I should sooner have acknowledged your favor of December 8th, but for a growing and pressing correspondence which I can scarcely manage. I was particularly happy to receive the diary of Quebec, as about the same time I happened to receive one from the Natchez, so as to be able to make a comparison of them. The result was a wonder that any human being should remain in a cold country who could find room in a warm one,should prefer 32° to 55°. Harry Hill has told me that the temperature of Madeira is generally from 55° to 65°, its extreme about 50° and 70°. If I ever change my climate for health, it should be for that Island. I do not know that the coincidence has ever been remarked between the new moon and the greater degrees of cold, or the full moon and the lesser degrees; or that the reflected beams of the moon attemper the weather at all. On the contrary, I think I have understood that the most powerful concave mirror presented to the moon, and throwing its focus on the bulb of a thermometer, does not in the least affect it. I suppose the opinion to be universal that the turkey is a native of America. Nobody, as far as I know, has ever contradicted it but Daines Barrington; and the arguments he produces are such as none but a head, entangled and kinked as his is, would ever have urged. Before the discovery of America, no such bird is mentioned in a single author, all those quoted by Barrington, by description referring to the crane, hen, pheasant or peacock ; but the book of every traveller, who came to America soon after its discovery, is full of accounts of the turkey and its abundance ; and immediately after that discovery we find the turkey served up at the feasts of Europe, as their most extraordinary rarity. Mr. William Strickland, the eldest son of St. George Strickland, of York, in England, told me the anecdote. Some ancestor of his commanded a vessel in the navigations of Cabot. Having occasion to consult the Heralds office concerning his family, he found a petition from that ancestor to the crown, stating that Cabots circumstances being slender, he had been rewarded by the bounties he needed from the crown; that as to himself, he asked nothing in that way, but that as a consideration for his services in the same way, he might be permitted to assume for the crest of his family arms, the turkey, an American bird; and Mr. Strickland observed that their crest is actually a turkey. You ask whether we may be quoted. In the first place, I now state the thing from memory, and may be inexact in some small circumstances. Mr. Strickland too, stated it to me in a conversation, and not considering it of importance, might be inexact too. We should both dislike to be questioned before the public for any little inaccuracy of style or recollection. I think if you were to say that the Heralds office may be referred to in proof of the fact, it would be authority sufficient, without naming us. I have at home a note of Mr. Stricklands information, which I then committed to paper. My situation does not allow me to refresh my memory from this. I shall be glad to see your book make its appearance; and I am sure it will be well received by the Philosophical part of the world, for I still dare to use the word philosophy, notwithstanding the war waged against it by bigotry and despotism. Health, respect and friendly salutations.
Your favor of July 14th, with the papers accompanying it, came safely to hand about the last of October. That containing remarks on the line of demarcation I perused according to your permission, and with great satisfaction, and then enclosed to a friend in Philadelphia, to be forwarded to its address. The papers addressed to me, I took the liberty of communicating to the Philosophical Society. That on the language by signs is quite new. Soon after receiving your meteorological diary, I received one of Quebec; and was struck with the comparison between32 and 19¾ the lowest depression of the thermometer at Quebec and the Natchez. I have often wondered that any human being should live in a cold country who can find room in a warm one. I have no doubt but that cold is the source of more sufferance to all animal nature than hunger, thirst, sickness, and all the other pains of life and of death itself put together. I live in a temperate climate, and under circumstances which do not expose me often to cold. Yet when I recollect on one hand all the sufferings I have had from cold, and on the other all my other pains, the former preponderate greatly. What then must be the sum of that evil if we take in the vast proportion of men who are obliged to be out in all weather, by land and by sea, all the families of beasts, birds, reptiles, and even the vegetable kingdom ! for that too has life, and where there is life there may be sensation. I remark a rainbow of a great portion of the circle observed by you when on the line of demarcation. I live in a situation which has given me an opportunity of seeing more than the semicircle often. I am on a hill five hundred feet perpendicularly high. On the west side it breaks down abruptly to the base, where a river passes through. A rainbow, therefore, about sunset, plunges one of its legs down to the river, five hundred feet below the level of the eye on the top of the hill. I have twice seen bows formed by the moon. They were of the color of the common circle round the moon, and were very near, being within a few paces of me in both instances. I thank you for the little vocabularies of Bedais, Tankawis and Teghas. I have it much at heart to make as extensive a collection as possible of the Indian tongues. I have at present about thirty tolerably full, among which the number radically different, is truly wonderful. It is curious to consider how such handfuls of men, came by different languages, and how they have preserved them so distinct. I at first thought of reducing them all to one orthography, but I soon become sensible that this would occasion two sources of error instead of one. I therefore think it best to keep them in the form of orthography in which they were taken, only noting whether that were English, French, German, or what. I have never been a very punctual correspondent, and it is possible that new duties may make me less so. I hope I shall not on that account lose the benefit of your communications. Philosophical vedette at the distance of one thousand miles, and on the verge of the terra incognito of our continent, is precious to us here. I pray you to accept assurances of my high consideration and esteem, and friendly salutations.
It was to be expected that the enemy would endeavor to sow tares between us, that they might divide us and our friends. Every consideration satisfies me you will be on your guard against this, as I assure you I am strongly. I hear of one stratagem so imposing and so base that it is proper I should notice it to you. Mr. Munford, who is here, says he saw at New York before he left it, an original letter of mine to Judge Breckenridge, in which are sentiments highly injurious to you. He knows my handwriting, and did not doubt that to be genuine. I enclose you a copy taken from the press copy of the only letter I ever wrote to Judge Breckenridge in my life : the press copy itself has been shown to several of our mutual friends here. Of consequence, the letter seen by Mr. Munford must be a forgery, and if it contains a sentiment unfriendly or disrespectful to you, I affirm it solemnly to be a forgery ; as also if it varies from the copy enclosed. With the common trash of slander I should not think of troubling you; but the forgery of ones handwriting is too imposing to be neglected. A mutual knowledge of each other furnishes us with the best test of the contrivances which will be practised by the enemies of both.
Accept assurances of my high respect and esteem.
I have long waited for an opportunity to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of December the 15th, as well as that by Dr. Mendenhall. None occurring, I shall either deliver the present to General Muhlenburg or put it under cover to Doctor Wistar, to whom I happen to be writing, to be sent to your house in Philadelphia, or forwarded confidentially to Lancaster.
The event of the election is still in dubio. A strong portion in the House of Representatives will prevent an election if they can. I rather believe they will not be able to do it, as there are six individuals of moderate character, any one of whom coming over to the republican vote will make a ninth State. Till this is known, it is too soon for me to say what should be done in such atrocious cases as those you mention of federal officers obstructing the operation of the State governments. One thing I will say, that as to the future, interferences with elections, whether of the State or General Government, by officers of the latter, should be deemed cause of removal ; because the constitutional remedy by the elective principle becomes nothing, if it may be smothered by the enormous patronage of the General Government. How far it may be practicable, prudent or proper, to look back, is too great a question to be decided but by the united wisdom of the whole administration when formed. Our situation is so different from yours, that it may render proper some differences in the practice. Your State is a single body, the majority clearly one way. Ours is of sixteen integral parts, some of them all one way, some all the other, some divided. Whatever may be decided as to the past, they shall give no trouble to the State governments in future, if it shall depend on me; and be assured, particularly as to yourself, that I should consider the most perfect harmony and interchange of accommodations and good offices with those governments as among the first objects.
Accept assurances of my high consideration, respect and esteem.
According to your desire I wrote to Chancellor Livingston on the subject of the bones. The following is an extract from his letter dated January 7th : "I have paid the earliest attention to your request relative to the bones found at Shawangun, and have this day written to a very intelligent friend in that neighborhood. I fear however that till they have finished their search, there will be some difficulty in procuring any part of the bones, because when I first heard of the discovery I made some attempts to possess myself of them, but found they were a kind of common property, the whole town having joined in digging for them till they were stopped by the autumnal rains. They entertain well-grounded hopes of discovering the whole skeleton, since these bones are not, like all those they have hitherto found in that county, placed within the vegetable world, but are covered with a stratum of clay,that being sheltered from the air and water they are more perfectly preserved. Among the bones I have heard mentioned, are the vertebra, part of the jaw, with two of the grinders, the tusks, which some have called the horns, the sternum, the scapula, the tibia and fibula, the tarsus and metatarsus. Whether any of the phalanges or innominata are found, I have not heard. A part of the head, containing the socket of the tusks, is also discovered. From the bones of the feet, it is evidently a claw-footed animal, and from such parts of the shoulder bones as have been discovered, it appears that the arm or fore-leg, had a greater motion than can possibly belong to the elephant or any of the large quadrupeds with which we are acquainted. Since bog-earth has been used by the farmers of Ulster county for a manure, which is subsequent to the war, fragments of at least eight or ten have been found, but in a very decayed state in the same bog."
From this extract, and the circumstance that the bones belong to the town, you will be sensible of the difficulty of obtaining any considerable portion of them. I refer to yourself to consider whether it would not be better to select such only of which we have no specimens, and to ask them only. It is not unlikely they would with common consent yield a particular bone or bones, provided they may keep the mass for their own town. If you will make the selection and communicate it to me, I will forward it to the Chancellor, and the sooner the better.
Accept assurances of my high consideration and attachment.
Your favor of January the 25th came to hand some days ago, and yesterday a gentleman put into my hand, at the door of the Senate chamber, the volume of the American Museum for 1798. As no letter accompanied it, I took it for granted it was to bring under my eye some of its contents. I have gone over it with satisfaction.
This is the morning of the election by the House of Representatives. For some time past a single individual had declared he would by his vote make up the ninth State. On Saturday last he changed, and it stands at present eight one way, six the other, and two divided. Which of the two will be elected, and whether either, I deem perfectly problematical: and my mind has long been equally made up for either of the three events. If I can find out the person who brought me the volume from you, I shall return it by him, because I presume it makes one of a set. If not by him, I will find some other person who may convey it to Philadelphia if not to Lancaster. Very possibly it may go by a different conveyance from this letter. Very probably you will learn before the receipt of either, the result, or progress at least, of the election. We see already at the threshold, that if it falls on me, I shall be embarrassed by finding the offices vacant, which cannot be even temporarily filled but with advice of Senate, and that body is called on the fourth of March, when it is impossible for the new members of Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina to receive notice in time to be here. The summons for Kentucky, dated, as all were, January the 31st, could not go hence till the 5th, and that for Georgia did not go till the 6th. If the difficulties of the election, therefore, are got over, there are more and more behind, until new elections shall have regenerated the constituted authorities. The defects of our Constitution under circumstances like the present, appear very great. Accept assurances of the esteem and respect of, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.
