to what shall remain unpaid at the end of 19. years from their date? This would put the lenders, and the borrowers also, on their guard. By reducing too the faculty of borrowing within its natural limits, it would bridle the spirit of war, to which too free a course has been procured by the inattention of money lenders to this law of nature, that succeeding generations are not responsible for the preceding.

On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters too of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please. But persons and property make the sum of the objects of government. The constitution and the laws of their predecessors extinguished them, in their natural course, with those whose will gave them being. This could preserve that being till it ceased to be itself, and no longer. Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19. years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.

It may be said that the succeeding generation exercising in fact the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to 19. years only. In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be indeed if every form of government were so perfectly contrived that the will of the majority could always be obtained fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form. The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils. Bribery corrupts them. Personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise so as to prove to every practical man that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.

This principle that the earth belongs to the living and not to the dead is of very extensive application and consequences in every country, and most especially in France. It enters into the resolution of the questions Whether the nation may change the descent of lands holden in tail? Whether they may change the appropriation of lands given antiently to the church, to hospitals, colleges, orders of chivalry, and otherwise in perpetuity? whether they may abolish the charges and privileges attached on lands, including the whole catalogue ecclesiastical and feudal? it goes to hereditary offices, authorities and jurisdictions; to hereditary orders, distinctions and appellations; to perpetual monopolies in commerce, the arts or sciences; with a long train of et ceteras: and it renders the question of reimbursement a question of generosity and not of right. In all these cases the legislature of the day could authorize such appropriations and establishments for their own time, but no longer; and the present holders, even where they or their ancestors have purchased, are in the case of bona fide purchasers of what the seller had no right to convey.

Turn this subject in your mind, my Dear Sir, and particularly as to the power of contracting debts, and develope it with that perspicuity and cogent logic which is so peculiarly yours. Your station in the councils of our country gives you an opportunity of producing it to public consideration, of forcing it into discussion. At first blush it may be rallied as a theoretical speculation; but examination will prove it to be solid and salutary. It would furnish matter for a fine preamble to our first law for appropriating the public revenue; and it will exclude, at the threshold of our new government the contagious and ruinous errors of this quarter of the globe, which have armed despots with means not sanctioned by nature for binding in chains their fellow-men. We have already given, in example one effectual check to the Dog of war, by transferring the power of letting him loose from the executive to the Legislative body, from those who are to spend to those who are to pay. I should be pleased to see this second obstacle held out by us also in the first instance. No nation can make a declaration against the validity of long-contracted debts so disinterestedly as we, since we do not owe a shilling which may not be paid with ease principal and interest, within the time of our own lives. Establish the principle also in the new law to be passed for protecting copy rights and new inventions, by securing the exclusive right for 19. instead of 14. years [a line entirely faded] an instance the more of our taking reason for our guide instead of English precedents, the habit of which fetters us, with all the political herecies of a nation, equally remarkable for it’s encitement from some errors, as long slumbering under others. I write you no news, because when an occasion occurs I shall write a separate letter for that.

(Source: http://oll.libertyfund.org/)

September 2, 1789

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT

[1] BE IT ENACTED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED, that there shall be a department of Treasury, in which shall be the following officers, namely; a Secretary of the Treasury to be deemed head of the department, a Comptroller, an Auditor, a Treasurer, a Register, and an Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury; which assistant shall be appointed by the said Secretary.

[2] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to digest and prepare plans for the improvement and management of the revenue, and for the support of public credit; to prepare and report estimates of the public revenue, and the public expenditures; to superintend the collection of the revenue; to decide on the forms of keeping and stating accounts and making returns, and to grant, under the limitations herein established, or to be hereafter provided, all Warrants for monies to be issued from the Treasury, in pursuance of appropriations by law; to execute such services relative to the sale of the lands belonging to the United States, as may be by law required of him; to make report and give information to either branch of the Legislature, in person or in writing, (as he may be required) respecting all matters refered to him by the Senate or House of Representatives, or which shall appertain to his office; and generally to perform all such services, relative to the finances, as he shall be directed to perform.

[3] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that it shall be the duty of the Comptroller to superintend the adjustment and preservation of the public accounts; to examine all accounts settled by the Auditor, and certify the ballances arising thereon to the Register; to countersign all warrants drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury, which shall be warranted by law; to report to the Secretary the official forms of all papers to be issued in the different offices for collecting the public revenue, and the manner and form of keeping and stating the accounts of the several persons employed therein; he shall moreover [Page 1976] provide for the regular and punctual payment of all monies which may be collected, and shall direct prosecutions for all delinquencies of officers of the revenue, and for debts that are or shall be due to the United States.

