I was favored with your letter of October 26th and far from finding any of its subjects uninteresting as you apprehend, they were to me, as everything which comes from you, pleasing and instructive. I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the Being worshiped by many who think themselves Christians. Your opinions and writings will have effect in bringing others to reason on this subject.
Our new Constitution, of which you speak also, has succeeded beyond what I apprehended it would have done. I did not at first believe that eleven States out of thirteen would have consented to a plan consolidating them as much into one. A change in their dispositions, which had taken place since I left them, had rendered this consolidation necessary, that is to say, had called for a federal government which could walk upon its own legs, without leaning for support on the State legislatures. A sense of necessity, and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that, whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.
You say you are not sufficiently informed about the nature and circumstances of the present struggle here. Having been on the spot from its first origin, and watched its movements as an uninterested spectator, with no other bias than a love of mankind, I will give you my ideas of it. Though celebrated writers of this and other countries had already sketched good principles on the subject of government, yet the American war seems first to have awakened the thinking part of this nation in general from the sleep of despotism in which they were sunk. The officers too who had been to America, were mostly young men, less shackled by habit and prejudice, and more ready to assent to the dictates of common sense and common right. They came back impressed with these. The press, notwithstanding its shackles, began to disseminate them; conversation, too, assumed new freedom; politics became the theme of all societies, male and female, and a very extensive and zealous party was formed, which may be called the Patriotic party, who, sensible of the abusive government under which they lived, longed for occasions of reforming it. This party comprehended all the honesty of the kingdom, sufficiently at its leisure to think; the men of letters, the easy bourgeois, the young nobility, partly from reflection, partly from mode; for those sentiments became a matter of mode, and as such united most of the young women to the party. Happily for the nation, it happened that, at the same moment, the dissipations of the court had exhausted the money and credit of the State, and M. de Calonnes found himself obliged to appeal to the nation, and to develop to it the ruin of their finances. He had no idea of supplying the deficit by economies, he saw no means but new taxes. To tempt the nation to consent to these some douceurs were necessary. The Notables were called in 1787. The leading vices of the constitution and administration were ably sketched out, good remedies proposed, and under the splendor of the propositions, a demand for more money was couched. The Notables concurred with the minister in the necessity of reformation, adroitly avoided the demand of money, got him displaced, and one of their leading men placed in his room, archbishop of Thoulouse, by the aid of the hopes formed of him, was able to borrow some money, and he reformed considerably the expenses of the court. Notwithstanding the prejudices since formed against him, he appeared to me to pursue the reformation of the laws and constitution as steadily as a man could do who had to drag the court after him, and even to conceal from them the consequences of the measures he was leading them into. In his time the criminal laws were reformed, provincial assemblies and States established in most of the provinces, the States General promised, and a solemn acknowledgment made by the King that he could not impose a new tax without the consent of the nation. It is true he was continually goaded forward by the public clamors, excited by the writings and workings of the Patriots, who were able to keep up the public fermentation at the exact point which borders on resistance, without entering on it. They had taken into their alliance the Parliaments also, who were led, by very singular circumstances, to espouse, for the first time, the rights of the nation. They had from old causes had personal hostility against M. de Calonnes. They refused to register his laws or his taxes, and went so far as to acknowledge they had no power to do it. They persisted in this with his successor, who therefore exiled them. Seeing that the nation did not interest themselves much for their recall, they began to fear that the new judicatures proposed in their place would be established and that their own suppression would be perpetual. In short, they found their own strength insufficient to oppose that of the King. They, therefore, insisted that the States General should be called. Here they became united with and supported by the Patriots, and their joint influence was sufficient to produce the promise of that assembly. I always suspected that the archbishops had no objections to this force under which they laid him. But the Patriots and Parliament insisted it was their efforts which extorted the promise against his will. The re-establishment of the Parliament was the effect of the same coalition between the Patriots and Parliament; but, once re-established, the latter began to see danger in that very power, the States General, which they had called for in a moment of despair, but which they now foresaw might very possibly abridge their powers. They began to prepare grounds for questioning their legality, as a rod over the head of the States, and as a refuge if they should really extend their reformations to them. Mr. Necker came in at this period and very dexterously disembarrassed the administration of these disputes by calling the Notables to advise the form of calling and constituting the States. The court was well disposed towards the people, not from principles of justice or love to them. But they want money. No more can be had from the people. They are squeezed to the last drop. The clergy and nobles, by their privileges and influence, have kept their property in a great measure untaxed hitherto. They then remain to be squeezed, and no agent is powerful enough for this but the people. The court therefore must ally itself with the people. But the Notables, consisting mostly of privileged characters, had proposed a method of composing the States, which would have rendered the voice of the people, or Tiers Etats, in the States General, inefficient for the purpose of the court. It concurred then with the Patriots in intriguing with the Parliament to get them to pass a vote in favor of the rights of the people. This vote, balancing that of the Notables, has placed the court at liberty to follow its own views, and they have determined that the Tiers Etat shall have in the States General as many votes as the clergy and nobles put together. Still a great question remains to be decided, that is, shall the States General vote by orders, or by persons ? Precedents are both ways. The clergy will move heaven and earth to obtain the suffrage by orders, because that parries the effect of all hitherto done for the people. The people will probably send their deputies expressly instructed to consent to no tax, to no adoption of the public debts, unless the unprivileged part of the nation has a voice equal to that of the privileged; that is to say, unless the voice of the Tiers Etat be equalled to that of the clergy and nobles. They will have the young noblesse in general on their side, and the King and court. Against them will be the ancient nobles and the clergy. So that I hope, upon the whole, that by the time they meet, there will be a majority of the nobles themselves in favor of the Tiers Etat. So far history. We are now to come to prophecy; for you will ask, to what will all this lead ? I answer, if the States General do not stumble at the threshold on the question before stated, and which must be decided before they can proceed to business, then they will in their first session easily obtain, 1. Their future periodical convocation of the States. 2. Their exclusive right to raise and appropriate money which includes that of establishing a civil list. 3. A participation in legislation; probably at first, it will only be a transfer to them of the portion of it now exercised by parliament, that is to say, a right to propose amendments and a negative. But it must infallibly end in a right of origination. 4. Perhaps they may make a declaration of rights. It will be attempted at least. Two other objects will be attempted, viz. a habeas corpus law and a free press. But probably they may not obtain these in the first session, or with modifications only, and the nation must be left to ripen itself more for their unlimited adoption.
Upon the whole, it has appeared to me that the basis of the present struggle is an illumination of the public mind as to the rights of the nation, aided by fortunate incidents; that they can never retrograde, but from the natural progress of things, must press forward to the establishment of a constitution which shall assure to them a good degree of liberty. They flatter themselves they shall form a better constitution than the English. I think it will be better in some pointsworse in others. It will be better in the article of representation, which will be more equal. It will be worse, as their situation obliges them to keep up the dangerous machine of a standing army. I doubt, too, whether they will obtain the trial by jury, because they are not sensible of its value.
I am sure I have by this time heartily tired you with this long epistle, and that you will be glad to see it brought to an end, with assurances of the sentiments of esteem and respect with which I have the honor to be, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
My last letters were of the 14th, 19th and 29th of November, by the way of London. The present will go the same way, through a private channel.
All military operations in Europe seem to have been stopped, by the excessive severity of the weather. In this country, it is unparalleled in so early a part of the winter, and in duration, having continued since the middle of November, during which time, it has been as low as nine degrees below nought, that is to say, forty degrees below freezing, by Fahrenheits thermometer; and it has increased the difficulties of the administration here. They had, before, to struggle with the want of money, and want of bread for the people, and now, the want of fuel for them, and want of employment. The siege of Oczakow is still continued, the soldiers sheltering themselves in the Russian manner, in subterraneous barracks; and the Captain Pacha has retired with his fleet. The death of the King of Spain has contributed, with the insanity of the English King, to render problematical, the form which the affairs of Europe will ultimately take. Some think a peace possible between the Turks and the two Empires, with the cession of Crimea to the former as less important to Russia than Poland, which she is in danger of losing. In this case, the two Empires might attack the King of Prussia, and the scene of war be only changed. He is certainly uneasy at the accident happened to his principal ally. There seems no doubt, but that the Prince of Wales will be sole regent; but it is also supposed, they will not give him the whole executive power, and particularly, that of declaring war without the consent of the parliament. Should his personal dispositions, therefore, and that of a new ministry, be the same which the King had, of co-operating with Prussia, yet the latter cannot count on their effect. Probably, the parliament will not consent to war; so that I think we may consider the two great powers of France and England as absolutely at rest for some time.