Your favor of January 18th is duly received. The subject of it did not need apology. On the contrary, should I be placed in office, nothing would be more desirable to me than the recommendations of those in whom I have confidence, of persons fit for office; for if the good withhold their testimony, we shall be at the mercy of the bad. If the question relative to Mr. Zantzinger had been merely that of remaining in office, your letter would have placed him on very safe ground. Besides that, no man who has conducted himself according to his duties would have anything to fear from me, as those who have done ill would have nothing to hope, be their political principles what they might. The obtaining an appointment presents more difficulties. The republicans have been excluded from all offices from the first origin of the division into Republican and Federalist. They have a reasonable claim to vacancies till they occupy their due share. My hope, however, is that the distinction will be soon lost, or at most that it will be only of republican and monarchist : that the body of the nation, even that part which French excesses forced over to the federal side, will rejoin the republicans, leaving only those who were pure monarchists, and who will be too few to form a sect. This is the fourth day of the ballot, and nothing done ; nor do I see any reason to suppose the six and a half States here will be less firm, as they call it, than your thirteen Senators; if so, and the government should expire on the 3d of March by the loss of its head, there is no regular provision for reorganizing it, nor any authority but in the people themselves. They may authorize a convention to reorganize and even amend the machine. There are ten individuals in the House of Representatives, any one of whom changing his vote may save us this troublesome operation. Be pleased to present my friendly respects to Mrs. Barton, Mrs. Sarjeant, and Mrs. Waters, and to accept yourself my affectionate salutations.
I have received several letters from you which have not been acknowledged. By the post I dare not, and one or two confidential opportunities have passed me by surprise. I have regretted it the less, because I know you could be more safely and fully informed by others. Mr. Tyler, the bearer of this, will give you a great deal more information personally than can be done by letter. Four days of balloting have produced not a single change of a vote. Yet it is confidently believed by most that to-morrow there is to be a coalition. I know of no foundation for this belief. However, as Mr. Tyler waits the event of it, he will communicate it to you. If they could have been permitted to pass a law for putting the government into the hands of an officer, they would certainly have prevented an election. But we thought it best to declare openly and firmly, one and all, that the day such an act passed, the Middle States would arm, and that no such usurpation, even for a single day, should be submitted to. This first shook them ; and they were completely alarmed at the resource for which we declared, to wit, a convention to reorganize the government, and to amend it. The very word convention gives them the horrors, as in the present democratical spirit of America, they fear they should lose some of the favorite morsels of the Constitution, Many attempts have been made to obtain terms and promises from me. I have declared to them unequivocally, that I would not receive the government on capitulation, that I would not go into it with my hands tied. Should they yield the election, I have reason to expect in the outset the greatest difficulties as to nominations. The late incumbents running away from their offices and leaving them vacant, will prevent my filling them without the previous advice of Senate. How this difficulty is to be got over I know not. Accept for Mrs. Monroe and yourself my affectionate salutations. Adieu.
Notwithstanding the suspected infidelity of the post, I must hazard this communication. The minority in the House of Representatives, after seeing the impossibility of electing Burr, the certainty that a legislative usurpation would be resisted by arms, and a recourse to a convention to reorganize and amend the government, held a consultation on this dilemma, whether it would be better for them to come over in a body and go with the tide of the times, or by a negative conduct suffer the election to be made by a bare majority, keeping their body entire and unbroken, to act in phalanx on such ground of opposition as circumstances shall offer; and I know their determination on this question only by their vote of yesterday. Morris of Vermont withdrew, which made Lyons vote that of his State. The Maryland federalists put in four blanks, which made the positive ticket of their colleagues the vote of the State. South Carolina and Delaware put in six blanks. So there were ten States for one candidate, four for another, and two blanks. We consider this, therefore, as a declaration of war, on the part of this band. But their conduct appears to have brought over to us the whole body of federalists, who, being alarmed with the danger of a dissolution of the government, had been made most anxiously to wish the very administration they had opposed, and to view it when obtained, as a child of their own. * * * * * Mr. A[dams] embarrasses us. He keeps the offices of State and War vacant, but has named Bayard Minister Plenipotentiary to France, and has called an unorganized Senate to meet the fourth of March. As you do not like to be here on that day, I wish you would come within a day or two after. I think that between that and the middle of the month we can so far put things under way, as that we may go home to make arrangements for our final removal. Come to Conrads, where I will bespeak lodgings for you. Yesterday Mr. A. nominated Bayard to be Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to the French Republic; to-day, Theophilus Parsons, Attorney General of the United States in the room of C. Lee, who, with Keith Taylor cum multis aliis, are appointed judges under the new system. H.G. Otis is nominated a district attorney. A vessel has been waiting for some time in readiness to carry the new minister to France. My affectionate salutations to Mrs. Madison.
The House of Representatives having yesterday concluded their choice of a person for the chair of the United States and willed me that office, it now becomes necessary to provide an administration composed of persons whose qualifications and standing have possessed them of the public confidence, and whose wisdom may ensure to our fellow-citizens the advantages they sanguinely expect. On a review of the characters in the different States proper for the different departments, I have had no hesitation in considering you as the person to whom it would be most advantageous to the public to confide the Department of War. May I therefore hope, Sir, that you will give your country the aid of your talents as Secretary of War ? The delay which has attended the election has very much abridged our time, and rendered the call more sudden and pressing than I could have wished. I am in hopes our administration may be assembled during the first week of March, except yourself, and that you can be with us in a few days after. Indeed it is probable we shall be but a few days together (perhaps to the middle of the month) to make some general and pressing arrangements, and then go home, for a short time, to make our final removal hither. I mention these circumstances that you may see the urgency of setting out for this place with the shortest delay possible, which may be the shorter as you can return again to your family, as we shall, to make your final arrangements for removal. I hope we shall not be disappointed in counting on your aid, and that you will favor us with an answer by return of post. Accept assurances of sincere esteem and high respect from, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
Your favor of the 3d instant has been duly received. I perceive in it that frankness Which I ever found in your character, and which honors every character in which it is found. I feel indebted also for the justice you do me as to opinions which others, with less candor, have imputed to me. I have received many letters stating to me in the spirit of prophecy, caricatures which the writers, it seems, know are to be the principles of my administration. To these no answer has been given, because the prejudiced spirit in which they have been written proved the writers not in a state of mind to yield to truth or reason. To the friendly style of your letter I would gladly answer in detail were it in my power; but I have thought that I ought not to permit myself to form opinions in detail, until I can have the counsel of those, of whose services I wish to avail the public in the administration of their affairs. Till this can be done, you have justly resorted to the only proper ground, that of estimating my future by my past conduct. Upwards of thirty years passed on the stage of public life and under the public eye, may surely enable them to judge whether my future course is likely to be marked with those departures from reason and moderation, which the passions of men have been willing to foresee. One imputation in particular has been remarked till it seems as if some at least believe it: that I am an enemy to commerce. They admit me as a friend to agriculture, and suppose me an enemy to the only means of disposing of its produce. I might appeal too to evidences of my attention to the commerce and navigation of our country in different stations connected with them, but this would lead to details not to be expected. I have deferred answering your letter till this day lest the motives for these explanations should be mistaken. You will be so good as to consider this communication so far confidential as not to put it in the power of any person committing it to the press. I am with great esteem, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.
After exactly a weeks balloting there at length appeared ten States for me, four for Burr, and two voted blanks. This was done without a single vote coming over. Morris of Vermont withdrew, so that Lyons vote became that of the State. The four Maryland federalists put in blanks, so then the vote of the four republicans became that of their State. Mr. Hager of South Carolina (who had constantly voted for me) withdrew by agreement, his colleagues agreeing in that case to put in blanks. Bayard, the sole member of Delaware, voted blank. They had before deliberated whether they would come over in a body, when they saw they could not force Burr on the republicans, or keep their body entire and unbroken to act in phalanx on such ground of opposition as they shall hereafter be able to conjure up. Their vote showed what they had decided on, and is considered as a declaration of perpetual war; but their conduct has completely left them without support. Our information from all quarters is that the whole body of federalists concurred with the republicans in the last elections, and with equal anxiety. They had been made to interest themselves so warmly for the very choice, which while before the people they opposed, that when obtained it came as a thing of their own wishes, and they find themselves embodied with the republicans, and their quondam leaders separated from them, and I verily believe they will remain embodied with us, so that this conduct of the minority has done in one week what very probably could hardly have been effected. by years of mild and impartial administration. A letter from Mr. Eppes informs me that Maria is in a situation which induces them not to risk a journey to Monticello, so we shall not have the pleasure of meeting them here. I begin to hope I may be able to leave this place by the middle of March. My tenderest love to my ever dear Martha, and kisses to the little ones. Accept yourself sincere and affectionate salutation. Adieu.
The liberality of the conversation you honored me with yesterday evening has given me great satisfaction, and demands my sincere thanks. It is certain that those of the Cabinet Council of the President should be of his bosom confidence. Our geographical position has been an impediment to that, while I can with candor declare that the imperfect opportunities I have had of acquaintance with you, have inspired an entire esteem for your character, and that you will carry with you that esteem and sincere wish to be useful to you. The accommodation you have been so kind as to offer as to the particular date of retiring from office, is thankfully accepted, and shall be the subject of a particular letter to you, as soon as circumstances shall enable me to speak with certainty. In the meantime accept assurances of my high respect and consideration.
Your favor of the 18th did not get to my hand till yesterday. I thank you for the accommodation in point of time therein offered. Circumstances may render it a convenience ; in which case I will avail myself of it, without too far encroaching on your wishes. At this instant it is not in my power to say anything certain on the subject of time. The declarations of support to the administration of our government are such as were to be expected from your character and attachment to our Constitution. I wish support from no quarter longer than my object candidly scanned, shall merit it ; and especially, not longer than I shall rigorously adhere to the Constitution. I am with respect, Sir, your most obedient humble servant.
It has occurred to me that possibly you might be willing to undertake the mission as Minister Plenipotentiary to France. If so, I shall most gladly avail the public of your services in that office. Though I am sensible of the advantages derived from your talent to your particular State, yet I cannot suppress the desire of adding them to the mass to be employed on the broader scale of the nation at large. I will ask the favor of an immediate answer, that I may give in the nomination to the Senate, observing at the same time, that the period of your departure cant be settled until we get our administration together, and may perhaps be delayed till we receive the ratification of the Senate, which would probably be four months ; consequently, the commission would not be made out before then. This will give you ample time to make your departure convenient. In hopes of hearing from you as speedily as you can form your resolution, and hoping it will be favorable, I tender you my respectful and affectionate salutations.