[4] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that it shall be the duty of the Treasurer, to receive and keep the monies of the United States, and to disburse the same upon Warrants drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury, countersigned by the Comptroller, recorded by the Register, and not otherwise; he shall take receipts for all monies paid by him, and all receipts for monies received by him shall be endorsed upon Warrants, signed by the Secretary of the Treasury, without which warrant so signed, no acknowledgment for money received into the public Treasury shall be valid: and the said Treasurer shall render his accounts to the Comptroller, quarterly, (or oftener if required) and shall transmit a copy thereof, when settled, to the Secretary of the Treasury, he shall moreover on the third day of every Session of Congress, lay before the Senate and House of Representatives fair and accurate copies of all accounts, by him from time rendered to, and settled with the Comptroller as aforesaid, as also a true and perfect account of the State of the Treasury; he shall at all times, submit to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Comptroller, or either of them, the inspection of the monies in his hands, and shall, prior to the entering upon the duties of his office, give bond with sufficient sureties, to be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury and Comptroller, in the sum of One hundred and fifty thousand dollars, payable to the United States, with condition for the faithful performance of the duties of his office, and for the fidelity of the persons to be by him employed, which bond shall be lodged in the office of the Comptroller of the Treasury of the United States.

[5] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that it shall be the duty of the Auditor, to receive all public accounts, and after examination to certify the ballance, and transmit the accounts, with the vouchers and certificate to the Comptroller for his decision thereon: PROVIDED, that if any person whose account shall be so audited, be dissatisfied therewith, he may within six months, appeal to the Comptroller against such settlement.

[6] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that it shall be the duty of the Register, to keep all accounts of the receipts and expenditures of the public money, and of all debts due to or from the United States; to receive from the Comptroller, the accounts which shall have been finally adjusted, and to preserve such accounts with their vouchers and certificates; to record all warrants for the receipt or payment of monies at the Treasury, certify the same thereon, and to transmit to the Secretary of the Treasury copies of the certificates of ballances of Accounts adjusted as is herein directed.

[7] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that whenever the Secretary shall be removed from office by the President of the United States, or in any other case of vacancy in the office of Secretary, the Assistant shall during the vacancy, [Page 1977] have the charge and custody of the records, books, and papers appertaining to the said office.

[8] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that no person appointed to any office instituted by this Act, shall directly or indirectly be concerned or interested in carrying on the business of Trade or Commerce, or be owner in whole or in part of any Sea Vessel, or purchase by himself, or another in trust for him, any public lands or other public property, or be concerned in the purchase, or disposal, of any public securities of any State, or of the United States, or take or apply to his own use, any emolument or gain for negotiating or transacting any business in the said department other than what shall be allowed by law, and if any person shall offend against any of the prohibitions of this Act, he shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and forfeit to the United States the penalty of three thousand dollars, and shall upon conviction be removed from Office, and for ever thereafter incapable of holding any office under the United States: Provided that if any other person than a public prosecutor shall give information of any such offence, upon which a prosecution and conviction shall be had, one half the aforesaid penalty of three thousand dollars, when recovered, shall be for the use of the person giving such information.

FREDERICK AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG
Speaker of the House of Representatives

JOHN ADAMS
Vice-President of the United States, and
President of the Senate

Approved September the Second 1789

GO. WASHINGTON
President of the United States

New York, September 1, 1789

Dear Sir,—

I have not yet answered your letter of the 26th of July. You guess well; I find that I shall have all the unpopular questions to determine, and shall soon be pronounced hostis republicani generis. What they will do with me, I know not, but must trust to Providence. You insinuate that I am accused “of deciding in favor of the power of the prime, because I look up to that goal.” That I look up to that goal sometimes, is very probable, because it is not far above me, only one step, and it is directly before my eyes, so that I must be blind not to see it. I am forced to look up to it, and bound by duty to do so, because there is only the breath of one mortal between me and it. There was lately cause enough to look up to it, as I did with horror, when that breath was in some danger of expiring. But deciding for the supreme was not certainly the way to render that goal more desirable or less terrible, nor was it the way to obtain votes for continuing in it, or an advancement to it. The way to have insured votes would have been to have given up that power. There is not, however, to be serious, the smallest prospect that I shall ever reach that goal. Our beloved chief is very little older than his second, has recovered his health, and is a much stronger man than I am. A new Vice-President must be chosen before a new President. This reflection gives me no pain, but, on the contrary, great pleasure; for I know very well that I am not possessed of the confidence and affection of my fellow-citizens to the degree that he is. I am not of C├Žsar’s mind. The second place in Rome is high enough for me, although I have a spirit that will not give up its right or relinquish its place. Whatever the world, or even my friends, or even you, who know me so well, may think of me, I am not an ambitious man. Submission to insult and disgrace is one thing, but aspiring to higher situations is another. I am quite contented in my present condition, and should not be discontented to leave it.

Having said too much of myself, let me say something of you. The place of collector would undoubtedly have been yours, if the President could have found any other situation for your friend Lincoln. It was from no lukewarmness to you, I am certain; but the public cause demanded that Lincoln should be supported, and this could not be done any other way. If, after some time, any other permanent place should be found for him, you, I presume, will come in collector. He sailed yesterday, in good health, for Georgia; and may heaven prosper him with all happiness, honor, and success! It is a very honorable embassy, and will produce great and happy effects to these States.
I am, &c.

John Adams.

(Source: http://oll.libertyfund.org/)

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