As the character of the Prince of Wales is becoming interesting, I have endeavored to learn what it truly is. This is less difficult in his case, than in that of other persons of his rank, because he has taken no pains to hide himself from the world. The information I most rely on, is from a person here with whom I am intimate, who divides his time between Paris and London, an Englishman by birth, of truth, sagacity and science. He is of a circle, when in London, which has had good opportunities of knowing the Prince; but he has also, himself, had special occasions of verifying their information, by his own personal observation. He happened, when last in London, to be invited to a dinner of three persons. The Prince came by chance, and made the fourth. He ate half a leg of mutton, did not taste of small dishes, because small, drank Champagne and Burgundy, as small beer during dinner, and Bordeaux after dinner, as the rest of the company. Upon the whole, he ate as much as the other three, and drank about two bottles of wine without seeming to feel it. My informant sat next him, and being till then unknown to the Prince, personally, (though not by character,) and lately from France, the Prince confined his conversation almost entirely to him. Observing to the Prince that he spoke French without the least foreign accent, the Prince told him, that when very young, his father had put only French servants about him, and that it was to that circumstance he owed his pronunciation. He led him from this to give an account of his education, the total of which was the learning a little Latin. He has not a single element of Mathematics, of Natural or Moral Philosophy, or of any other science on earth, nor has the society he has kept been such as to supply the void of education. It has been that of the lowest, the most illiterate and profligate persons of the kingdom, without choice of rank or mind, and with whom the subjects of conversation are only horses, drinking-matches, bawdy houses, and in terms the most vulgar. The young nobility, who begin by associating with him, soon leave him, disgusted with the insupportable profligacy of his society; and Mr. Fox, who has been supposed his favorite, and not over-nice in the choice of company, would never keep his company habitually. In fact, he never associated with a man of sense. He has not a single idea of justice, morality, religion, or of the rights of men, or any anxiety for the opinion of the world. He carries that indifference for fame so far, that he would probably not be hurt were he to lose his throne, provided he could be assured of having always meat, drink, horses, and women. In the article of women, nevertheless, he is become more correct, since his connection with Mrs. Fitzherbert, who is an honest and worthy woman : he is even less crapulous than he was. He had a fine person, but it is becoming coarse. He possesses good native common sense, is affable, polite, and very good humored. Saying to my informant, on another occasion, your friend, such a one, dined with me yesterday, and I made him damned drunk": he replied, I am sorry for it; I had heard that your royal highness had left off drinking;" the Prince laughed, tapped him on the shoulder very good naturedly, without saying a word, or ever after showing any displeasure. The Duke of York, who was for some time cried up as the prodigy of the family, is as profligate, and of less understanding. To these particular traits, from a man of sense and truth, it would be superfluous to add the general terms of praise or blame, in which he is spoken of by other persons, in whose impartiality and penetration I have less confidence. A sample is better than a description. For the peace of Europe, it is best that the King should give such gleamings of recovery, as would prevent the regent or his ministry from thinking themselves firm, and yet, that he should not recover.
This country advances with a steady pace towards the establishment of a constitution, whereby the people will resume the great mass of those powers, so fatally lodged in the hands of the King. During the session of the Notables, and after their votes against the rights of the people, the parliament of Paris took up the subject, and passed a vote in opposition to theirs (which I send you). This was not their genuine sentiment; it was a manoeuvre of the young members, who are truly well disposed, taking advantage of the accidental absence of many old members, and bringing others over by the clause, which, while it admits the negative of the States General in legislation, reserves still to the parliament the right of enregistering, that is to say, another negative. The Notables persevered in their opinion. The Princes of the blood, (Monsieur and the Duke dOrleans excepted,) presented and published a memoir, threatening a scission. The parliament were proposing to approve of that memoir, (by way of rescinding their former vote) and were prevented from it by the threat of a young member to impeach (denoncer) the memoir and the Princes who signed it. The vote of the Notables, therefore, remaining balanced by that of the Parliament, the voice of the nation becoming loud and general for the rights of the Tiers Etat, a strong probability that if they were not allowed one half the representation, they would send up their members with express instructions to agree to no tax and to no adoption of the public debts, and the court really wishing to give them a moiety of the representation, this was decided on ultimately. You are not to suppose that these dispositions of the court proceed from any love of the people, or justice towards their rights. Courts love the people always, as wolves do the sheep. The fact is this. The court wants money. From the Tiers Etat they cannot get it, because they are already squeezed to the last drop. The clergy and the nobles, by their privileges and their influence, have hitherto screened their property in a great degree, from public contribution. That half of the orange then, remains yet to be squeezed, and for this operation there is no agent powerful enough, but the people. They are, therefore, brought forward as the favorites of the court, and will be supported by them. The moment of crisis will be the meeting of the States; because their first act will be, to decide whether they shall vote by persons or by orders. The clergy will leave nothing unattempted to obtain the latter; for they see that the spirit of reformation will not confine itself to the political, but will extend to the ecclesiastical establishment also. With respect to the nobles, the younger members are generally for the people, and the middle aged are daily coming over to the same side; so that by the time the States meet, we may hope there will be a majority of that body also in favor of the people, and consequently for voting by persons, and not by orders.
You will perceive, by the report of Mr. Necker, (in the gazette of France,) 1, a renewal of the renunciation of the power of imposing a new tax by the King; and a like renunciation of the power of continuing any old one; 2, an acknowledgment that the States are to appropriate the public monies, which will go to the binding the court to a civil list; 3, a consent to the periodical meeting of the States; 4, to consider of the restrictions of which lettres de cachet are susceptible; 5, the degree of liberty to be given to the press; 6, a bill of rights; and 7, there is a passage which looks towards the responsibility of ministers. Nothing is said of communicating to them a share in the legislation. The ministry, perhaps, may be unwilling to part with this, but it will be insisted on in the States. The letters of convocation will not appear till towards the latter end of the month : neither time nor place are yet declared, but Versailles is talked of, and we may well presume that some time in April will be fixed on. In the meantime, Mr. Necker gets money to keep the machine in motion. Their funds rose slowly, but steadily, till within these few days, when there was a small check. However, they stand very well, and will rise. The caisse descompte lent the government twenty-five millions, two days ago.The navy of this country sustained a heavy loss lately, by the death of the Bailli de Suffrein. He was appointed Generalissimo of the Atlantic, when war was hourly expected with England, and is certainly the officer on whom the nation would have reposed its principal hopes, in such a case. We just now hear of the death of the Speaker of the House of Commons, before the nomination of a regent, which adds a new embarrassment to the re-establishment of government in England.
Since writing mine of November the 29th, yours of the 23d of September has come to hand. As the General of the Mathurins was to be employed in the final redemption of our captives, I thought that their previous support had better be put into his hands, and conducted by himself in such a way as not to counterwork his plan of redemption, whenever we can enable him to begin on it. I gave him full powers as to the amount and manner of subsisting them. He has undertaken it, informing me, at the same time, that it will be on a very low scale, to avoid suspicion of its coming from the public. He spoke of but three sous a day per man, as being sufficient for their physical necessaries, more than which, he thinks it not advisable to give. I have no definitive answer yet from our bankers, whether we may count on the whole million last agreed to be borrowed, but I have no doubt of it, from other information, though I have not their formal affirmative. The gazettes of Leyden and France to this date, accompany this.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
My last to you was of the 18th of November, since which, I have received yours of the 21st of September and October the 8th, with the pamphlet on the Mohican language, for which, receive my thanks. I endeavor to collect all the vocabularies I can, of the American Indians, as of those of Asia, persuaded, that if they ever had a common parentage, it will appear in their languages.
I was pleased to see the vote of Congress, of September the 16th, on the subject of the Mississippi, as I had before seen, with great uneasiness, the pursuits of other principles, which I could never reconcile to my own ideas of probity or wisdom, and from which, and my knowledge of the character of our western settlers, I saw that the loss of that country was a necessary consequence. I wish this return to true policy, may be in time to prevent evil. There has been a little foundation for the reports and fears relative to the Marquis de La Fayette. He has, from the beginning, taken openly part with those who demand a constitution : and there was a moment that we apprehended the Bastile : but they ventured on nothing more, than to take from him a temporary service, on which he had been ordered; and this, more to save appearances for their own authority, than anything else; for at the very time they pretended that they had put him into disgrace, they were constantly conferring and communicating with him. Since this, he has stood on safe ground, and is viewed as among the foremost of the patriots. Everybody here is trying their hand at forming declarations of rights. As something of that kind is going on with you also, I send you two specimens from hence. The one is by our friend of whom I have just spoken. You will see that it contains the essential principles of ours, accommodated as much as could be, to the actual state of things here. The other is from a very sensible man, a pure theorist, of the sect called the economists, of which Turgot was considered as the head. The former is adapted to the existing abuses, the latter goes to those possible, as well as to those existing.