Your favor of the 5th came to hand on the 20th, and I have but time to acknowledge it under the present pressure of business. I recognize in it those sentiments of virtue and patriotism which you have ever manifested. The suspension of public opinion from the 11th to the 17th, the alarm into which it threw all the patriotic part of the federalists, the danger of the dissolution of our Union, and unknown consequences of that, brought over the great body of them to wish with anxiety and solicitation for a choice to which they had before been strenuously opposed. In this state of mind they separated from their congressional leaders, and came over to us ; and the manner in which the last ballot was given, has drawn a fixed line of separation between them and their leaders. When the election took effect, it was as the most desirable of events to them. This made it a thing of their choice, and finding themselves aggregated with us accordingly, they are in a state of mind to be consolidated with us, if no intemperate measures on our part revolt them again. I am persuaded that weeks of ill-judged conduct here, has strengthened us more than years of prudent and conciliatory administration could have done. If we can once more get social intercourse restored to its pristine harmony, I shall believe we have not lived in vain; and that it may, by rallying them to true republican principles, which few of them had thrown off, I sanguinely hope. Accept assurances of the high esteem and respect of, dear Sir, your friend and servant.
To give the usual opportunity of appointing a President pro tempore, I now propose to retire from the chair of the Senate; and, as the time is near at hand when the relations will cease which have for some time subsisted between this honorable house and myself, I beg leave before I withdraw, to return them my grateful thanks for all the instances of attention and respect with which they have been pleased to honor me. In the discharge of my functions here, it has been my conscientious endeavor to observe impartial justice, without regard to persons or subjects, and if I have failed in impressing this on the mind of the Senate, it will be to me a circumstance of the deepest regret. I may have erred at timesno doubt I have erred; this is the law of human nature. For honest errors, however, indulgence may be hoped. I owe to truth and justice at the same time to declare that the habits of order and decorum, which so strongly characterize the proceedings of the Senate, have rendered the umpirage of their President an office of little difficulty, that in times and on questions which have severely tried the sensibilities of the house, calm and temperate discussion has rarely been disturbed by departures from order.
Should the support which I have received from the Senate, in the performance of my duties here, attend me into the new station to which the public will has transferred me, I shall consider it as commencing under the happiest auspices.
With these expressions of my dutiful regard to the Senate, as a body, I ask leave to mingle my particular wishes for the health and happiness of the individuals who compose it, and to tender them my cordial and respectful adieus.
I received a letter from you the last year, and it has been long since I wrote one to you. During the earlier part of the period it would never have got to your hands, and during the latter, such has been the state of politics on both sides of the water, that no communications were safe. Nevertheless, I have never ceased to cherish a sincere friendship for you, and to take a lively interest in your sufferings and losses. It would make me happy to learn that they are to have an end. We have passed through an awful scene in this country. The convulsion of Europe shook even us to our centre. A few hardy spirits stood firm to their post, and the ship has breasted the storm. The details of this cannot be put on paper. For the astonishing particulars I refer you to the bearer of this, Mr. Dorson, my friend, fully possessed of everything, as being a Member of Congress, and worthy of confidence. From him you must learn what America is now, or was, and what it has been; for now I hope it is getting back to the state in which you knew it. I will only add that the storm we have passed through proves our vessel indestructible. I have heard with great concern of the delicacy of Mrs. de La Fayettes health, and with anxiety to learn that it is getting better. Having been at Monticello all the time your son was in America, I had not an opportunity of seeing him and of proving my friendship to one in whom I have an interest. Present the homage of my respects and attachment to Mrs. de La Fayette, and accept yourself assurances of my constant and affectionate friendship.
P.S. March 18. This moment Mr. Pickon arrived, and delivered me your letter, of which he was the bearer.
I beg leave through you to inform the Honorable the Senate of the United States, that I propose to take the oath which the Constitution prescribes to the President of the United States, before he enters on the execution of his office, on Wednesday, the 4th inst., at twelve oclock, in the Senate chamber.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
I was desired two or three days ago to sign some sea letters, to be dated on or after the 4th of March, but in the meantime to be forwarded to the different ports ; and I understood you would countersign them as the person appointed to perform the duties of Secretary of State, but that you thought a reappointment, to be dated the 4th of March, would be necessary. I shall with pleasure sign such a reappointment nunc pro tunc, if you can direct it to be made out, not being able to do it myself for want of a knowledge of the form.
I propose to take the oath or oaths of office as President of the United States, on Wednesday the 4th inst., at twelve oclock, in the Senate chamber. May I hope the favor of your attendance to administer the oath ? As the two Houses have notice of the hour, I presume a precise punctuality to it will be expected from me. I would pray you in the meantime to consider whether the oath prescribed in the Constitution be not the only one necessary to take ? It seems to comprehend the substance of that prescribed by the Act of Congress to all officers, and it may be questionable whether the Legislature can require any new oath from the President. I do not know what has been done in this heretofore ; but I presume the oaths administered to my predecessors are recorded in the Secretary of States office.
Not being yet provided with a private secretary, and needing some person on Wednesday to be the bearer of a message or messages to the Senate, I presume the chief clerk of the department of State might be employed with propriety. Permit me through you to ask the favor of his attendance on me to my lodgings on Wednesday, after I shall have been qualified.
I have the honor to be with great respect, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant.
I beg leave through you to inform the Honorable House of Representatives of the United States, that I shall take the oath which the Constitution prescribes to the President of the United States, before he enters on the execution of his office, on Wednesday, the 4th inst., at twelve oclock, in the Senate chamber.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
No pleasure can exceed that which I received from reading your letter of the 21st ultimo. It was like the joy we expect in the mansions of the blessed, when received with the embraces of our forefathers, we shall be welcomed with their blessing as having done our part not unworthily of them. The storm through which we have passed, has been tremendous indeed. The tough sides of our Argosy have been thoroughly tried. Her strength has stood the waves into which she was steered, with a view to sink her. We shall put her on her republican tack, and she will now show by the beauty of her motion the skill of her builders. Figure apart, our fellow-citizens have been led hoodwinked from their principles, by a most extraordinary combination of circumstances. But the band is removed, and they now see for themselves. I hope to see shortly a perfect consolidation, to effect which, nothing shall be spared on my part, short of the abandonment of the principles of our revolution. A just and solid republican government maintained here, will be a standing monument and example for the aim and imitation of the people of other countries; and I join with you in the hope and belief that they will see, from our example, that a free government is of all others the most energetic ; that the inquiry which has been excited among the mass of mankind by our revolution and its consequences, will ameliorate the condition of man over a great portion of the globe. What a satisfaction have we in the contemplation of the benevolent effects of our efforts, compared with those of the leaders on the other side, who have discountenanced all advances in science as dangerous innovations, have endeavored to render philosophy and republicanism terms of reproach, to persuade us that man cannot be governed but by the rod, etc. I shall have the happiness of living and dying in the contrary hope. Accept assurances of my constant and sincere respect and attachment, and my affectionate salutations.
I had written the enclosed letter to Mrs. Trist, and was just proceeding to begin one to you, when your favor of the 6th was put into my hands. I thank you sincerely for it, and consider the views of it so sound, that I have communicated it to my coadjutors as one of our important evidences of the public sentiment, according to which we must shape our course. I suspect, partly from this, but more from a letter of J. Taylors which has been put into my hands, that an incorrect idea of my views has got abroad. I am in hopes my inaugural address will in some measure set this to rights, as it will present the leading objects to be conciliation and adherence to sound principle. This I know is impracticable with the leaders of the late faction, whom I abandon as incurables, and will never turn an inch out of my way to reconcile them. But with the main body of the federalists, I believe it very practicable. You know that the manoeuvres of the year X.Y.Z. carried over from us a great body of the people, real republicans, and honest men under virtuous motives. The delusion lasted a while. At length the poor arts of tub plots, etc. were repeated till the designs of the party became suspected. From that moment those who had left us began to come back. It was by their return to us that we gained the victory in November, 1800, which we should not have gained in November, 1799. But during the suspension of the public mind from the 11th to the 17th of February, and the anxiety and alarm lest there should be no election, and anarchy ensue, a wonderful effect was produced on the mass of federalists who had not before come over. Those who had before become sensible of their error in the former change, and only wanted a decent excuse for coming back, seized that occasion for doing so. Another body, and a large one it is, who from timidity of constitution had gone with those who wished for a strong executive, were induced by the same timidity to come over to us rather than risk anarchy : so that, according to the evidence we receive from every direction, we may say that the whole of that portion of the people which were called federalists, were made to desire anxiously the very event they had just before opposed with all their energies, and to receive the election which was made, as an object of their earnest wishes, a child of their own. These people (I always exclude their leaders) are now aggregated with us, they look with a certain degree of affection and confidence to the administration, ready to become attached to it, if it avoids in the outset acts which might revolt and throw them off. To give time for a perfect consolidation seems prudent. I have firmly refused to follow the counsels of those who have desired the giving offices to some of their leaders, in order to reconcile. I have given, and will give only to republicans, under existing circumstances. But I believe with others, that deprivations of office, if made on the ground of political principles alone, would revolt our new converts, and give a body to leaders who now stand alone. Some, I know, must be made. They must be as few as possible, done gradually, and bottomed on some malversation or inherent disqualification. Where we shall draw the line between retaining all and none, is not yet settled, and will not be till we get our administration together; and perhaps even then, we shall proceed à talons, balancing our measures according to the impression we perceive them to make.
This may give you a general view of our plan. Should you be in Albemarle the first week in April, I shall have the pleasure of seeing you there, and of developing things more particularly, and of profiting by an intercommunication of views. Dawson sails for France about the 15th, as the bearer only of the treaty to Ellsworth and Murray. He has probably asked your commands, and your introductory letters.
Present my respects to Mrs. Monroe, and accept assurances of my high and affectionate consideration and attachment.
Dear Sir,I have to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of February the 20th, and to thank you for your congratulations on the event of the election. Had it terminated in the elevation of Mr. Burr, every republican would, I am sure, have acquiesced in a moment; because, however it might have been variant from the intentions of the voters, yet it would have been agreeable to the Constitution. No man would more cheerfully have submitted than myself, because I am sure the administration would have been republican, and the chair of the Senate permitting me to be at home eight months in the year, would, on that account, have been much more consonant to my real satisfaction. But in the event of an usurpation, I was decidedly with those who were determined not to permit it. Because that precedent once set, would be artificially reproduced, and end soon in a dictator. Virginia was bristling up I believe. I shall know the particulars from Governor Monroe, whom I expect to meet in a short visit I must make home, to select some books, etc., necessary here, and make other domestic arrangements.
