I yesterday received with sincere regret your resignation of the office of Secretary of State. Since it has been impossible to prevail upon you, to forego any longer the indulgence of your desire for private life; the event, however anxious I am to avert it, must be submitted to.
But I cannot suffer you to leave your Station, without assuring you, that the opinion, which I had formed, of your integrity and talents, and which dictated your original nomination, has been confirmed by the fullest experience; and that both have been eminently displayed in the discharge of your duties.
Let a conviction of my most earnest prayers for your happiness accompany you in your retirement; and while I accept with the warmest thanks your solicitude for my welfare, I beg you to believe, that I always am Dear Sir Your Sincere friend and Affecte. Hble Servant.
I have to thank you for the transmission of the letters from General Gates, La Motte, and Hauterieve. I perceive by the latter, that the partisans of the one or the other principle (perhaps of both) have thought my name a convenient cover for declarations of their own sentiments. What those are to which Hauterieve alludes, I know not, having never seen a newspaper since I left Philadelphia (except those of Richmond), and no circumstances authorize him to expect that I should inquire into them, or answer him. I think it is Montaigne who has said, that ignorance is the softest pillow on which a man can rest his head. I am sure it is true as to everything political, and shall endeavor to estrange myself to everything of that character. I indulge myself on one political topic only, that is, in declaring to my countrymen the shameless corruption of a portion of the Representatives to the first and second Congresses, and their implicit devotion to the treasury. I think I do good in this, because it may produce exertions to reform the evil, on the success of which the form of the government is to depend.
I am sorry La Motte has put me to the expense of one hundred and forty livres for a French translation of an English poem, as I make it a rule never to read translations where I can read the original. However, the question now is, how to get the book brought here, as well as the communications with Mr. Hammond, which you were so kind as to promise me. I must pray you to deliver them to Mr. Madison or Colo. Monroe with a request that they will send them to Colo. Gamble by the first person coming in the stage to [Richmond], endorsing on the packet they are to be put into the post office. As you are still interested in the agriculture of this country, I will mention to you that on James river the small grain never wore so dismal an appearance at this season. A snow of about 8. Inches fell five days ago, and is likely to lie so[me day]s longer. This will help it. At Richmond, our market, no property of any form, would command money even before the interruption of business by the small pox. Produce might be bartered at a low price for goods at a high one. One house alone bought wheat at all, and that on credit. I take this to be the habitual state of the markets on James river, to which shortlived exceptions have existed when some particular cash commission for purchases has been received from abroad. I know not how it is on the other rivers, and therefore say nothing as to them.
This is the first letter I have written to Philadelphia since my arrival at home, and yours the only ones I have received. Accept assurances of my sincere esteem and respect. Yours affectionately.
Our post having ceased to ride ever since the inoculation began in Richmond, till now, I received three days ago, and all together, your friendly favors of March the 2d, 9th, 12th, 14th, and Colonel Monroes of March the 3d and 16th. I have been particularly gratified by the receipt of the papers containing yours and Smiths discussion of your regulating propositions. These debates had not been seen here but in a very short and mutilated form. I am at no loss to ascribe Smiths speech to its true father. Every tittle of it is Hamiltons except the introduction. There is scarcely anything there which I have not heard from him in our various private though official discussions. The very turn of the arguments is the same, and others will see as well as myself that the style is Hamiltons. The sophistry is too fine, too ingenious, even to have been comprehended by Smith, much less devised by him. His reply shows he did not understand his first speech; as its general inferiority proves its legitimacy, as evidently as it does the bastardy of the original. You know we had understood that Hamilton had prepared a counter report, and that some of his humble servants in the Senate were to move a reference to him in order to produce it. But I suppose they thought it would have a better effect if fired off in the House of Representatives. I find the report, however, so fully justified, that the anxieties with which I left it are perfectly quieted. In this quarter, all espouse your propositions with ardor, and without a dissenting voice.