With respect to Dr. Spence, supposed to have been taken by the Algerines, I think the report extremely [im]probable. OBryan, one of our captives there, has constantly written to me, and given me information on every subject he thought interesting. He could not have failed to know if such a capture had been made, though before his time, nor to inform me of it. I am under perpetual anxiety for our captives there. The money, indeed, is not yet ready at Amsterdam; but when it shall be, there are no orders from the board of treasury to the bankers, to furnish what may be necessary for the redemption of the captives; and it is so long since Congress approved the loan, that the orders of the treasury for the application of the money would have come, if they had intended to send any. I wrote to them early on the subject, and pointedly. I mentioned it to Mr. Jay also, merely that he might suggest it to them. The payments to the foreign officers, will await the same formality.
I thank you for your attention to the case of Mrs. Burke.We have no news of Dr. Franklin since July last, when he was very ill. Though the silence of our letters on that subject is a proof that he is well, yet there is an anxiety here among his friends. We have lately had three books published, which are of great merit, in different lines. The one is in seven volumes, octavo, by an Abbé Barthelemy, wherein he has collected every subject of Grecian literature, after a labor of thirty years. It is called Les voyages dAnacharsis." I have taken a copy for you, because the whole impression was likely to be run off at once. The second is a work on government, by the Marquis de Condorcet, two volumes, octavo. I shall secure you a copy. The third are the works of the King of Prussia, in sixteen volumes, octavo. These were a little garbled at Berlin, before printed. The govenment lays its hands on all which come here, and change some leaves. There is a genuine edition published at Balse, where even the garblings of Berlin are re-established. I doubt the possibility of getting a copy, so vigilant is the government as to this work. I shall obtain you one, if it be possible. As I write all the public news to Mr. Jay, I will not repeat it to you. I have just received the Flora Caroliniana of Walter, a very learned and good work. I am, with very sincere esteem and respect, dear Sir, your friend and servant.
P.S. I beg you to find sure occasions for the inclosed which are interesting to me.
In my letter of the 11th, I have said nothing of the Arret explanatory of that of September the 28th, on the subject of whale oils, which my letter of November the 19th gave you reason to expect. Though this explanatory Arret has been passed so long ago as the 7th of December, it has not been possible for me to obtain an authentic copy of it, till last night. I now enclose that to you, with a copy of a letter to me from Mr. Necker, on the subject. The reception of our oils, in the meantime, is provided for by an intermediate order. You will observe, that in the Arret it is said to be passed provisoirement, and that Mr. Necker expressly holds up to us in his letter, a repeal, whenever the national fishery supplies their wants. The Arret, however, is not limited in its duration, and we have several chances against its repeal. It may be questioned, whether Mr. Necker thinks the fishery worth the expense. It may be well questioned, whether, either with or without encouragement, the nation whose navigation is the least economical of all in Europe, can ever succeed in the whale fishery, which calls for the most rigorous economy. It is hoped that a share in the legislation will pass immediately into the hands of the States General, so as to be no longer in the power of the commis of a bureau, or even of his minister to smuggle a law through, unquestioned; and we may even hope that the national demand for this oil will increase faster than both their and our fisheries together will supply. But in spite of all these hopes, if the English should find means to cover their oils under our name, there will be great danger of a repeal. It is essential, then, that our government take effectual measures to prevent the English from obtaining genuine sea-papers, that they enable their consuls in the ports of France (as soon as they shall be named) to detect counterfeit papers, and that we convince this government that we use our best endeavors with good faith, as it is clearly our interest to do; for the rivalship of the English, is the only one we have to fear. It had already begun to render our oils invendible in the ports of France. You will observe that Mr. Necker renews the promise of taking off the ten sous pour livre, at the end of the next year.
Oczakow is at length taken by assault. The assailants were fourteen thousand, and the garrison twelve thousand, of whom seven thousand were cut to pieces before they surrendered. The Russians lost three thousand men. This is the Russian version, of which it is safe to believe no part, but that Oczakow is taken. The Speaker of the English House of Commons, having died suddenly, they have chosen Mr. Grenville, a young man of twenty seven years of age. This proves that Mr. Pitt is firm with the present parliament.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
I now do myself the pleasure to enclose to you a copy of the Arret explanatory of that of September 28th, on the subject of our whale oils. Mr. Necker in a letter to me has reserved the promise of taking off the ten sous per livre at the end of the next year. But, at the same time, he observes that whenever the national fishery shall be able to supply their demand for whale oil, we must expect a repeal of this Arret, which therefore expresses itself to be provisory. However, their navigation being the most expensive in Europe, they are the least likely to succeed in a whale fishery, without encouragements more extravagant than even those they now give; and it remains to be seen whether Mr. Necker will continue to give even the present. I am informed there will be fewer French adventurers the next year than there has been this; so that if there be an apparent increase of their fishery, it will be by drawing over more of our fishermen. It is probable the States General will obtain a participation in the legislation, which will render their laws more stable, and more to be relied on. Mr. Necker has also promised that if the present Arret should at any time be repealed, there shall be a sufficient space of time allowed for the reception of the oils which shall have been previously embarked. But our principal, if not our only danger, of a repeal being brought on, will come from the endeavors of the English to introduce their oils under color of ours, perhaps even with the assistance of our own merchants. Some effectual means must be adopted to prevent them from getting our real ship papers, and our consuls in the ports of France must be enabled to detect forged papers; and we must moreover convince this government that we use our utmost endeavors, and with good faith, to prevent the entry of English oils under the license given to us. I would advise our shippers of oil always to get the certificate of the French consul in their State, if it be practicable, because those will admit of the least doubt here. When this cannot be had, they may have recourse to the magistrates of the country, and in this case there should be a certificate under the seal of the State, that the magistrate who has certified their oil to be the produce of the American fishery, is a magistrate duly appointed and qualified by law, and that his signature is genuine. I presume it is the usage in all the States for the Governors signature to accompany the great seal.
Oczakow is at length taken. The Russians say they gave the assault with fourteen thousand men, against twelve thousand within the walls, that seven thousand of these suffered themselves to be cut to pieces before they surrendered, and that themselves lost three thousand. The only circumstance to be believed in all this, is that Oczakow is taken. Everything else in Europe is quiet, except the internal affairs of Poland. The Prussian party there gains greater superiority daily. The King of Prussia, however, will feel less bold on the probability that England will remain inactive in all things external. This secures to this country leisure for their internal improvements. These go on well. The report of Mr. Necker to the King, which has been published, renews the renunciation of the power of laying a new tax or continuing an old one without consent of the States General; admits they are to appropriate the public moneys (and of course how much of it the King may spend), that ministers must be responsible, that the King will concur in fixing the periodical meeting of the States, that he will be ready to consider with them what modifications, lettres de cachet should be put under, and of the decree of liberty which may be given to the press; and further, that all this shall be fixed by a convention so solemn as that his successor shall not be free to infringe it; that is to say, that he will concur in a declaration of rights. Nothing is said, however, of the States sharing in the legislation, but they will surely be passed. They have given to the Tiers Etat a representation in the States equal to both the other orders, and it is probable they will form but one house and vote by persons; but that is not decided. Be so good as to present me affectionately to Mrs. Adams, and to be assured yourself, of the sincere esteem of, dear Sir, your friend and servant.
I have received, Madam, with a great deal of sensibility, the letter of the 22d instant, with which you were pleased to honor me, on the claims of Monsieur Klein against the United States; and immediately endeavored to inform myself of their foundation, by an examination of the journals of Congress. Congress, consisting of many persons, can only speak by the organ of their records. If they have any engagements, they are to be found there. If not found there, they can never have existed. I proceeded to this examination with all the partialities which were naturally inspired by the interest you are so good as to take in his behalf, the desire of doing what will be agreeable to you, and a disposition to obtain for him the justice which might be his due. I have extracted, literally, from those journals, everything I find in them on his subject, and I take the liberty of enclosing you those extracts. From them, as well as from what I recollect of the ordinary train of business about the years 1778 and 1779, I presume the following to be very nearly the history of Monsieur Kleins case.