* * * * * * * * *
Accept assurances of my high esteem and regard.
Not having my papers here, it is not in my power to acknowledge the receipt of your letters by their dates, but I am pretty certain I have received two in the course of the last twelve months, one of them covering your excellent second letter. Nothing can be sounder than the principles it inculcates, and I am not without hopes they will make their way. You have understood that the revolutionary movements in Europe had, by industry and artifice, been wrought into objects of terror even to this country, and had really involved a great portion of our well-meaning citizens in a panic which was perfectly unaccountable, and during the prevalence of which they were led to support measures the most insane. They are now pretty thoroughly recovered from it, and sensible of the mischief which was done, and preparing to be done, had their minds continued a little longer under that derangement. The recovery bids fair to be complete, and to obliterate entirely the line of party division which had been so strongly drawn. Not that their late leaders have come over, or ever can come over. But they stand, at present, almost without followers. The principal of them have retreated into the judiciary as a stronghold, the tenure of which renders it difficult to dislodge them. For all the particulars I must refer you to Mr. Dawson, a member of Congress, fully informed and worthy of entire confidence. Give me leave to ask for him your attentions and civilities, and a verbal communication of such things on your side the water as you know I feel a great interest in, and as may not with safety be committed to paper. I am entirely unable to conjecture the issue of things with you.
Accept assurances of my constant esteem and high consideration.
Your letters of October the 1st, 4th, 6th, and 16th, came duly to hand, and the papers which they covered were, according to your permission, published in the newspapers and in a pamphlet, and under your own name. These papers contain precisely our principles, and I hope they will be generally recognized here. Determined as we are to avoid, if possible, wasting the energies of our people in war and destruction, we shall avoid implicating ourselves with the powers of Europe, even in support of principles which we mean to pursue. They have so many other interests different from ours, that we must avoid being entangled in them. We believe we can enforce those principles, as to ourselves, by peaceable means, now that we are likely to have our public councils detached from foreign views. The return of our citizens from the phrenzy into which they had been wrought, partly by ill conduct in France, partly by artifices practised on them, is almost entire, and will, I believe, become quite so. But these details, too minute and long for a letter, will be better developed by Mr. Dawson, the bearer of this, a member of the late Congress, to whom I refer you for them. He goes in the Maryland, a sloop of war, which will wait a few days at Havre tn receive his letters, to be written on his arrival at Paris. You expressed a wish to get a passage to this country in a public vessel. Mr. Dawson is charged with orders to the captain of the Maryland to receive and accommodate you with a passage back, if you can be ready to depart at such short warning. Robert R. Livingston is appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to the Republic of France, but will not leave this till we receive the ratification of the convention by Mr. Dawson. I am in hopes you will find us returned generally to sentiments worthy of former times. In these it will be your glory to have steadily labored, and with as much effect as any man living. That you may long live to continue your useful labors, and to reap their reward in the thankfulness of nations, is my sincere prayer.
Accept assurances of my high esteem and affec tionate attachment.
Mr. Pichon, who arrived two days ago, delivered me your favor of January the 1st, and I had before received one by Mr. Dupont, dated August the 24th, 1799, both on the subject of lands, claimed on behalf of your brother, Mr. Girard, and that of August the 24th, containing a statement of the case. I had verbally explained to Mr. Dupont at the time, what I presumed to have been the case, which must, I believe, be very much mistaken in the statement sent with that letter; and I expected he had communicated it to you.
During the regal government, two companies, called the Loyal and the Ohio companies, had obtained grants from the crown for eight hundred thousand, or one million of acres of land, each, on the Ohio, on condition of settling them in a given number of years. They surveyed some, and settled them ; but the war of 1755 came on, and broke up the settlements. After it was over, they petitioned for a renewal. Four other large companies then formed themselves, called the Mississippi, the Illinois, the Wabash, and the Indiana companies, each praying for immense quantities of land, some amounting to two hundred miles square; so that they proposed to cover the whole country north between the Ohio and Mississippi, and a great portion of what is south. All these petitions were depending, without any answer whatever from the crown, when the Revolution War broke out. The petitioners had associated to themselves some of the nobility of England, and most of the characters in America of great influence. When Congress assumed the government, they took some of their body in as partners, to obtain their influence ; and I remember to have heard, at the time, that one of them took Mr. Girard as a partner, expecting by that to obtain the influence of the French court, to obtain grants of those lands which they had not been able to obtain from the British government. All these lands were within the limits of Virginia, and that State determined, peremptorily, that they never should be granted to large companies, but left open equally to all; and when they passed their land law, (which I think was in 1778,) they confirmed only so much of the lands of the Loyal company as they had actually surveyed, which was a very small proportion, and annulled every other pretension. And when that State conveyed the lands to Congress, (which was not till 1784), so determined were they to prevent their being granted to these or any other large companies, that they made it an express condition of the cession, that they should be applied first towards the soldiers bounties, and the residue sold for the payment of the national debt, and for no other purpose. This disposition has been, accordingly, rigorously made, and is still going on; and Congress considers itself as having no authority to dispose of them otherwise. * * * * * * * * *
I sincerely wish, Sir, it had been in my power to have given you a more agreeable account of this claim. But as the case actually is, the most substantial service is to state it exactly, and not to foster false expectations. I remember with great sensibility all the attentions you were so good as to render me while I resided in Paris, and shall be made happy by every occasion which can be given me of acknowledging them; and the expressions of your friendly recollection are particularly soothing to me.
Accept, I pray you, the assurances of my high consideration and constant esteem.
Dear Sir,I learned some time ago that you were in Philadelphia, but that it was only for a fortnight; and I supposed you were gone. It was not till yesterday I received information that you were still there, had been very ill, but were on the recovery. I sincerely rejoice that you are so. Yours is one of the few lives precious to mankind, and for the continuance of which every thinking man is solicitous. Bigots may be an exception. What an effort, my dear Sir, of bigotry in politics and religion have we gone through ! The barbarians really flattered themselves they should be able to bring back the times of Vandalism, when ignorance put everything into the hands of power and priestcraft. All advances in science were proscribed as innovations. They pretended to praise and encourage education, but it was to be the education of our ancestors. We were to look backwards, not forwards, for improvement; the President himself declaring, in one of his answers to addresses, that we were never to expect to go beyond them in real science. This was the real ground of all the attacks on you. Those who live by mystery and charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy,the most sublime and benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man,endeavored to crush your well-earned and well-deserved fame. But it was the Lilliputians upon Gulliver. Our countrymen have recovered from the alarm into which art and industry had thrown them; science and honesty are replaced on their high ground; and you, my dear Sir, as their great apostle, are on its pinnacle. It is with heart felt satisfaction that, in the first moments of my public action, I can hail you with welcome to our land, tender to you the homage of its respect and esteem, cover you under the protection of those laws which were made for the wise and good like you, and disdain the legitimacy of that libel on legislation, which, under the form of a law, was for some time placed among them.(1)
As the storm is now subsiding, and the horizon becoming serene, it is pleasant to consider the phenomenon with attention. We can no longer say there is nothing new under the sun. For this whole chapter in the history of man is new. The great extent of our republic is new. Its sparse habitation is new. The mighty wave of public opinion which has rolled over it is new. But the most pleasing novelty is, its so quietly subsiding over such an extent of surface to its true level again. The order and good sense displayed in this recovery from delusion, and in the momentous crisis which lately arose, really bespeak a strength of character in our nation which augurs well for the duration of our republic; and I am much better satisfied now of its stability than I was before it was tried. I have been, above all things, solaced by the prospect which opened on us, in the event of a non-election of a President; in which case, the federal government would have been in the situation of a clock or watch run down. There was no idea of force, nor of any occasion for it. A convention, invited by the republican members of Congress, with the virtual President and Vice-President, would have been on the ground in eight weeks, would have repaired the Constitution where it was defective, and wound it up again. This peaceable and legitimate resource, to which we are in the habit of implicit obedience, superseding all appeal to force, and being always within our reach, shows a precious principle of self-preservation in our composition, till a change of circumstances shall take place, which is not within prospect at any definite period.
But I have got into a long disquisition on politics, when I only meant to express my sympathy in the state of your health, and to tender you all the affections of public and private hospitality. I should be very happy indeed to see you here. I leave this about the 30th instant, to return about the 25th of April. If you do not leave Philadelphia before that, a little excursion hither would help your health. I should be much gratified with the possession of a guest I so much esteem, and should claim a right to lodge you, should you make such an excursion.
Accept the homage of my high consideration and respect, and assurances of affectionate attachment.
1 In the margin is written by the author, "Alien law."
I am much gratified by the receipt of your favor of the 4th instant, and by the expressions of friendly sentiment it contains. It is pleasant for those who have just escaped threatened shipwreck, to hail one another when landed in unexpected safety. The resistance which our republic has opposed to a course of operation, for which it was not destined, shows a strength of body which affords the most flattering presage of duration. I hope we shall now be permitted to steer her in her natural course, and to show by the smoothness of her motion the skill with which she has been formed for it. I have seen with great grief yourself and so many other venerable patriots, retired and weeping in silence over the rapid subversion of those principles for the attachment of which you had sacrificed the ease and comforts of life; but I rejoice that you have lived to see us revindicate our rights, and regain manfully the ground from which fraud, not force, had for a moment driven us. The character which our fellow-citizens have displayed on this occasion, gives us everything to hope for the permanence of our government. Its extent has saved us. While some parts Were laboring under the paroxysm of delusion, others retained their senses, and time was thus given to the affected parts to recover their health. Your portion of the Union is longest recovering, because the deceivers there wear a more imposing form; but a little more time, and they too will recover. I pray you to present the homage of my great respect to Mrs. Warren. I have long possessed evidences of her high station in the ranks of genius; and have considered her silence as a proof that she did not go with the current. Accept yourself, assurances of my high consideration and respect.