The rumor of a declaration of war has given an opportunity of seeing, that the people here, though attentive to the loss of value of their produce in such an event, yet find in it a gratification of some other passions, and particularly of their ancient hatred to Great Britain. Still, I hope it will not come to that, but that the proposition will be carried, and justice be done ourselves in a peaceable way. As to the guarantee of the French islands, whatever doubts may be entertained of the moment at which we ought to interpose, yet I have no doubt but that we ought to interpose at a proper time, and declare both to England and France that these islands are to rest with France, and that we will make a common cause with the latter for that object.As to the naval armament, the land armament, and the marine fortifications which are in question with you, I have no doubt they will all be carried. Not that the monocrats and paper men in Congress want war, but they want armies and debts; and though we may hope that the sound part of Congress is now so augmented as to insure a majority in cases of general interest merely, yet I have always observed that in questions of expense, where members may hope either for offices or jobs for themselves or their friends, some few will be debauched, and that is sufficient to turn the decision where a majority is at most but small. I have never seen a Philadelphia paper since I left it, till those you enclosed me ; and I feel myself so thoroughly weaned from the interest I took in the proceedings there, while there, that I have never had a wish to see one, and believe that I never shall take another newspaper of any sort. I find my mind totally absorbed in my rural occupations. We are suffering much for want of rain. Tho now at the 3d. of April, you cannot distinguish the wheat fields of the neighborhood yet from hence. Fruit is hitherto safe. We have at this time some prospect of rain. Asparagus is just come to table. The Lilac in blossom, and the first Whip-poor-will heard last night. No Martins yet. I have some hopes Short has sent Cortezs letters for me by Blake. Pray ask E[dmund] R[andolph] if he has. My best affections to Colo. and Mrs Monroe. The correspondence with Hammond has never yet come into this quarter. Accept sincere assurances of affection.
I am to thank you for the book you were so good as to transmit me, as well as the letter covering it, and your felicitations on my present quiet. The difference of my present and past situation is such as to leave me nothing to regret, but that my retirement has been postponed four years too long. The principles on which I calculated the value of life, are entirely in favor of my present course: I return to farming with an ardor which I scarcely knew in my youth, and which has got the better entirely of my love of study. Instead of writing ten or twelve letters a day, which I have been in the habit of doing as a thing in course, I put off answering my letters now, farmer-like, till a rainy day, and then find them sometimes postponed by other necessary occupations.The case of the Pays de Vaud is new to me. The claims of both parties are on grounds which, I fancy, we have taught the world to set little store by. The rights of one generation will scarcely be considered hereafter as depending on the paper transactions of another.My countrymen are groaning under the insults of Great Britain. I hope some means will turn up of reconciling our faith and honor with peace. I confess to you I have seen enough of one war never to wish to see another. With wishes of every degree of happiness to you, both public and private, and with my best respects to Mrs. Adams, I am, your affectionate and humble servant.
Your several favors of February the 22d, 27th, and March the 16th, which had been accumulating in Richmond during the prevalence of the smallpox in that place, were lately brought to me, on the permission given the post to resume his communication. I am particularly to thank you for your favor in forwarding the Bee. Your letters give a comfortable view of French affairs, and later events seem to confirm it. Over the foreign powers I am convinced they will triumph completely, and I cannot but hope that that triumph, and the consequent disgrace of the invading tyrants, is destined, in order of events, to kindle the wrath of the people of Europe against those who have dared to embroil them in such wickedness, and to bring at length, kings, nobles and priests to the scaffolds which they have been so long deluging with human blood. I am still warm whenever I think of these scoundrels, though I do it as seldom as I can, preferring infinitely to contemplate the tranquil growth of my lucerne and potatoes. I have so completely withdrawn myself from these spectacles of usurpation and misrule, that I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month; and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.
We are alarmed here with the apprehensions of war, and sincerely anxious that it may be avoided ; but not at the expense either of our faith or honor. It seems much the general opinion here, the latter has been too much wounded not to require reparation, and to seek it even in war, if that be necessary. As to myself, I love peace, and I am anxious that we should give the world still another useful lesson, by showing to them other modes of punishing injuries than by war, which is as much a punishment to the punisher as to the sufferer. I love, therefore, Mr. Clarkes proposition of cutting off all communication with the nation which has conducted itself so atrociously. This, you will say, may bring on war. If it does, we will meet it like men ; but it may not bring on war, and then the experiment will have been a happy one. I believe this war would be vastly more unanimously approved than any one we ever were engaged in; because the aggressions have been so wanton and bare-faced, and so unquestionably against our desire.I am sorry Mr. Cooper and Priestly did not take a more general survey of our country before they fixed themselves. I think they might have promoted their own advantage by it, and have aided the introduction of improvement where it is more wanting.The prospect of wheat for the ensuing year is a bad one. This is all the sort of news you can expect from me. From you I shall be glad to hear all sort of news, and particularly any improvements in the arts applicable to husbandry or household manufacture.