Congress were generally desirous of adding to their army during the war. Among other methods attempted, it was usual for foreigners (multitudes of whom went to ask command), when they found there was no vacancy, to propose to raise troops themselves, on condition they should have commissions to command them. I suppose that Messrs. Klein, Fearer and Kleinsmit (named in the resolution of Congress of 1788, and whom, from their names, I conjecture to be Germans), offered to enlist a body of men from among the German prisoners taken with General Burgoyne at Saratoga, on condition that Fearer and Kleinsmit should be captains over them, and Klein, lieutenant colonel. Three months seem to have been allowed them for raising their corps. However, at the end of ten months it seems they had engaged but twenty-four men, and that all of these, except five, had deserted. Congress, therefore, put an end to the project, June the 21st, 1779 (and not in July, 1780, as Monsieur Klein says), by informing him they had no farther use for his services, and giving him a years pay and subsistence to bring him to Europe. He chose to stay there three and a half longer, as he says, to solicit what was due to him. Nothing could ever have been due to him, but pay and subsistence for the ten months he was trying to enlist men, and the donation of a years pay and subsistence; and it is not probable he would wait three years and a half to receive these. I suppose he has staid in hopes of finding some other opening for employment. If these articles of pay and subsistence have not been paid to him, he has the certificates of the paymaster and commissary to prove it; because it was an invariable rule, when demands could not be paid, to give the party a certificate, to establish the sum due to him. If he has not such a certificate, it is a proof he has been paid. If he has it, he can produce it, and, in that case, I will undertake to represent his claim to our government, and will answer for their justice.
It would be easy to correct several inaccuracies in the letter of Monsieur Klein, such as that Congress engaged to give him a regiment; that he paid the recruiting money out of his own pocket; that his soldiers had nothing but bread and water; that Congress had promised him they would pay his soldiers in specie, &c.; some of which are impossible, and others very improbable; but these would be details too lengthy, Madam, for you to be troubled with. Kleins object is to be received at the hospital of invalids. I presume he is not of the description of persons entitled to be received there, and that his American commission and American grievances, are the only ground he has whereon to raise a claim to reception. He has, therefore, tried to make the most of them. Few think there is any immorality in scandalizing governments or ministers; and M. Kleins distresses render this resource more innocent in him than it is in most others. Your commands, Madam, to give what information I could, have drawn thus much from me. I would not wish to weaken the hopes he so justly rests on your known goodness and benevolence. On the contrary, the weaker his claim elsewhere, the stronger they will plead in your bosom to procure him relief; and whatever may be done for him here, I repeat it, that if he has any just demand against the United States, and will furnish me with proofs of it, I will solicit it with zeal, and, I trust, with effect. To procure him justice will be one gratification, and a great additional one will be, that he has procured me the occasion of offering you my portion of the general tribute so justly due for all the good you have done, and all you are perpetually endeavoring to do. Accept then, Madam, I pray you, this homage from one whose motives are pure truth and justice, when he assures you of the sincerity of those sentiments of esteem and respect with which he has the honor to be, Madam, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
Your favor of November the 25th, by Gouverneur Morris, is duly received. I must beg you to take the trouble of deciphering yourself what follows, and to communicate it to nobody but the President, at least for the present.
We had before understood, through different channels, that the conduct of Count de Moustier was politically and morally offensive. It was delicate for me to speak on the subject to the Count de Montmorin. The invaluable mediation of our friend, the Marquis de La Fayette, was therefore resorted to, and the subject explained, though not pressed. Later intelligence showing the necessity of pressing it, it was yesterday resumed, and represented through the same medium to the Count de Montmorin, that recent information proved to us, that his ministers conduct had rendered him personally odious in America, and might even influence the dispositions of the two nations; that his recall was become a matter of mutual concern; that we had understood he was instructed to remind the new government of their debt to this country, and that he was in the purpose of doing it in very harsh terms; that that is could not increase their desire of hastening payment, and might wound their affections; that, therefore, it was much to be desired that his discretion should not be trusted to, as to the form in which the demand should be made, but that the letter should be written here, and he instructed to add nothing but his signature; nor was his private conduct omitted. The Count de Montmorin was sensibly impressed. He very readily determined that the letter should be formed here, but said that the recall was a more difficult business; that as they had no particular fact to allege against the Count de Moustier, they could not recall him from that ministry without giving him another, and there was no vacancy at present. However, he would hazard his first thoughts on the subject, saving the right of correcting them by further consideration. They were these : that there was a loose expression in one of de Moustiers letters, which might be construed into a petition for leave of absence; that he would give him permission to return to France; that it had been before decided, on the request of the Marquis de La Luzerne, that Otto should go to him to London; that they would send a person to America as Chargé des Affaires in place of Otto, and that if the President (General Washington) approved of him, he should be afterwards made minister. He had cast his eye on Colonel Ternant, and desired the Marquis to consult me whether he would be agreeable. At first I hesitated, recollecting to have heard Ternant represented in America as an hypochondriac, discontented man, and paused for a moment between him and Barthelemy, at London, of whom I have heard a great deal of good. However, I concluded it safer to take one whom we knew, and who knew us. The Marquis was decidedly of this opinion. Ternant will see that his predecessor is recalled for unconciliatory deportment, and that he will owe his own promotion to the approbation of the President. He established a solid reputation in Europe, by his conduct when Generalissimo of one of the United Provinces, during their late disturbances; and it is generally thought, that if he had been put at the head of the principal province, instead of the Rhingrave de Salm, he would have saved that cause. Upon the whole, I believe you may expect that the Count de Moustier will have an immediate leave of absence, which will soon after become a recall in effect. I will try, also, to have the consuls admonished as to the line of conduct they should observe. I shall have the honor of writing you a general letter within a few days. I have now that of assuring you of the sentiment of sincere esteem and respect, with which I am, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
I wrote you last on the 22d of January, on which day I received yours of December the 31st, and since that, the other of January the 14th. We have now received news from America down to the middle of December. They had then had no cold weather. All things relative to our new Constitution were going on well. Federal senators are : New Hampshire, President Langdon and Bartlett. Massachusetts, Strong and Dalton. Connecticut, Dr. Johnson and Ellsworth. New Jersey, Patterson and Ellmer. Pennsylvania, Robert Morris and MClay. Delaware, Reed and Bassett. Virginia, Richard Henry Lee and Grayson. Maryland, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and John Henry. All of these are federalists except those of Virginia, so that a majority of federalists are secured in the Senate, and expected in the House of Representatives. General Washington will be President, and probably Mr. Adams Vice-President. So that the Constitution will be put under way by those who will give it a fair trial. It does not seem probable that the attempt of New York to have another convention to make amendments, will succeed, though Virginia concurs in it. It is tolerably certain that Congress will propose amendments to the Assemblies, as even the friends of the Constitution are willing to make amendments; some from a conviction they are necessary, others, from a spirit of conciliation. The addition of a bill of rights, will, probably, be the most essential change. A vast majority of anti-federalists have got into the Assembly of Virginia, so that Mr. Henry is omnipotent there. Mr. Madison was left out as a senator by eight or nine votes, and Henry has so modelled the districts for representatives, as to tack Orange to counties where he himself has great influence, that Madison may not be elected into the lower federal House, which was the place he had wished to serve in, and not the Senate. Henry pronounced a philippic against Madison in open Assembly, Madison being then at Philadelphia. Mifflin is President of Pennsylvania, and Peters, Speaker. Colonel Howard is Governor of Maryland. Beverly Randolph, Governor of Virginia (this last is said by a passenger only, and he seems not very sure). Colonel Humphreys is attacked in the papers for his French airs, for bad poetry, bad prose, vanity, &c. It is said his dress, in so gay a style, gives general disgust against him. I have received a letter from him. He seems fixed with General Washington. Mayos bridge, at Richmond, was completed, and carried away in a few weeks. While up, it was so profitable that he had great offers for it. A turnpike is established at Alexandria, and succeeds. Rhode Island has again refused to call a convention. Spain has granted to Colonel Morgan, of New Jersey, a vast tract of land on the western side of the Mississippi, with the monopoly of the navigation of that river. He is inviting settlers, and they swarm to him. Even the settlement of Kentucky is likely to be much weakened by emigrations to Morgans grant. Warville has returned, charmed with our country. He is going to carry his wife and children to settle there. Gouverneur Morris has just arrived here; deputed, as is supposed, to settle Robert Morris affairs, which continue still deranged. Doctor Franklin was well when he left America, which was about the middle of December.