Dear Sir,Your favor of February 12th, which did not get to my hands till March ad, is entitled to my acknowledgments. It was the more agreeable as it proved that the esteem I had entertained for you while we were acting together on the public stage, had not been without reciprocated effect. What wonderful scenes have passed since that time ! The late chapter of our history furnishes a lesson to man perfectly new. The times have been awful, but they have proved an useful truth, that the good citizen must never despair of the commonwealth. How many good men abandoned the deck, and gave up the vessel as lost! It furnishes a new proof of the falsehood of Montesquieus doctrine, that a republic can be preserved only in a small territory. The reverse is the truth. Had our territory been even a third only of what it is, we were gone. But while frenzy and delusion like an epidemic, gained certain parts, the residue remained sound and untouched, and held on till their brethren could recover from the temporary delusion; and that circumstance has given me great comfort. There was general alarm during the pending of the election in Congress, lest no President should be chosen, the government be dissolved and anarchy ensue. But the cool determination of the really patriotic to call a convention in that case, which might be on the ground in eight weeks, and wind up the machine again which had only run down, pointed out to my mind a perpetual and peaceable resource against * * * in whatever extremity might befall us; and I am certain a convention would have commanded immediate and universal obedience. How happy that our army had been disbanded ! What might have happened otherwise seems rather a subject of reflection than explanation. You have seen your recommendation of Mr. Willard duly respected. As to yourself, I hope we shall see you again in Congress. Accept assurances of my high respect and attachment.
My Dear Friend,Yours of February 1st did not reach me till February 28th, and a pressing business has retarded my acknowledging it. I sincerely thank you for your congratulations on my election; but this is only the first verse of the chapter. What the last may be nobody can tell. A consciousness that I feel no desire but to do what is best, without passion or predilection, encourages me to hope for an indulgent construction of what I do. I had in General Washingtons time proposed you as director of the mint, and therefore should the more readily have turned to you, had a vacancy now happened; but that institution con- tinuing at Philadelphia, because the Legislature have not taken up the subject in time to decide on it, it will of course remain there until this time twelve-months. Should it then be removed, the present Director would probably, and the Treasurer certainly resign. It would give me great pleasure to employ the talents and integrity of Dr. Foster, in the latter office.
I am very much in hopes we shall be able to restore union to our country. Not indeed that the federal leaders can be brought over. They are invincibles; but I really hope their followers may. The bulk of these last were real republicans, carried over from us by French excesses. This induced me to offer a political creed, and to invite to conciliation first; and I am pleased to hear, that these principles are recognized by them, and considered as no bar of separation. A moderate conduct throughout, which may not revolt our new friends, and which may give them tenets with us, must be observed.
* * * * * * * * *
Present my respects to Mrs. Page, and accept evidences of my constant and affectionate esteem.
The reliance is most flattering to me which you are pleased to express in the character of my public conduct, as is the expectation with which you look forward to the inviolable preservation of our national Constitution, deservedly the boast of our country. That peace, safety, and concord may be the portion of our native land, and be long enjoyed by our fellow-citizens, is the most ardent wish of my heart, and if I can be instrumental in procuring or preserving them, I shall think I have not lived in vain. In every country where man is free to think and to speak, differences of opinion will arise from difference of perception, and the imperfection of reason; but these differences when permitted, as in this happy country, to purify themselves by free discussion, are but as passing clouds overspreading our land transiently, and leaving our horizon more bright and serene. That love of order and obedience to the laws, which so remarkably characterize the citizens of the United States, are sure pledges of internal tranquillity ; and the elective franchise, if guarded as the act of our safety, will peaceably dissipate all combinations to subvert a Constitution dictated by the wisdom, and resting on the will of the people. That will is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object. I offer my sincere prayers to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, that He may long preserve our country in freedom and prosperity, and to yourselves, Gentlemen, and the citizens of Columbia and its vicinity, the assurances of my profound consideration and respect.
I received two days ago your favor of the 16th, and thank you for your kind felicitations on my election; but whether it will be a subject of felicitation, permanently, will be for the chapters of future history to say. The important subjects of the government I meet with some degree of courage and confidence, because I do believe the talents to be associated with me, the honest line of conduct we will religiously pursue at home and abroad, and the confidence of my fellow-citizens dawning on us, will be equal to these objects.
But there is another branch of duty which I must meet with courage too, though I cannot without pain ; that is, the appointments and disappointments as to offices. Madison and Gallatin being still absent, we have not yet decided on our rules of conduct as to these. That some ought to be removed from office, and that all ought not, all mankind will agree. But where to draw the line, perhaps no two will agree. Consequently, nothing like a general approbation on this subject can be looked for. Some principles have been the subject of conversation, but not of determination; e.g. 1, all appointments to civil offices during pleasure, made after the event of the election was certainly known to Mr. Adams, are considered as nullities. I do not view the persons appointed as even candidates for the office, but make others without noticing or notifying them. Mr. Adams best friends have agreed this is right. 2. Officers who have been guilty of official mal-conduct are proper subjects of removal. 3. Good men, to whom there is no objection but a difference of political principle, practised on only as far as the right of a private citizen will justify, are not proper subjects of removal, except in the case of attorneys and marshals. The courts being so decidedly federal and irremovable, it is believed that republican attorneys and marshals, being the doors of entrance into the courts, are indispensably necessary as a shield to the republican part of our fellow-citizens, which, I believe, is the main body of the people.
These principles are yet to be considered of, and I sketch them to you in confidence. Not that there is objection to your mooting them as subjects of conversation, and as proceeding from yourself, but not as matters of executive determination. Nay, farther, I will thank you for your own sentiments and those of others on them. If received before the 20th of April, they will be in time for our deliberation on the subject. You know that it was in the year X.Y.Z. that so great a transition from us to the other side took place, and with as real republicans as we were ourselves ; that these, after getting over that delusion, have been returning to us, and that it is to that return we owe a triumph in 1800, which in 1799 would have been the other way. The weeks suspension of the election before Congress, seems almost to have completed that business; and to have brought over nearly the whole remaining mass. They now find themselves with us, and separated from their quondam leaders. If we can but avoid shocking their feelings by unnecessary acts of severity against their late friends, they will in a little time cement and form one mass with us, and by these means harmony and union be restored to our country, which would be the greatest good we could effect. It was a conviction that these people did not differ from us in principle, which induced me to define the principles which I deemed orthodox, and to urge a reunion on those principles; and I, am induced to hope it has conciliated many. I do not speak of the desperadoes of the quondam faction in and out of Congress. These I consider as incurables, on whom all attentions would be lost, and therefore will not be wasted. But my wish is, to keep their flock from returning to them.
On the subject of the marshal of Virginia, I refer you confidentially to Major Egglestone for information. I leave this about this day sennight, to make some arrangements at home preparatory to my final removal to this place, from which I shall be absent about three weeks.
Accept assurances of my constant esteem and high consideration and respect.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your friendly favor of the 12th, and the pleasing sensations produced in my mind by its affectionate contents. I am made very happy by learning that the sentiments expressed in my inaugural address gave general satisfaction, and holds out a ground on which our fellow-citizens can once more unite. I am the more pleased, because these sentiments have been long and radically mine, and therefore will be pursued honestly and conscientiously. I know there is an obstacle which very possibly may check the confidence which would otherwise have been more generally reposed in my observance of these principles. This obstacle does not arise from the measures to be pursued, as to which I am in no fear of giving satisfaction, but from appointments and disappointments as to office. With regard to appointments, I have so much confidence in the justice and good sense of the federalists, that I have no doubt they will concur in the fairness of the position, that after they have been in the exclusive possession of all offices from the very first origin of party among us, to the 3d of March, at 9 oclock in the night, no republican ever admitted, and this doctrine newly avowed, it is now perfectly just that the republicans should come in for the vacancies which may fall in, until something like an equilibrium in office be restored. But the stumbling block will be removals, which though made on those just principles only on which my predecessor ought to have removed the same persons, will nevertheless be ascribed to removal on party principles. 1st. I will expunge the effects of Mr. A[dams]s indecent conduct, in crowding nominations after he knew they were not for himself, till 9 oclock of the night, at 12 oclock of which he was to go out of office. So far as they are during pleasure, I shall not consider the persons named, even as candidates for the office, nor pay the respect of notifying them that I consider what was done as a nullity. 2d. Some removals must be made for misconduct. One of these is of the marshal in your city, who being an officer of justice, intrusted with the function of choosing impartial judges for the trial of his fellow-citizens, placed at the awful tribunal of God and their country, selected judges who either avowed or were known to him to be predetermined to condemn; and if the lives of the unfortunate persons were not cut short by the sword of the law, it was not for want of his good-will. In another State I have to perform the same act of justice on the dearest connection of my dearest friend, for similar conduct in a case not capital. The same practice of packing juries, and prosecuting their fellow-citizens with the bitterness of party hatred, will probably involve several other marshals and attornies. Out of this line I see but very few instances where past misconduct has been in a degree to call for notice. Of the thousands of officers therefore, in the United States, a very few individuals only, probably not twenty, will be removed ; and these only for doing what they ought not to have done. Two or three instances indeed where Mr. A[dams] removed men because they would not sign addresses, &c., to him, will be rectifiedthe persons restored. The whole world will say this is just. I know that in stopping thus short in the career of removal, I shall give great offence to many of my friends. That torrent has been pressing me heavily, and will require all my force to bear up against; but my maxim is "fiat justitia, ruat coelum." After the first unfavorable impressions of doing too much in the opinion of some, and too little in that of others, shall be got over, I should hope a steady line of conciliation very practicable, and that without yielding a single republican principle. A certainty that these principles prevailed in the breasts of the main body of federalists, was my motive for stating them as the ground of reunion. I have said thus much for your private satisfaction, to be used even in private conversation, as the presumptive principles on which we shall act, but not as proceeding from myself declaredly. Information lately received from France gives a high idea of the progress of science there ; it seems to keep pace with their * *.(1) I have just received from the A.P. Society, two volumes of Comparative Anatomy, by Cuvier, probably the greatest work in that line that has ever appeared. His comparisons embrace every organ of the animal carcass; and from man to the * * *. Accept assurances of my sincere friendship and high consideration and respect.
1 The manuscript here is illegible.
The Secretary of State is proceeding in the consideration of the several matters which have been proposed to us by you, and will prepare answers to them, and particularly as to our vessels taken by French cruisers, and carried into the ports of Spain, contrary, as we suppose, to the tenor of the convention with France. Though ordinary business will be regularly transacted with you by the Secretary of State, yet considering what you mentioned as to our minister at Madrid to have been private and confidential, I take it out of the official course, and observe to you myself that under an intimate conviction of long standing in my mind, of the importance of an honest friendship with Spain, and one which shall identify her American interests with our own, I see in a strong point of view the necessity that the organ of communication which we establish near the King should possess the favor and confidence of that government. I have therefore destined for that mission a person whose accommodating and reasonable conduct, which will be still more fortified by instructions, will render him agreeable there, and an useful channel of communication between us. I have no doubt the new appointment by that government to this, in the room of the Chevalier dYrujo, has been made under the influence of the same motives; but still, the Chevalier dYrujo being intimately known to us, the integrity, sincerity, and reasonableness of his conduct having established in us a perfect confidence, in nowise diminished by the bickerings which took place between him and a former Secretary of State, whose irritable temper drew on more than one affair of the same kind, it will be a subject of regret if we lose him. However, if the interests of Spain require that his services should be employed elsewhere, it is the duty of a friend to acquiesce ; and we shall certainly receive any successor the King may choose to send, with every possible degree of favor and friendship. Our administration will not be collected till the end of the ensuing month ; and consequently, till then, no other of the mutual interests of the two nations will be under our views, except those general assurances of friendship which I have before given you verbally, and now repeat. Accept, I pray you, assurances of my high consideration and respect.