I am, with very sincere affection, dear Sir, your friend and servant.
I am honored with your favor of April the 24th, and received, at the same time, Mr. Bertrands agricultural prospectus. Though he mentions my having seen him at a particular place, yet I remember nothing of it, and observing that he intimates an application for lands in America, I conceive his letter meant for me as Secretary of State, and therefore I now send it to the Secretary of State. He has given only the heads of his demonstrations, so that nothing can be conjectured of their details. Lord Kaims once proposed an essence of dung, one pint of which should manure an acre. If he or Mr. Bertrand could have rendered it so portable, I should have been one of those who would have been greatly obliged to them. I find on a more minute examination of my lands than the short visits heretofore made to them permitted, that a ten years abandonment of them to the ravages of overseers, has brought on them a degree of degradation far beyond what I had expected. As this obliges me to adopt a milder course of cropping, so I find that they have enabled me to do it, by having opened a great deal of lands during my absence. I have therefore determined on a division of my farm into six fields, to be put under this rotation : first year, wheat ; second, corn, potatoes, peas ; third, rye or wheat, according to circumstances; fourth and fifth, clover where the fields will bring it, and buckwheat dressings where they will not; sixth, folding, and buckwheat dressings. But it will take me from three to six years to get this plan under way. I am not yet satisfied that my acquisition of overseers from the head of Elk has been a happy one, or that much will be done this year towards rescuing my plantations from their wretched condition. Time, patience and perseverance must be the remedy; and the maxim of your letter, "slow and sure," is not less a good one in agriculture than in politics. I sincerely wish it may extricate us from the event of a war, if this can be done saving our faith and our rights. My opinion of the British government is, that nothing will force them to do justice but the loud voice of their people, and that this can never be excited but by distressing their commerce. But I cherish tranquillity too much, to suffer political things to enter my mind at all.I do not forget that I owe you a letter for Mr. Young, but I am waiting to get full information. With every wish for your health and happiness, and my most friendly respects for Mrs. Washington, I have the honor to be, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
I wrote you on the 3d of April, and since that have received yours of March 24, 26, 31, April 14 and 28, and yesterday I received Colonel Monroes of the 4th instant, informing me of the failure of the Non-importation Bill in the Senate. This body was intended as a check on the will of the Representatives when too hasty. They are not only that, but completely so on the will of the people also; and in my opinion are heaping coals of fire, not only on their persons, but on their body, as a branch of the Legislature. I have never known a measure more universally desired by the people than the passage of that bill. It is not from my own observation of the wishes of the people that I would decide what they are, but from that of the gentlemen of the bar, who move much with them, and by their intercommunications with each other, have, under their view, a greater portion of the country than any other description of men. It seems that the opinion is fairly launched into public that they should be placed under the control of a more frequent recurrence to the will of their constituents. This seems requisite to complete the experiment, whether they do more harm or good.I wrote lately to Mr. Taylor for the pamphlet on the bank. Since that I have seen the Definition of Parties and must pray you to bring it for me. It is one of those things which merits to be preserved.The safe arrival of my books at Richmond, and some of them at home, has relieved me from anxiety, and will not be indifferent to you.It turns out that our fruit has not been as entirely killed as was at first apprehended ; some latter blossoms have yielded a small supply of this precious refreshment.I was so improvident as never to have examined at Philadelphia whether negro cotton and oznabrigs can be had there; if you do not already possess the information, pray obtain it before you come away. Our spring has, on the whole, been seasonable; and the wheat as much recovered as its thinness would permit; but the crop must still be a miserable one. There would not have been seed made but for the extraordinary rains of the last month. Our highest heat as yet has been 83°. This was on the 4th instant.