Norfolk. Walker Maury.
Wmsbgh. Simeon Deane, John Armistead, Mrs. Burwell (of the Grove)
Richmond. John Adams (another paper calls him Thos. Adams), Gabriel Galt.
Philadelphia. Pine the painter.
Massachusetts. John Adams ( I suppose the son of John Adams)
Williamsburg. John Nicholas. Louisa Carter.
Richmond. William Marshall. Alice Adams. Philip Southal. Jane Neillson. Roger Atkinson. Agnes Poythress. Anthony Singleton. Mrs. Peyton Randolph. Thos. Lee (eldest son of R.H. Lee). Mildred Washington, niece of the Genl. Sr. Peyton Skipwith. Miss Miller.
The information of your French gentleman that Mde. de Neuilly was living here, was like the greater part of the information one gets from those with whom talking is a besoin physique. I continue in the same house. It is true I have notified the determination of my lease for the middle of April : but it is not absolutely certain what I shall do. If I quit this house, I have no other in view which could answer my purpose. If I leave this and cannot get another to suit me I have a thought of taking a little country house opposite the plaine des sablons for the moment. Your information has been equally erroneous as to the affairs of this country. The public effects have been constantly firm. The Caisse descompte is 4150. The 125. million is 9½ perte. Mr. Necker contrives to keep things in train so as that there is no complaint for the want of money. The revolution goes on as auspiciously as possible. The letters of convocation are out for the States to meet at Versailles on the 27th of April. (I recommend to you to have that epoch in view for your return.) I see but one difficulty in their way That is the preliminary question whether they shall vote by person or orders. This once decided to be by persons, all will go well. The parliament of England have agreed to restrain their Regent from creating peers, giving reversionary or patent offices other than those usually given during good behavior, and having anything to do with the kings person, property, and household. The Prince of Wales has answered to their address that he will accept the regency on these terms. The ministry will go out as soon as the bill passes. The Queen has the charge of the Kings person, property and houshold. A council is to be given for her advice. There are suspicions here that the two empires will make peace with the Turks and attack Prussia. If so, I do not think an English regent or his ministry will give any other aid but subsidies. The king continues as raving mad as ever. I never heard of so furious a Maniac. There will be revolution in Poland if Russia should continue unable to turn her force to that side.Mrs. Paradise is gone to England to aid in settling their affairs. Mr. Paradise is here, absolutely inconsolable on her departure. My daughters are well. So is Mazzei and all your acquaintance as far as I recollect. I send Mr. Rutledge two letters by this post. Be so good as to present him my esteem, and to be assured yourself of the sincere esteem and attachment with which I am, and shall ever be, dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant.
I take the liberty of troubling your Excellency with the following case, which I understand to be within your department. Mr. Jay, Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the United States of America, having occasion to send me despatches of great importance, and by a courier express, confided them to a Mr. Nesbitt, who offered himself in that character. He has delivered them safely, but, in the moment of delivering them, explained to me his situation, which is as follows. He was established in commerce at LOrient during the war. Losses by shipwreck, by capture, and by the conclusion of the peace at a moment when he did not expect it, reduced him to bankruptcy, and he returned to America, without the consent of his creditors, to make the most of his affairs there. He has been employed in this ever since, and now wishing to see his creditors, and to consult them on their mutual interests, he availed himself of Mr. Jays demand for a courier, to come under the safe conduct of that character to Paris, where he flattered himself he might obtain that of your Excellency, for the purpose of seeing his creditors, settling and arranging with them. He thinks a twelvemonth will be necessary for this. Understanding that it is not unusual to grant safe conducts in such cases, and persuaded it will be for the benefit of his creditors, I take the liberty of enclosing his memoir to your excellency, and of soliciting your favorable attention to it, assured that it will not be denied him, if it be consistent with the established usage; and if inadmissible, praying that your Excellency will have the goodness to give me as early an answer as the other arduous occupations in which you are engaged will admit, in order that he may know whether he may see his creditors, or must return without. I am encouraged to trouble your Excellency with this application, by the goodness with which you have been pleased to attend to our interests on former occasions, and by the desire of availing myself of every occasion of proffering to you the homage of those sentiments of attachment and respect, with which I have the honor to be, your Excellencys most obedient, and most humble servant.
I wrote you last on the 9th instant. Yours of the 11th, came to hand yesterday evening. Some of its enquiries will have already been answered to you. We have no information from America down to the middle of January. Things were going on so well that our letters afford nothing interesting scarcely. The opposition to the new Constitution grows feebler. Everywhere the elections are federal. In New York they had not yet been able to agree in the choice of senators, nor even in the manner of choosing. The new government begins on Wednesday next. Its friends consent to some changes, and particularly to the annexation of a declaration of rights. This will probably be proposed by Congress to the several assemblies, and thus a new convention be avoided. The Virginia Assembly met October 21. They choose for their speaker, Thomas Mathews, (who is this?). They are furiously antifederal. They have passed a bill rendering every person holding any federal office incapable of holding at the same time any State office. This is a declaration of war against the new Constitution. Mr. Adams is generally expected to be the Vice-President. Hancock is his only competitor. Others are sometimes talked of, but not with their own consent. I see in a Virginia paper of last summer, that George Nicholas advertised his departure to settle in Kentucky this present month of February. Great numbers of American vessels are now arriving in the ports of France with four and wheat, in consequence of the demand of this country and of the bounty it gives. I have received a letter from Ladiard, dated Grand Cairo, September 10. He was just then about to plunge into the terrae incognitae of Africa. This morning, I received one from Admiral Paul Jones, dated St. Petersburg, January 30, he was just arrived there at the desire of the Empress. He has commanded hitherto on the Black Sea, but does not know whether the Empress destines him to return there or to take any other command.
There has been an affray in Brittany between the Noblesse and people, in which some few were killed. Things there are now quiet, and all the rest of the kingdom is going on well towards its object. In some places, as in Burgundy and Franche-compte, there is an opposition by the Noblesse indeed against the manifest sense of the nation, but I do not apprehend any serious evil from it. The States General are likely to meet under happy auspices. It would seem that the government thinks they will end well, because I observe in their communications with certain unfriendly courts they assume a tone which had been laid aside for some time. Their effects stand well. The King of England seems to be in a state of convalescence. The symptoms of a return of reason are such that on the 19th instant the House of Lords put off the reading of the Regency bill, and it is even thought there will be no regency, nor any change of ministry. There are not yet sufficient data to ground a judgment whether there will be peace or not between the Turks and the two empires, nor what part Russia will take in the affairs of Poland. The preparations of Sweden and Denmark so far announce a continuation of the war. You have heard, doubtless, of the revolution which took place in Geneva about the last of January. It was the work of three or four days only, and with little bloodshed their ancient constitution is almost completely re-established. Their exiles are to be recalled, the foreign garrison sent off, the Bourgeois guard the city, and the nomination of the Syndics is restored to the council of two hundred. I see no reason to doubt the permanence of this reformation.Here all your acquaintances are well. I continue to keep my house and on such terms as will induce me to keep it as long as I remain in Europe. I fear my departure in the spring may be retarded, as Gouverneur Morris tells me there would be no probability that the old Congress would re-assemble. In this case I cannot receive my leave of absence from the new government. I have proposed to them the naming you Chargé des Affaires to take care of their business during my absence. You know that we must not be too sanguine on these occasions.
In my letter of the 9th. inst. I told you I should lodge a little commission for you at Genoa poste restante. I think it better to hand it on to you now. It is to shew the inclosed draught to some workmen in marble at Genoa, and to observe to them that I shall have occasion for a number of chimney pieces, some of which will be only an architrave of the form and dimentions of the one inclosed; others will have moreover the frize and cornice of the same drawing, in addition. I wish them to say 1. How much they will ask for the workmanship only, of those which shall consist only of the architrave (this you know must go round the two sides and the top of the fire place) 2. How much additional for the frize and cornice ? 3. How much for the foot slab before the fireplace. The price of workmanship only is asked, because I have the prices of the different species of marble. The large drawing is of the size to be required, exactly, and the mouldings exact. The small one is only to shew the tout ensemble. Let each workman who is consulted state his prices, name and address. I would wish you to consult particularly Antonio Capellano detto Rattino professore de marmi in Genoa habitante di studio sotto riva vicino al ponte della legne. It is also near to the hotel du Cerf, where I would recommend to you to lodge, for pleasantness and convenience, if you make the enquiry for the person to whom he furnished notes of the price of marble April 1787, and that from that circumstance I shall give him a preference to other workmen, at an equal price.I am with assurances of the most sincere and devoted friendship my dear Sir yours affectionately.