I received with great pleasure your favor of the 16th, and it is with the greatest satisfaction I learn from all quarters that my inaugural address is considered as holding out a ground for conciliation and union. I am the more pleased with this, because the opinion therein stated as to the real ground of difference among us (to wit : the measures rendered most expedient by French enormities), is that which I have long entertained. I was always satisfied that the great body of those called federalists were real republicans as well as federalists. I know, indeed, there are monarchists among us. One character of these is in theory only, and perfectly acquiescent in our form of government as it is, and not entertaining a thought of destroying it merely on their theoretical opinions. A second class, at the head of which is our quondam colleague, are ardent for introduction of monarchy, eager for armies, making more noise for a great naval establishment than better patriots, who wish it on a rational scale only, commensurate to our wants and our means. This last class ought to be tolerated, but not trusted. Believing that (excepting the ardent monarchists) all our citizens agreed in ancient whig principles, I thought it advisable to define and declare them, and let them see the ground on which we could rally. And the fact proving to be so, that they agree in these principles, I shall pursue them with more encouragement. I am aware that the necessity of a few removals for legal oppressions, delinquencies, and other official malversations, may be misconstrued as done for political opinions, and produce hesitation in the coalition so much to be desired; but the extent of these will be too limited to make permanent impressions. In the class of removals, however, I do not rank the new appointments which Mr. A. crowded in with whip and spur from the 12th of December, when the event of the election was known, and, consequently, that he was making appointments, not for himself, but his successor, until 9 oclock of the night, at 12 oclock of which he was to go out of office. This outrage on decency should not have its effect, except in the life appointments which are irremovable ; but as to the others I consider the nominations as nullities, and will not view the persons appointed as even candidates for their office, much less as possessing it by any title meriting respect. I mention these things that the grounds and extent of the removals may be understood, and may not disturb the tendency to union. Indeed that union is already effected, from New York southwardly, almost completely. In the New England States it will be slower than elsewhere, from particular circumstances better known to yourself than me. But we will go on attending with the utmost solicitude to their interests, doing them impartial justice, and I have no doubt they will in time do justice to us. I have opened myself frankly, because I wish to be understood by those who mean well, and are disposed to be just towards me, as you are, and because I know you will use it for good purposes only, and for none unfriendly to me. I leave this place in a few days to make a short excursion home, but some domestic arrangements are necessary previous to my final removal here, which will be about the latter end of April. Be so good as to present my respects to Mrs. Knox, and accept yourself assurances of my high consideration and esteem.
I return my sincere thanks for your kind congratulations on my elevation to the first magistracy of the United States. I see with pleasure every evidence of the attachment of my fellow citizens to elective government, calculated to promote their happiness, peculiarly adapted to their genius, habits, and situation, and the best permanent corrective of the errors or abuses of those interests with power. The Constitution on which our union rests, shall be administered by me according to the safe and honest meaning contemplated by the plain understanding of the people of the United States, at the time of its adoption,a meaning to be found in the explanations of those who advocated, not those who opposed it, and who opposed it merely lest the constructions should be applied which they denounced as possible. These explanations are preserved in the publications of the time, and are too recent in the memories of most men to admit of question. The energies of the nation, as depends on me, shall be reserved for improvement of the condition of man, not wasted in his distinction. The lamentable resource of war is not authorized for evils of imagination; but for those actual injuries only, which would be more destructive of our well-being than war itself. Peace, justice, and liberal intercourse with all the nations of the world, will, I hope, with all nations, characterize this commonwealth. Accept for yourselves, gentlemen, and the respectable citizens of the town of Providence, assurances of my high consideration and respect.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of yours of March 4th, and to express to you the delight with which I found the just, disinterested, and honorable point of view in which you saw the proposition it covered. The resolution you so properly approved had long been formed in my mind. The public will never be made to believe that an appointment of a relative is made on the ground of merit alone, uninfluenced by family views ; nor can they ever see with approbation offices, the disposal of which they entrust to their Presidents for public purposes, divided out as family property. Mr. Adams degraded himself infinitely by his conduct on this subject, as General Washington had done himself the greatest honor. With two such examples to proceed by, I should be doubly inexcusable to err. It is true that this places the relations of the President in a worse situation than if he were a stranger, but the public good, which cannot be affected if its confidence be lost, requires this sacrifice. Perhaps, too, it is compensated by sharing in the public esteem. I could not be satisfied till I assured you of the increased esteem with which this transaction fills me for you. Accept my affectionate expressions of it.
I addressed a letter to you, my very dear and ancient friend, on the 4th of March : not indeed to you by name, but through the medium of some of my fellow-citizens, whom occasion called on me to address. In meditating the matter of that address, I often asked myself, is this exactly in the spirit of the patriarch, Samuel Adams ? Is it as he would express it ? Will he approve of it ? I have felt a great deal for our country in the times we have seen. But individually for no one so much as yourself. When I have been told that you were avoided, insulted, frowned on, I could but ejaculate, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." I confess I felt an indignation for you, which for myself I have been able, under every trial, to keep entirely passive. However, the storm is over, and we are in port. The ship was not rigged for the service she was put on. We will show the smoothness of her motions on her republican tack. I hope we shall once more see harmony restored among our citizens, and an entire oblivion of past feuds. Some of the leaders who have most committed themselves cannot come into this. But I hope the great body of our fellow-citizens will do it. I will sacrifice everything but principle to procure it. A few examples of justice on officers who have perverted their functions to the oppression of their fellow-citizens, must, in justice to those citizens, be made. But opinion, and the just maintenance of it, shall never be a crime in my view : nor bring injury on the individual. Those whose misconduct in office ought to have produced their removal even by my predecessor, must not be protected by the delicacy due only to honest men. How much I lament that time has deprived me of your aid ! It would have been a day of glory which should have called you to the first office of the administration. But give us your counsel, my friend, and give us your blessing; and be assured that there exists not in the heart of man a more faithful esteem than mine to you, and that I shall ever bear you the most affectionate veneration and respect.
Your two letters of January the 15th and February the 24th, came safely to hand, and I thank you for the history of a transaction which will ever be interesting in our affairs. It has been very precisely as I had imagined. I thought, on your return, that if you had come forward boldly, and appealed to the public by a full statement, it would have had a great effect in your favor personally, and that of the republican cause then oppressed almost unto death. But I judged from a tact of the southern pulse. I suspect that of the north was different and decided your conduct ; and perhaps it has been as well. If the revolution of sentiment has been later, it has perhaps been not less sure. At length it has arrived. What with the natural current of opinion which has been setting over to us for eighteen months, and the immense impetus which was given it from the 11th to the 17th of February, we may now say that the United States from New York southwardly, are as unanimous in the principles of 76, as they were in 76. The only difference is, that the leaders who remain behind are more numerous and bolder than the apostles of toryism in 76. The reason is, that we are now justly more tolerant than we could safely have been then, circumstanced as we were. Your part of the Union though as absolutely republican as ours, had drunk deeper of the delusion, and is therefore slower in recovering from it. The ægis of government, and the temples of religion and of justice, have all been prostituted there to toll us back to the times when we burnt witches. But your people will rise again. They will awake like Samson from his sleep, and carry away the gates and posts of the city. You, my friend, are destined to rally them again under their former banner, and when called to the post, exercise it with firmness and with inflexible adherence to your own principles. The people will support you, notwithstanding the howlings of the ravenous crew from whose jaws they are escaping. It will be a great blessing to our country if we can once more restore harmony and social love among its citizens. I confess, as to myself, it is almost the first object of my heart, and one to which I would sacrifice everything but principle. With the people I have hopes of effecting it. But their Coryphæi are incurables. I expect little from them.
I was not deluded by the eulogiums of the public papers in the first moments of change. If they could have continued to get all the loaves and fishes, that is, if I would have gone over to them, they would continue to eulogize. But I well knew that the moment that such removals should take place, as the justice of the preceding administration ought to have executed, their hue and cry would be set up, and they would take their old stand. I shall disregard that also. Mr. Adams last appointments, when he knew he was naming counsellors and aids for me and not for himself, I set aside as far as depends on me. Officers who have been guilty of gross abuses of office, such as marshals packing juries, etc., I shall now remove, as my predecessor ought in justice to have done. The instances will be few, and governed by strict rule, and not party passion. The right of opinion shall suffer no invasion from me. Those who have acted well have nothing to fear, however they may have differed from me in opinion : those who have done ill, however, have nothing to hope; nor shall I fail to do justice lest it should be ascribed to that difference of opinion. A coalition of sentiments is not for the interest of the printers. They, like the clergy, live by the zeal they can kindle, and the schisms they can create. It is contest of opinion in politics as well as religion which makes us take great interest in them, and bestow our money liberally on those who furnish aliment to our appetite. The mild and simple principles of the Christian philosophy would produce too much calm, too much regularity of good, to extract from its disciples a support from a numerous priesthood, were they not to sophisticate it, ramify it, split it into hairs, and twist its texts till they cover the divine morality of its author with mysteries, and require a priesthood to explain them. The Quakers seem to have discovered this. They have no priests, therefore no schisms. They judge of the text by the dictates of common sense and common morality. So the printers can never leave us in a state of perfect rest and union of opinion. They would be no longer useful, and would have to go to the plough. In the first moments of quietude which have succeeded the election, they seem to have aroused their lying faculties beyond their ordinary state, to re-agitate the public mind. What appointments to office have they detailed which had never been thought of, merely to found a text for their calumniating commentaries. However, the steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor ; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the great body of our country. Unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom and harmony. I shall be happy to hear from you often, to know your own sentiments and those of others on the course of things, and to concur with you in efforts for the common good. Your letters through the post will not come safely. Present my best respects to Mrs. Gerry, and accept yourself assurances of my constant esteem and high consideration.