That Blake should not have been arrived at the date of your letter, surprises me. Pray inquire into that fact before you leave Philadelphia. According to Colonel Monroes letter this will find you on the point of departure. I hope we shall see you here soon after your return. Remember me affectionately to Colonel and Mrs. Monroe, and accept the sincere esteem of, dear Sir, your sincere friend and servant.
Your favor of August the 28th finds me in bed, under a paroxysm of the rheumatism which has now kept me for ten days in constant torment, and presents no hope of abatement. But the express and the nature of the case requiring immediate answer, I write to you in this situation. No circumstances, my dear Sir, will ever more tempt me to engage in any thing public. I thought myself perfectly fixed in this determination when I left Philadelphia, but every day and hour since has added to its inflexibility. It is a great pleasure to me to retain the esteem and approbation of the President, and this forms the only ground of any reluctance at being unable to comply with every wish of his. Pray convey these sentiments, and a thousand more to him, which my situation does not permit me to go into.But however suffering by the addition of every single word to this letter, I must add a solemn declaration that neither Mr. J[Josef de Jaudenes] nor Mr. [Josef Ignacio de Viar] ever mentioned to me one word of any want of decorum in Mr. Carmichael, nor anything stronger or more special than stated in my notes of the conversation.Excuse my brevity, my dear Sir, and accept assurances of the sincere esteem and respect with which I have the honor to be, your affectionate friend and servant.
I take the liberty of enclosing for your perusal and consideration a proposal from a Mr. DIvernois, a Genevan, of considerable distinction for science and patriotism, and that, too of the republican kind, though you will see that he does not carry it so far as our friends of the National Assembly of France. While I was at Paris, I knew him as an exile from his democratic principles, the aristocracy having then the upper hand in Geneva. He is now obnoxious to the democratic party. The sum of his proposition is to translate the academy of Geneva in a body to this country. You know well that the colleges of Edinburgh and Geneva, as seminaries of science, are considered as the two eyes of Europe; while Great Britain and America give the preference to the former, and all other countries give it to the latter. I am fully sensible that two powerful obstacles are in the way of this proposition. 1st. The expense : 2d. The communication of science in foreign languages, that is to say, in French and Latin; but I have been so long absent from my own country as to be an incompetent judge either of the force of the objections, or of the dispositions of those who are to decide on them. The respectability of Mr. DIvernois character, and that, too, of the proposition, require an answer from me, and that it should be given on due inquiry. He desires secrecy to a certain degree for the reasons which he explains. What I have to request of you, my dear Sir, is, that you will be so good as to consider his proposition, to consult on its expediency and practicability with such gentlemen of the Assembly as you think best, and take such other measures as you shall think best to ascertain what would be the sense of that body, were the proposition to be hazarded to them. If yourself and friends approve of it, and there is hope that the Assembly would do so, your zeal for the good of our country in general, and the promotion of science, as an instrument towards that, will, of course, induce you to aid them to bring it forward in such a way as you shall judge best. If, on the contrary, you disapprove of it yourselves, or think it would be desperate with the Assembly, be so good as to return it to me with such information as I may hand forward to Mr. DIvernois to put him out of suspense. Keep the matter by all means out of the public papers, and particularly, if you please, do not couple my name with the proposition if brought forward, because it is much my wish to be in nowise implicated in public affairs.It is necessary for me to appeal to all my titles for giving you this trouble, whether founded in representation, patriotism or friendship. The latter, however, as the broadest, is that on which I wish to rely, being with sentiments of very cordial esteem, dear Sir, your sincere friend and humble servant.
I have kept Mr. Jays letter a post or two, with an intention of considering attentively the observation it contains; but I have really now so little stomach for anything of that kind, that I have not resolution enough even to endeavor to understand the observations. I therefore return the letter, not to delay your answer to it, and beg you in answering for yourself, to assure him of my respects and thankful acceptance of Chalmers Treaties, which I do not possess, and if you possess yourself of the scope of his reasoning, make any answer to it you please for me. If it had been on the rotation of my crops, I would have answered myself, lengthily perhaps, but certainly con gusto.