P.S. The Marquis de la Fayette has been true to his principles. He is gone to Auvergne about his election.
P.P.S. I thank you a thousand times for all the details of your letter. Remember me to Mr. Rutledge. I send him some letters now, but those I receive hereafter shall go to his banker as he desires. While you are together I hope he will consider my letters to you as written for him also.
I have just received a letter of January 31st from Admiral Paul Jones, at Petersburgh, in which, charging me with the execution of some commissions, and these requiring money, he tells me you will answer my drafts to the amount of four or five thousand livres, on his account. Be so good as to inform me whether you will pay such drafts.
A Monsieur Foulloy, who has been connected with Deane, lately offered me for sale two volumes of Deanes letter books and account books, that he had taken instead of money, which Deane owed him. I have purchased them on public account. He tells me Deane has still six or eight volumes more, and being to return soon to London, he will try to get them also, in order to make us pay high for them. You are sensible of the impropriety of letting such books get into hands which might make an unfriendly use of them. You are sensible of the immorality of an ex-ministers selling his secrets for money, and consequently that there can be no immorality in tempting him with money to part with them; so that they may be restored to that government to whom they properly belong. Your former acquaintance with Deane may, perhaps, put it in your power to render our country the service of recovering those books. It would not do to propose it to him as for Congress. What other way would best bring it about, you know best. I suppose his distresses and his crapulous habits, will not render him difficult on this head. On the supposition that there are six or eight volumes, I think you might venture as far as fifty guineas, and proportionably for fewer. I will answer your draft to this amount and purpose, or you may retain it out of any moneys you may propose to pay me for Admiral Jones. There is no time to lose in this negotiation, as, should Foulloy arrive there before it is closed, he will spoil the bargain. If you should be able to recover these books, I would ask the favor of you to send them to me by the Diligence, that I may carry them back with me to America. I make no apology for giving you this trouble. It is for our common country, and common interest.
I am, with sincere and great esteem and attachment, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant.
I had wished to acknowledge the receipt of your favors of January the 19th, and February the 3d, by a private conveyance, but none such having occurred, nor being likely to occur, I must write you such a letter as may go through the inspection of both post offices.
The affairs of this country are still going on well. There are loud contestations indeed in one or two of the provinces, and in Brittany these have come to blows, and some three or four or five people have been killed. Still the opposition to the revolution which is working has been miraculously small, and he who would predict of its failure from the little obstacles which have happened, would be about as good a prophet as he who, from the loss of two or three skirmishes on our part, would have foretold our final failure in the American revolution. All the world here is occupied in electioneering, in choosing or being chosen; and, as far as Paris may be considered as affording a specimen of the public mind, we may say it is almost thoroughly ripe for a just decision of the great question of voting by orders or by persons. The difficulties which now appear threatening to my mind, are those which will result from the size of the Assembly. Twelve hundred persons of any rank and of any nation assembled together, would with difficulty be prevented from tumult and confusion. But when they are to compose an assembly for which no rules of debate or proceeding have been yet formed, in whom no habits of order have been yet established, and to consist moreover of Frenchmen, among whom there are always more speakers than listeners, I confess to you I apprehend some danger. However, I still hope that the goodness of the body, and the coolness and collectedness of some of their leaders, will keep them in the right way, and that this great Assembly will end happily.
The war in the north will, I think, continue, and perhaps spread as far as Prussia. The present and probable situation of the Executive in England, will, I presume, prevent their engaging otherwise than by giving money. If so, this country will certainly not engage herself the present year, and after the present year, if her States General pass over well, she will be in a condition to do what she pleases. I have lately received a letter from Admiral Paul Jones, dated at Petersburgh, about the last of January. He was just arrived there on the call of the Empress, and uninformed where he was to act the ensuing campaign. We have no news from America later than the 10th of January, when things were going on well. I find that the friends of the new Constitution are generally disposed to make such changes as may be requisite to guard liberty. This will probably reconcile the bulk of the opposition. Nothing would be more agreeable to me than your company on our voyage to Virginia, and I am sorry I am unable to give such an idea of the epoch of it, as might enable you to decide whether it suited you. Gouverneur Morris, who is here, informs me that not only there was no Congress when he came away, but that none was expected till the new government. My letters asking leave of absence were not then arrived, and consequently I cannot have that leave but from the new government, nor expect that even they will take it up among their first subjects. This renders the time of my receiving permission uncertain, and should it be so late as that I cannot go, do my business there, and return in the fall, I shall prefer postponing my departure hence to the fall, so that I may return in the spring, being quite decided against a winter passage. You see, therefore, my dear Sir, the impossibility of my fixing the epoch of my departure. Pray continue to me during your stay your interesting political information, and accept assurances of the esteem and respect with which I am, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant.
I had the honor of addressing you on the 1st instant, through the post. I write the present, uncertain whether Mr. Nesbitt, the bearer of your last, will be the bearer of this, or whether it may not have to wait some other private occasion. They have re-established their packet-boats here indeed; but they are to go from Bordeaux, which, being between four and five hundred miles from hence, is too far to send a courier with any letters but on the most extraordinary occasions; and without a courier, they must pass through the post office. I shall, therefore, not make use of this mode of conveyance, but prefer sending my letters by a private hand, by the way of London. The uncertainty of finding private conveyances to London, is the principal objection to this.
On the receipt of your letter, advising me to purchase the two volumes of Deanes letters and accounts, I wrote to the person who had them, and after some offers and refusals, he let me have them for twenty-five louis, instead of twenty louis asked at first. He told me that Deane had still six or eight volumes more, and that when he should return to London, he would try to get them, in order to make himself whole for the money he had lent Deane. As I knew he would endeavor to make us pay dear for them, and it appeared to be your opinion and that of the members you had consulted, that it was an object worthy attention, I wrote immediately to a friend in London, to endeavor to purchase them from Deane himself, whose distresses and crapulous habits will probably render him more easy to deal with. I authorized him to go as far as fifty guineas. I have as yet no answer from him. I enclose you a letter which I wrote last month to our bankers in Holland. As it will itself explain the cause of its being written, I shall not repeat its substance here. In answer to my proposition, to pay bills for the medals and the redemption of our captives, they quote a resolution of Congress (which, however, I did not find in the printed journals) appropriating the loans of 1787 and 1788 to the payment of interest on the Dutch loans till 1790, inclusive, and the residue to salaries and contingencies in Europe, and they argue that, according to this, they are not to pay anything in Europe, till they shall first have enough to pay all the interest which will become due to the end of the year 1790; and that it is out of personal regard, that they relax from this so far as to pay diplomatic salaries. So that there is a clear declaration they will answer no other demands, till they have in hand money enough for all the interest to the end of the year 1790. It is but a twelvemonth since I have had occasion to pay attention to the proceedings of those gentlemen, but during that time, I have observed, that as soon as a sum of interest is becoming due, they are able to borrow just that, and no more; or, at least, only so much more as may pay our salaries and keep us quiet. Were they not to borrow for the interest, the failure to pay that would sink the value of the capital, of which they are considerable sharers. So far, their interests and ours concur. But there, perhaps, they may separate. I think it possible, they may choose to support our credit to a certain point, and let it go no further, but at their will; to keep it so poised, as that it may be at their mercy. By this, they may be sure to keep us in their own hands. They write word to the treasury, that in order to raise money for the February interest, they were obliged to agree with the subscribers, that Congress should open no other loan at Amsterdam this year, till this one be filled up, and that this shall not be filled but by the present subscribers, and they not obliged to fill it. This is delivering us, bound hand and foot, to the subscribers, that is, to themselves. Finding that they would not raise money for any other purpose, without being pushed, I wrote the letter I enclose you. They answer, as I have stated, by refusing to pay, alleging the appropriation of Congress. I have written again, to press them further, and to propose to them the payment of thirty thousand florins only, for the case of our captives, as I am in hopes this may do. In the close of my letter to them, you will observe I refer them, as to the article of foreign officers, to the board of treasury. I had, in truth, received the printed journals a few days before, but had not yet had time to read them carefully, and particularly had not then noted the vote of Congress of August the 20th, directing me to attend to that article. I shall not fail to do what I can in it; but I am afraid they will consider this also as standing on the same ground with the other contingent articles.