I was already almost in the act of mounting my horse for a short excursion home, when your favor of the 14th was put into my hands. I stop barely to acknowledge it, and to thank you for your kind congratulations, and still more for your interesting observations on the course of things. I am sensible how far I should fall short of effecting all the reformation which reason would suggest, and experience approve, were I free to do whatever I thought best; but when we reflect how difficult it is to move or inflect the great machine of society, how impossible to advance the notions of a whole people suddenly to ideal right, we see the wisdom of Solons remark, that no more good must be attempted than the nation can bear, and that all will be chiefly to reform the waste of public money, and thus drive away the vultures who prey upon it, and improve some little on old routines. Some new fences for securing constitutional rights may, with the aid of a good legislature, perhaps be attainable. I am going home for three weeks, to make some final arrangements there for my removal hither. Mr. Madison and Mr. Gallatin will be here by the last of the month. Dearborne and Lincoln remain here ; and General Smith entered yesterday on the naval department; but only pro tempore, and to give me time to look for what cannot be obtaineda prominent officer, equal and willing to undertake the duties. Accept assurances of my constant and affectionate respect.
I arrived here on the 4th, and expect to stay a fortnight, in order to make some arrangements preparatory to my final removal to Washington. You know that the last Congress established a Western judiciary district in Virginia, comprehending chiefly the Western counties. Mr. Adams, who continued filling all the offices till nine oclock of the night, at twelve of which he was to go out of office himself, took care to appoint for this district also. The judge, of course, stands till the law shall be repealed, which we trust will be at the next Congress. But as to all others, I made it immediately known that I should consider them as nullities, and appoint others, as I think I have a preferable right to name agents for my own administration, at least to the vacancies falling after it was known that Mr. Adams was not naming for himself. Consequently, we want an attorney and marshal for the Western district. I have thought of Mr. Coalter, but I am told he has a clerkship incompatible with it by our laws. I thought also of Hugh Holmes; but I fear he is so far off, he would not attend the court, which is to be in Rockbridge, I believe. This is the extent of my personal knowledge. Pray recommend one to me, as also a marshal; and let them be the most respectable and unexceptionable possible, and especially let them be republicans. The only shield for our republican citizens against the federalism of the courts is to have the attorneys and marshals republicans. There is nothing I am so anxious about as good nominations, conscious that the merit as well as reputation of an administration depends as much on that as on its measures.
Accept assurances of my constant esteem and high consideration and respect.
The satisfaction which, in the name of the foreigners residing in Beaver County, you are pleased to express in my appointment to the Presidency of the United States, the expectations you form of the character of my administration, and your kind wishes for my happiness, demand my sincere thanks. Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular. To unequal privileges among members of the same society the spirit of our nation is, with one accord, adverse. If the unexample state of the world has in any instance occasioned among us temporary departures from the system of equal rule, the restoration of tranquillity will doubtless produce reconsideration; and your own knowledge of the liberal conduct heretofore observed towards strangers settling among us will warrant the belief that what is right will be done. Accept a reciprocation of wishes for your present and future welfare, and assurances of my high consideration and respect.
I wrote you on the 29th of March. Yours of the 25th of that month, with the address it covered, had not reached this place on the 1st of April, when I set out on a short visit to my residence in Virginia, where some arrangements were necessary previous to my settlement here. In fact, your letter came to me at Monticello only the 24th of April, two days before my departure from thence. This, I hope, will sufficiently apologize for the delay of the answer, which those unapprised of these circumstances will have thought extraordinary.
A new subject of congratulation has arisen. I mean the regeneration of Rhode Island. I hope it is the beginning of that resurrection of the genuine spirit of New England which rises for life eternal. According to natural order, Vermont will emerge next, because least, after Rhode Island, under the yoke of hierocracy. I have never dreamed that all opposition was to cease. The clergy, who have missed their union with the State, the Anglomen, who have missed their union with England, and the political adventurers, who have lost the chance of swindling and plunder in the waste of public money, will never cease to bawl, on the breaking up of their sanctuary. But among the people, the schism is healed, and with tender treatment the wound will not re-open. Their quondam leaders have been astounded with the suddenness of the desertion ; and their silence and appearance of acquiescence have proceeded not from a thought of joining us, but the uncertainty what ground to take. The very first acts of the administration, the nominations, have accordingly furnished something to yelp on ; and all our subsequent acts will furnish them fresh matter, because there is nothing against which human ingenuity will not be able to find something to say.
Accept assurances of my sincere attachment and high respect.
Your favors of April the 20th and 23d had been received, and the commission made out for Mr. Potts, before I received the letter of the 1st instant. I have still thought it better to forward the commission, in the hope that reconsideration, or the influence of yourself and friends, might induce an acceptance of it. Should it be otherwise, you must recommend some other good person, as I had rather be guided by your opinion than that of the person you refer me to. Perhaps Mr. Potts may be willing to stop the gap till you meet and repeal the law. If he does not, let me receive a recommendation from you as quickly as possible. And in all cases, when an office becomes vacant in your State, as the distance would occasion a great delay were you to wait to be regularly consulted, I shall be much obliged to you to recommend the best characters. There is nothing I am so anxious about as making the best possible appointments, and no case in which the best men are more liable to mislead us, by yielding to the solicitations of applicants. For this reason your own spontaneous recommendation would be desirable. Now to answer your particulars, seriatim,
Levees are done away.
The first communication to the next Congress will be, like all subsequent ones, by message, to which no answer will be expected.
The diplomatic establishment in Europe will be reduced to three ministers.
The compensations to collectors depend on you, and not on me.
The army is undergoing a chaste reformation.
The navy will be reduced to the legal establishment by the last of this month.
Agencies in every department will be revised.
We shall push you to the uttermost in economizing.
A very early recommendation had been given to the Post Master General to employ no printer, foreigner, or revolutionary tory in any of his offices. This department is still untouched.
The arrival of Mr. Gallatin yesterday, completed the organization of our administration.
Accept assurances of my sincere esteem and high respect.
I return my grateful thanks to the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, for the congratulations which, on behalf of themselves and their constituents, they have been pleased to express on my election to the Chief Magistracy of the United States ; and I learn with pleasure their approbation of the principles declared by me on that occasion ; principles which flowed sincerely from the heart and judgment, and which, with sincerity, will be pursued. While acting on them, I ask only to be judged with truth and candor.
To preserve the peace of our fellow citizens, promote their prosperity and happiness, reunite opinion, cultivate a spirit of candor, moderation, charity, and forbearance towards one another, are objects calling for the efforts and sacrifices of every good man and patriot. Our religion enjoins it ; our happiness demands it ; and no sacrifice is requisite but of passions hostile to both.
It is a momentous truth, and happily of universal impression on the public mind, that our safety rests on the preservation of our Union. Our citizens have wisely formed themselves into one nation as to others, and several States as among themselves. To the united nation belongs our external and mutual relations ; to each State severally the care of our persons, our property, our reputation, and religious freedom. This wise distribution, if carefully preserved, will prove, I trust from example, that while smaller governments are better adapted to the ordinary objects of society, larger confederations more effectually secure independence and the preservation of republican government.
I am sensible of the great interest which your State justly feels in the prosperity of commerce. It is of vital interest also to States more agricultural, whose produce, without commerce, could not be exchanged. As the handmaid of agriculture therefore, commerce will be cherished by me both from principle and duty.
Accept, I beseech you, for the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the homage of my high consideration and respect, and I pray God to have them always in his safe and holy keeping.
Your favor of the 15th came to hand on the 25th of June, and conveyed a great deal of that information which I am anxious to receive. The consolidation of our fellow-citizens in general is the great object we ought to keep in view, and that being once obtained, while we associate with us in affairs, to a certain degree, the federal sect of republicans; we must strip of all the means of influence the Essex junto, and their associate monocrats in every part of the Union. The former differ from us only in the shades of power to be given to the executive, being; with us, attached to republican government. The latter wish to sap the republic by fraud, if they cannot destroy it by force, and to erect an English monarchy in its place; some of them (as Mr. Adams) thinking its corrupt parts should be cleansed away, others (as Hamilton) thinking that would make it an impracticable machine. We are proceeding gradually in the regeneration of offices, and introducing republicans to some share in them. I do not know that it will be pushed further than was settled before you went away, except as to Essex men. I must ask you to make out a list of those in office in yours and the neighboring States, and to furnish me with it. There is little of this spirit south of the Hudson. I understand that Jackson is a very determined one; though in private life amiable and honorable. But amiable monarchists are not safe subjects of republican confidence. What will be the effect of his removal ? How should it be timed ? Who his successor ? What place can General Lyman properly occupy ? Our gradual reformations seem to produce good effects everywhere except in Connecticut. Their late session of legislature has been more intolerant than all others. We must meet them with equal intolerance. When they will give a share in the State offices, they shall be replaced in a share of the General offices. Till then we must follow their example. Mr. Goodrichs removal has produced a bitter remonstrance, with much personality against the two Bishops. I am sincerely sorry to see the inflexibility of the federal spirit there, for I cannot believe they are all monarchists.
I observe your tory papers make much of the Berceau. As that is one of the subjects to be said before Congress, it is material to commit to writing, while fresh in memory, the important circumstances. You possess more of these than any other person. I pray you, therefore, immediately to state to me all the circumstances you recollect. I will aid you with the following hints, which you can correct and incorporate. Pichon, I think, arrived about the 12th of March. I do not remember when he first proposed the question about the Insurgente and Berceau. On the 20th of March, Mr. Stoddart wrote to his agent at Boston to put the Berceau into handsome order to be restored, but whether he did that of his own accord, or after previous consultation with you or myself, I do not recollect. I set out for Monticello April the 1st. About that time General Smith sent new directions to put her precisely into the state in which she was before the capture. Do you recollect from what fund it was contemplated to do this ? I had trusted for this to Stoddart, who was familiar with all the funds, being myself entirely new in office at that time. What will those repairs have cost ? Did we not leave to Le Tombe to make what allowance he thought proper to the officers, we only advancing money on his undertaking repayment ? I shall hope to receive from you as full a statement as you can make. It may be useful to inquire into the time and circumstances of her being dismantled. When you shall have retraced the whole matter in your memory, would it not be well to make a summary statement of the important circumstances for insertion in the Chronicle, in order to set the minds of the candid part of the public to rights ? Mr. Madison has had a slight bilious attack. I am advising him to get off by the middle of this month. We who have stronger constitutions shall stay to the end of it. But during August and September, we also must take refuge in climates rendered safer by our habits and confidence. The post will be so arranged as that letters will go hence to Monticello, and the answer return here in a week. I hope I shall continue to hear from you there.
Accept assurances of my affectionate esteem and high respect.
P.S. The French convention was laid before the Senate December the 16th. I think the Berceau arrived afterwards. If so, she was dismantled, when it was known she was to be restored. When did she arrive ? By whose orders was she dismantled ?