The denunciation of the democratic societies is one of the extraordinary acts of boldness of which we have seen so many from the faction of monocrats. It is wonderful indeed, that the President should have permitted himself to be the organ of such an attack on the freedom of discussion, the freedom of writing, printing and publishing. It must be a matter of rare curiosity to get at the modifications of these rights proposed by them, and to see what line their ingenuity would draw between democratical societies, whose avowed object is the nourishment of the republican principles of our Constitution, and the society of the Cincinnati, a self-created one, carving out for itself hereditary distinctions, lowering over our Constitution eternally, meeting together in all parts of the Union, periodically, with closed doors, accumulating a capital in their separate treasury, corresponding secretly and regularly, and of which society the very persons denouncing the democrats are themselves the fathers, founders and high officers. Their sight must be perfectly dazzled by the glittering of crowns and coronets, not to see the extravagance of the proposition to suppress the friends of general freedom, while those who wish to confine that freedom to the few, are permitted to go on in their principles and practices.I here put out of sight the persons whose misbehavior has been taken advantage of to slander the friends of popular rights; and I am happy to observe, that as far as the circle of my observation and information extends, everybody has lost sight of them, and views the abstract attempt on their natural and constitutional rights in all its nakedness. I have never heard, or heard of, a single expression or opinion which did not condemn it as an inexcusable aggression.And with respect to the transactions against the excise law, it appears to me that you are all swept away in the torrent of governmental opinions, or that we do not know what these transactions have been. We know of none which, according to the definitions of the law, have been anything more than riotous. There was indeed a meeting to consult about a separation. But to consult on a question does not amount to a determination of that question in the affirmative, still less to the acting on such a determination; but we shall see, I suppose, what the court lawyers, and courtly judges, and would-be ambassadors will make of it.The excise law is an infernal one. The first error was to admit it by the Constitution; the second, to act on that admission; the third and last will be, to make it the instrument of dismembering the Union, and setting us all afloat to choose what part of it we will adhere to. The information of our militia, returned from the westward, is uniform, that though the people there let them pass quietly, they were objects of their laughter, not of their fear ; that one thousand men could have cut off their whole force in a thousand places of the Alleganey; that their detestation of the excise law is universal, and has now associated to it a detestation of the government; and that a separation which perhaps was a very distant and problematical event, is now near, and certain, and determined in the mind of every man. I expected to have seen some justification of arming one part of the society against another; of declaring a civil war the moment before the meeting of that body which has the sole right of declaring war; of being so patient of the kicks and scoffs of our enemies, and rising at a feather against our friends ; of adding a million to the public debt and deriding us with recommendations to pay it if we can etc., etc. But the part of the speech which was to be taken as a justification of the armament, reminded me of parson Saunders demonstration why minus into minus make plus. After a parcel of shreds of stuff from Æsops fables and Tom Thumb, he jumps all at once into his Ergo, minus multiplied into minus make plus. Just so the fifteen thousand men enter after the fables, in the speech.
However, the time is coming when we shall fetch up the leeway of our vessel. The changes in your House, I see, are going on for the better, and even the Augean herd over your heads are slowly purging off their impurities. Hold on then, my dear friend, that we may not shipwreck in the meanwhile. I do not see, in the minds of those with whom I converse; a greater affliction than the fear of your retirement; but this must not be, unless to a more splendid and a more efficacious post. There I should rejoice to see you; I hope I may say, I shall rejoice to see you. I have long had much in my mind to say to you on that subject. But double delicacies have kept me silent. I ought perhaps to say, while I would not give up my own retirement for the empire of the universe, how I can justify wishing one whose happiness I have so much at heart as yours, to take the front of the battle which is fighting for my security. This would be easy enough to be done, but not at the heel of a lengthy epistle.Let us quit this, and turn to the fine weather we are basking in. We have had one of our tropical winters. Once only a snow of 3. inches deep, which went off the next day, and never as much ice as would have cooled a bottle of wine. And we have now but good samples of the sring of which it is the harbinger.I recollect no small news interesting to you. You will have heard I suppose that Wolson Nicholas has bought Carrs lowgrounds and Harveys barracks. I rejoice in the prosperity of a virtuous man, and hope his prosperity will not taint his virtue. Present me respectfully to Mrs. Madison, and pray her to keep you where you are for her own satisfaction and the public good, and accept the cordial affections of us all. Adieu.