This country, being generally engaged in its elections, affords nothing new and worthy of communication. The hopes of accommodation between Turkey and the two empires, do not gain strength. The war between Russia and Denmark on the one hand, and Sweden on the other, is likely also to go on, the mediation of England being rendered of little force by the accident to its Executive. The progress of this war, and also of the broils in Poland, may possibly draw the King of Prussia into it, during the ensuing campaign; and it must, before it be finished, take in this country, and perhaps England. The ill humor on account of the Dutch revolution continues to rankle here. They have recalled their ambassador from the Hague, and manifestly to show their dissatisfaction with that court; and some very dry memorials have lately been exchanged, on the subject of the money this country assumed to pay the Emperor, for the Dutch. I send you very full extracts of these, which will show you the dispositions of the two courts towards each other. Whether, and when this country will be able to take an active part, will depend on the issue of the States General. If they fund their public debts judiciously, and will provide further funds for a war, on the English plan, I believe they will be able to borrow any sums they please. In the meantime, the situation of England will leave them at leisure to settle their internal affairs well. That ministry, indeed, pretend their King is perfectly re-established. No doubt they will make the most of his amendment, which is real, to a certain degree. But as, under pretence of this, they have got rid of the daily certificates of the physicians, and they are possessed of the Kings person, the public must judge hereafter from such facts only as they can catch. There are several at present which, put together, induce a presumption that the King is only better, not well. And should he be well, time will be necessary to give a confidence, that it is not merely a lucid interval. On the whole, I think we may conclude, that that country will not take a part in the war this year, which was by no means certain before.
M. del Pinto, formerly minister of Portugal at London, and the same who negotiated the treaty with us, being now put at the head of the ministry of that country, I presume that negotiation may be renewed successfully, if it be the desire of our government. Perhaps an admission of our flour into their ports may be obtained now, as M. del Pinto seemed impressed with our reasoning on that subject, and promised to press it on his court, though he could not then venture to put it into the treaty. There is not the same reason to hope any relaxation as to our reception in Brazil, because he would scarcely let us mention that at all. I think, myself, that it is their interest to take away all temptations to our co-operation in the emancipation of their colonies; and I know no means of doing this, but the making it our interest that they should continue dependent, nor any other way of making this our interest, but by allowing us a commerce with them. However, this is a mode of reasoning which their ministry, probably, could not bear to listen to.
I send herewith the gazettes of France and Leyden, and have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
Since my last, which was of December the 21st, yours of December the 9th and 21st are received. Accept my thanks for the papers and pamphlets which accompanied them, and mine and my daughters, for the book of songs I will not tell you how much they have pleased us, nor how well the last of them merits praise for its pathos, but relate a fact only, which is, that while my elder daughter was playing it on the harpsichord, I happened to look towards the fire, and saw the younger one all in tears. I asked her if she was sick ? She said no; but the tune was so mournful."
The Editor of the Encyclopedie has published something as to an advanced price on his future volumes, which, I understand, alarms the subscribers. It was in a paper which I do not take, and therefore I have not yet seen it, nor can I say what it is. I hope that by this time you have ceased to make wry faces about your vinegar, and that you have received it safe and good. You say that I have been dished up to you as an anti-federalist, 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 to 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 polities 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 am not of the party of federalists. But I am much farther from that of the anti-federalists. 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, and judiciary; the subdivision of the legislative; the happy compromise of interests between the great and 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 the 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 re-eligibility of the President. To these points of disapprobation I adhere. My first wish was, that the nine first conventions might accept the constitution, as the means of securing to us the great mass of good it contained, and that the four 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 anti-federalists 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 the 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 eleven 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 anti-federalist; 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, and 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 its 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. I beg your pardon for it, and will endeavor to merit that pardon by the constant sentiments of esteem and attachment with which I am, dear Sir, your sincere friend and servant.
I have now to acknowledge the honor of your several letters of Aug. 12th, Oct. 17th, and Nov. 27th, and your postscript to Madame de Brehans of Dec. 29th. I have been discouraged from writing to you by the idea that your friends here must give you infinitely more exact information of what is passing, than I could do, who see things imperfectly only, as a stranger. But your complaints of the inexactitude of your friends in this point, will induce me hereafter to hazard more freely my communications, however imperfect. The affairs of this country go on more auspiciously than the most sanguine could have expected. The difficulties of procuring money, and of preventing a bankruptcy, continue always at such a point as to leave the administration no resource but that of an appeal to the nation, and the nation, availing itself of their advantageous position, presses on sufficiently to obtain reasonable concessions, and yet not so much as to endanger an appeal to arms. In fact, the King is altogether out of the dispute. He has said he is ready to agree to such and such articles, and the dispute is between the privileged and unprivileged orders, how they shall divide these concessions between them. An equal taxation is agreed to by everybody; the only question is on the mode of voting; and even in this I think there is already a majority of the nobles in favor of voting by persons. Should this be the case, and should it be found practicable to organize so numerous a body as twelve hundred, so as to avoid tumult, we may hope a happy issue from the approaching convocation. One of their great objects will be to fund the public debts, and if this operation be judiciously executed, and their expenses reduced within the limits of their revenue, I see nothing to prevent their possessing the first credit in Europe and being, of course, in a condition to enter on the stage again more respectably than they ever yet did. But they must be left in quiet this year at least. Longer still would be still better. The present situation of the antagonist nation is favorable to the necessary repose of this country. It is impossible that England can venture to engage itself in a war this year. Were the King as well as his ministry untruly pretend him to be, time is necessary to give a confidence in his recovery, and to show that it is not merely a lucid interval. In the meanwhile, the glimmerings of accommodation between the Turks and two empires do not grow stronger. On the other hand, the war in the western parts of Europe will very possibly spread farther. The accident in England has benumbed her mediation between the Swedes and Danes, so that their war will probably go on, and, with the disturbances in Poland, may draw in the King of Prussia. This will so embroil matters, that it is impossible they should clear up but by a general war, in which France, if not England, must sooner or later take a part. Your ambassador at the Hague is recalled, and certainly on account of the ill-humor between this Court and that. Some very dry and unfriendly memorials have passed between them on the subject of the money which was to have been paid by this country for the late peace with the Emperor. These things suffice to show that France nourishes a resentment still of the treatment she has received, and to keep alive well-grounded apprehensions at the Hague that all is not done yet. Should there be a possibility of detaching the Turks from the war, so as to leave the two empires free to turn this way, or should England remain inactive, the contest in which this country may be engaged will not be difficult; but if the Turks, English, Dutch, Prussians, Poles and Swedes are all in activity, they will give warm employment to the two empires, France, Spain and Denmark, in the event of the war becoming general.
All the world here is electioneering. Paris is a desert, at least as to that description of persons who think they may be chosen themselves, or aid the choice of their friends. I hope to see this great meeting before my departure. Several elections are already over, but I am not able to give you a list of them. Mirabeau has been declared in his province not to be a noble, whereupon he offered himself for the people, and it is said he is elected. The Duke dOrleans has lately rendered himself very popular by decided declarations in favor of the Tiers Etat in all their points. He has particularly declared he will pay taxes in proportion to his property, and he has relinquished all his Calpitaineries. His daughter is to be married to the Duke dAngoulème. The Dauphin is at the last extremity. He is lately removed from Versailles to Meudon. This is considered as preparatory to a removal to St. Dennis. We have had such a winter here as is not on record. The mercury was 18½° below freezing on Reaumurs scale, and I think it was nearly two months varying between that point and zero. It gave occasion for a display of the benevolent character of this nation, which, great as I had thought it, went beyond my expectations. There seems to be a very general apprehension of the want of bread this spring. Supplies are hoped from our country, and indeed they have already reduced the price of flour at Bordeaux from 36 livre to 33 livre the barrel. The funds, at a low ebb when Mr. Necker came in, recovered their ground by degrees, and have ever since remained stationary. The Court has had thoughts of coming to St. Cloud during the session of the States, but it is not yet decided.As I shall write to Madame de Brehan, I shall tender my respects to her myself. The next details I give you will be in New York, where I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you in the summer, and of taking your orders for France. In the meantime, I am, with very sincere esteem and respect, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant.
I had the honor of writing to you on the 15th of February; soon after which, I had the honor of receiving your favor of December the 29th. I have a thousand questions to ask you about your journey to the Indian treaty, how you like their persons, their manners, their costumes, cuisine, &c. But this I must defer till I can do it personally in New York, where I hope to see you for a moment in the summer, and to take your commands for France. I have little to communicate to you from this place. It is deserted, everybody being gone into the country to choose or be chosen deputies to the States General. I hope to see that great meeting before my departure. It is to be on the 27th of next month. A great political revolution will take place in your country, and that without bloodshed. A King with two hundred thousand men at his orders, is disarmed by the force of the public opinion and the want of money. Among the economies becoming necessary, perhaps one may be the opera. They say it has cost the public treasury an hundred thousand crowns the last year. A new theatre is established since your departure; that of the Opera Buffons, where Italian operas are given, and good music. It is in the Chateau des Tuilleries. Paris is every day enlarging and beautifying. I do not count among its beauties, however, the wall with which they have enclosed us. They have made some amends for this, by making fine boulevards within and without the walls. These are in considerable forwardness, and will afford beautiful rides round the city, of between fifteen and twenty miles in circuit. We have had such a winter, Madam, as makes me shiver yet, whenever I think of it. All communications, almost, were cut off. Dinners and suppers were suppressed, and the money laid out in feeding and warming the poor, whose labors were suspended by the rigor of the season. Loaded carriages passed the Seine on the ice, and it was covered with thousands of people from morning to night, skating and sliding. Such sights were never seen before, and they continued two months. We have nothing new and excellent in your charming art of painting. In fact, I do not feel an interest in any pencil but that of David. But I must not hazard details on a subject wherein I am so ignorant, and you such a connoisseur. Adieu, my dear Madam; permit me always the honor of esteeming and being esteemed by you, and of tendering you the homage of that respectful attachment with which I am, and shall ever be, dear Madam, your most obedient humble servant.
I wrote you last on the 12th of January; since which I have received yours of October the 17th, December the 8th and 12th. That of October the 17th, came to hand only February the 23d. 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 January the 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 October the 17th, I have weighed with great satisfaction. Some of them had not occurred to me before, but were acknowledged 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 rended independent and kept strictly to their own department, merits great confidence for their learning and integrity. In fact, what degree of confidence would be too much, for a body composed of such men as Wythe, Blair and Pendleton ? On characters like these, the civium ardor prava jubetium 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 its 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 has once a thought of proposing in Virginia, and 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 and 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, and 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 though 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, and those which attend the want of it. The inconveniences of the declaration are, that it may cramp government in its useful exertions. But the evil of this is short-lived, moderate and reparable. The inconveniences of the want of a declaration are permanent, afflicting and 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 many years. That of the executive will come in its 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 and impossible.
I am much pleased with the prospect that a declaration of rights will be added; and I hope it will be done in that way, which will not endanger the whole frame of 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 effected between the Turks and two empires; but these 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 and Swedes. But the inactivity to which England is reduced, leaves Denmark more free, and she will probably go on in opposition to Sweden. The King 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 as 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, and 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 and that of the Hague, and the papers which have passed, show 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 shows 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 show him publicly to the nation, and 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, and 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 and 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.
I am, with great and sincere attachment, dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant.
My last letter to you extended from December the 23d to January the 11th. A confidential opportunity now arising, I can acknowledge the receipt of yours of January the 15th, at the date of which you could not have received mine.
You knew, long ago, that the meeting of the States is to be at Versailles on the 27th of April. This country is entirely occupied in its elections, which go on quietly and well. The Duke dOrleans is elected for Villers-Cotterets. The Prince of Condeé has lost the election he aimed at; nor is it certain he can be elected anywhere. We have no news from Auvergne, whither the Marquis de La Fayette is gone. In general, all the men of influence in the country are gone into the several provinces to get their friends elected, or be elected themselves. Since my letter to you, a tumult arose in Bretagne, in which four or five lives were lost. They are now quieter, and this is the only instance of a life lost, as yet, in this revolution. The public mind is now so far ripened by time and discussion, that there seems to be but one opinion on the principal points. The question of voting by persons of orders is the most controverted; but even that seems to have gained already a majority among the Nobles. I fear more from the number of the Assembly, than from any other cause. Twelve hundred persons are difficult to keep to order, and will be so, especially, till they shall have had time to frame rules of order. Their funds continue stationary, and at the level they have stood at for some years past. We hear so little of the parliaments for some time past, that one is hardly sensible of their existence. This unimportance is probably the forerunner of their total re-modification by the nation. The article of legislation, is the only interesting one on which the court has not explicitly declared itself to the nation. The Duke dOrleans has given instructions to his proxies in the baillages, which would be deemed bold in England, and are reasonable beyond the reach of an Englishman, who, slumbering under a kind of half reformation in politics and religion, is not excited by anything he sees or feels, to question the remains of prejudice. The writers of this country, now taking the field freely and unrestrained, or rather involved by prejudice, will rouse us all from the errors in which we have been hitherto rocked.
We had, at one time, some hope that an accommodation would have been effected between the Turks and two empires. Probably the taking Oczakow, while it has attached the Empress more to the Crimea, is not important enough to the Turks, to make them consent to peace. These hopes are vanishing. Nor does there seem any prospect of peace between Russia and Sweden. The palsied condition of England leaves it probable that Denmark will pursue its hostilities against Sweden. It does not seem certain whether the King of Prussia has advanced so far in that mediation, and in the troubles he has excited in Poland, as to be obliged to become a party. Nor will his becoming a party draw in this country, the present year, if England remains quiet. Papers which lately passed between this court and the government of Holland, prove that this nourishes its discontent and only waits to put its house in order, before it interposes. They have recalled their ambassador from the Hague, without naming a successor. The King of Sweden, not thinking that Russia and Denmark are enough for him, has arrested a number of his Nobles, of principal rank and influence. It is a bold measure, at least, and he is too boyish a character to authorize us to presume it a wise one, merely because he has adopted it. His army was before disgusted. He now puts the Nobles and all their dependents on the same side, and they are sure of armed support, by Russia on the north, and Denmark on the south. He can have no salvation but in the King of Prussia.
I have received two letters from Ledyard, the one dated Alexandria, August the 15th, the other Grand Cairo, September the 10th; and one lately from Admiral Paul Jones, dated St. Petersburg, January the 31st. He was just arrived there, on the call of the Empress, and was uncertain where he should be employed the next campaign. Mr. Littlepage has returned from the Black Sea to Warsaw, where he has been perfectly received by the King. I saw this from under the Kings own hand, and was pleased with the parental expressions towards him.
We have no news from America later than the middle of January. My letters inform me that even the friends of the new Constitution have come over to the expediency of adding a declaration of rights. There is reason to hope that this will be proposed by Congress to the several legislatures, and that the plan of New York for calling a new convention, will be rejected. Hitherto no State had acceded to it but Virginia, in which Henry and anti-federalism had got full possession of their legislature. But the people are better disposed. My departure for America is likely to be retarded, by the want of a Congress to give me permission. I must obtain it from the new government. I am anxious to know how much we ought to believe of the recovery of the King of England. By putting little facts together, I see that he is not well. Mr. Rumsey (who came in while I was writing the preceding page) tells me you have a long letter ready for me. I shall be happy to receive it.
I am, with great and sincere attachment, dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant.
Your favor of November the 29th, 1788, came to hand the last month. How it happened that mine of August, 1787, was fourteen months on its 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 politicksmen, women and children talk nothing else : and all, you know, talk a great deal. The press groans with daily productions, which, in point of boldness, makes 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 four or five 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 and clergy. The first great question they will have to decide will be, whether they shall vote by orders or persons. And 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 two hundred thousand 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, and 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 and unacknowledged on the other side the channel. An Englishman, dozing 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 the 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 her time to arrange her affairs internally. The consolidation and funding their debts, will give government a credit which will enable them to do what they please. For the present year, the war will be confined to the two empires and Denmark, against Turkey and 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, and so of no weight. Perhaps, by the next year, England and France may be ready to take the field. It will depend on the former principally; for the latter, though she may be then able, must wish a little time to see her new arrangements well under way. The English papers and English ministry say the King is well. He is better but not well : no malady requires a longer time to insure 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 found 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 and legislative department, 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 eleven, 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, and 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 spirit and 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 and new with you. In the meantime, and at all times, I have the honor to be, with great and sincere esteem, dear Sir, your friend and servant.