As to the mode of correspondence between the general and particular executives, I do not think myself a good judge. Not because my position gives me any prejudice on the occasion; for if it be possible to be certainly conscious of anything, I am conscious of feeling no difference between writing to the highest and lowest being on earth; but because I have ever thought that forms should yield to whatever should facilitate business. Comparing the two governments together, it is observable that in all those cases where the independent or reserved rights of the States are in question, the two executives, if they are to act together, must be exactly co-ordinate; they are, in these cases, each the supreme head of an independent government. In other cases, to wit, those transferred by the Constitution to the General Government, the general executive is certainly preordinate; e.g. in a question respecting the militia, and others easily to be recollected. Were there, therefore, to be a stiff adherence to etiquette, I should say that in the former cases the correspondence should be between the two heads, and that in the latter, the Governor must be subject to receive orders from the war department as any other subordinate officer would. And were it observed that either party set up unjustifiable pretensions, perhaps the other might be right in opposing them by a tenaciousness of his own rigorous rights. But I think the practice in General Washingtons administration was most friendly to business, and was absolutely equal ; sometimes he wrote to the Governors, and sometimes the heads of departments wrote. If a letter is to be on a general subject, I see no reason why the President should not write; but if it is to go into details, these being known only to the head of the department, it is better he should write directly. Otherwise, the correspondence must involve circuities. If this be practised promiscuously in both classes of cases, each party setting examples of neglecting etiquette, both will stand on equal ground, and convenience alone will dictate through whom any particular communication is to be made. On the whole, I think a free correspondence best, and shall never hesitate to write myself to the Governors, in every federal case, where the occasion presents itself to me particularly. Accept assurances of my sincere and constant affection and respect.
I have received the remonstrance you were pleased to address to me, on the appointment of Samuel Bishop to the office of collector of New Haven, lately vacated by the death of David Austin. The right of our fellow-citizens to represent to the public functionaries their opinion on proceedings interesting to them, is unquestionably a constitutional right, often useful, sometimes necessary and will always be respectfully acknowledged by me.
Of the various executive duties, no one excites more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow citizens in the hands of honest men, with understandings sufficient for their stations. No duty, at the same time, is more difficult to fulfil. The knowledge of characters possessed by a single individual is, of necessity, limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to other information, which, from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect. In the case of Samuel Bishop, however, the subject of your remonstrance, time was taken, information was sought, and such obtained as could leave no room for doubt of his fitness. From private sources it was learned that his understanding was sound, his integrity pure, his character unstained. And the offices confided to him within his own State, are public evidences of the estimation in which he is held by the State in general, and the city and township particularly in which he lives. He is said to be the town clerk, a justice of the peace, mayor of the city of New Haven, an office held at the will of the legislature, chief judge of the court of common pleas for New Haven county, a court of high criminal and civil jurisdiction wherein most causes are decided without the right of appeal or review, and sole judge of the court of probates, wherein he singly decides all questions of wills, settlement of estates, testate and intestate, appoints guardians, settles their accounts, and in fact has under his jurisdiction and care all the property real and personal of persons dying. The two last offices, in the annual gift of the legislature, were given to him in May last. Is it possible that the man to whom the legislature of Connecticut has so recently committed trusts of such difficulty and magnitude, is "unfit to be the collector of the district of New Haven," though acknowledged in the same writing, to have obtained all this confidence "by a long life of usefulness ?" It is objected, indeed, in the remonstrance, that he is seventy-seven years of age; but at a much more advanced age, our Franklin was the ornament of human nature. He may not be able to perform in person, all the details of his office; but if he gives us the benefit of his understanding, his integrity, his watchfulness, and takes care that all the details are well performed by himself or his necessary assistants, all public purposes will be answered. The remonstrance, indeed, does not allege that the office has been illy conducted, but only apprehends that it will be so. Should this happen in event, be assured I will do in it what shall be just and necessary for the public service. In the meantime, he should be tried without being prejudged.
The removal, as it is called, of Mr. Goodrich, forms another subject of complaint. Declarations by myself in favor of political tolerance, exhortations to harmony and affection in social intercourse, and to respect for the equal rights of the minority, have, on certain occasions, been quoted and misconstrued into assurances that the tenure of offices was to be undisturbed. But could candor apply such a construction ? It is not indeed in the remonstrance that we find it; but it leads to the explanations which that calls for. When it is considered, that during the late administration, those who were not of a particular sect of politics were excluded from all office; when, by a steady pursuit of this measure, nearly the whole offices of the United States were monopolized by that sect; when the public sentiment at length declared itself, and burst open the doors of honor and confidence to those whose opinions they more approved, was it to be imagined that this monopoly of office was still to be continued in the hands of the minority ? Does it violate their equal rights, to assert some rights in the majority also ? Is it political intolerance to claim a proportionate share in the direction of the public affairs ? Can they not harmonize in society unless they have everything in their own hands ? If the will of the nation, manifested by their various elections, calls for an administration of government according with the opinions of those elected; if, for the fulfilment of that will, displacements are necessary, with whom can they so justly begin as with persons appointed in the last moments of an administration, not for its own aid, but to begin a career at the same time with their successors, by whom they had never been approved, and who could scarcely expect from them a cordial co-operation. Mr. Goodrich was one of these. Was it proper for him to place himself in office, without knowing whether those whose agent he was to be would have confidence in his agency? Can the preference of another, as the successor to Mr. Austin, be candidly called a removal of Mr. Goodrich ? If a due participation of office is a matter of right, how are vacancies to be obtained ? Those by death are few; by resignation, none. Can any other mode than that of removal be proposed ? This is a painful office; but it is made my duty, and I meet it as such. I proceed in the operation with deliberation and inquiry, that it may injure the best men least, and effect the purposes of justice and public utility with the least private distress; that it may be thrown, as much as possible, on delinquency, on oppression, on intolerance, on ante-revolutionary adherence to our enemies.
The remonstrance laments "that a change in the administration must produce a change in the subordinate officers;" in other words, that it should be deemed necessary for all officers to think with their principal ? But on whom does this imputation bear ? On those who have excluded from office every shade of opinion which was not theirs ? Or on those who have been so excluded ? I lament sincerely that unessential differences of opinion should ever have been deemed sufficient to interdict half the society from the rights and the blessings of self-government, to proscribe them as unworthy of every trust. It would have been to me a circumstance of great relief, had I found a moderate participation of office in the hands of the majority. I would gladly have left to time and accident to raise them to their just share. But their total exclusion calls for prompter corrections. I shall correct the procedure; but that done, return with joy to that state of things, when the only questions concerning a candidate shall be, is he honest ? Is be capable ? Is he faithful to the Constitution ?
I tender you the homage of my high respect.
Dear Sir,Your favor of July the 28th was received here on the 20th instant. The superscription of my letter of July the 11th by another hand was to prevent danger to it from the curious. Your statement respecting the Berceau coincided with my own recollection, in the circumstances recollected by me, and I concur with you an supposing it may not now be necessary to give any explanations on the subject in the papers. The purchase was made by our predecessors, and the repairs begun by them. Had she been to continue ours, we were authorized to put and keep her in good order out of the fund of the naval contingencies; and when in good order, we obeyed a law of the land, the treaty, in giving her up. It is true the treaty was not ratified; but when ratified, it is validated retrospectively. We took on ourselves this risk, but France had put more into our hands on the same risk. I do not know whether the clamor, as to the allowance to the French officers of their regular pay, has been rectified by a statement that it was on the request of the French consul, and his promise to repay it. So that they cost the United States, on this arrangement, nothing.
I am glad to learn from you that the answer to New Haven had a good effect in Massachusetts on the republicans, and no ill effects on the sincere federalists. I had foreseen, years ago, that the first republican President who should come into office after all the places in the government had become exclusively occupied by federalists, would have a dreadful operation to perform. That the republicans would consent to a continuation of everything in federal hands, was not to be expected, because neither just nor politic. On him, then, was to devolve the office of an executioner, that of lopping off. I cannot say that it has worked harder than I expected. You know the moderation of our views in this business, and that we all concurred in them. We determined to proceed with deliberation. This produced impatience in the republicans, and a belief we meant to do nothing. Some occasion of public explanation was eagerly desired, when the New Haven remonstrance offered us that occasion. The answer was meant as an explanation to our friends. It has had on them, everywhere, the most wholesome effect. Appearances of schismatizing from us have been entirely done away. I own I expected it would check the current with which the republican federalists were returning to their brethren, the republicans. I extremely lamented this effect; for the moment which should convince me that a healing of the nation into one is impracticable, would be the last moment of my wishing to remain where I am. (Of the monarchical federalists I have no expectations. They are incurables, to be taken care of in a mad house, if necessary, and on motives of charity.) I am much pleased, therefore, with your information that the republican federalists are still coming in to the desired union. The Eastern newspapers had given me a different impression, because I supposed the printers knew the taste of their customers, and cooked their dishes to their palates. The Palladium is understood to be the clerical paper, and from the clergy I expect no mercy. They crucified their Saviour, who preached that their kingdom was not of this world; and all who practise on that precept must expect the extreme of their wrath. The laws of the present day withhold their hands from blood; but lies and slander still remain to them.
I am satisfied that the heaping of abuse on me, personally, has been with the design and the hope of provoking me to make a general sweep of all federalists out of office. But as I have carried no passion into the execution of this disagreeable duty, I shall suffer none to be excited. The clamor which has been raised will not provoke me to remove one more, nor deter me from removing one less, than if not a word had been said on the subject. In Massachusetts, you may be assured, great moderation will be used. Indeed, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, are the only States where anything considerable is desired. In the course of the summer all which is necessary will be done ; and we may hope that this cause of offence being at an end, the measures we shall pursue and propose for the amelioration of the public affairs will be so confessedly salutary as to unite all men not monarchists in principle.
We have considerable hopes of republican senators from South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware, and some as to Vermont. In any event, we are secure of a majority in the Senate; and consequently that there will be a concert of action between the Legislature and executive. The removal of excrescences from the judiciary is the universal demand. We propose to re-assemble at Washington on the last day of September. Accept assurances of my affectionate esteem and high respect.
You will receive, probably by this post, from the Secretary of State, his final instructions for your mission to France. We have not thought it necessary to say anything in them on the great question of the maritime law of nations, which at present agitates Europe; that is to say, whether free ships shall make free goods ; because we do not mean to take any side in it during the war. But, as I had before communicated to you some loose thoughts on that subject, and have since considered it with somewhat more attention, I have thought it might be useful that you should possess my ideas in a more matured form than that in which they were before given. Unforeseen circumstances may perhaps oblige you to hazard an opinion, on some occasion or other, on this subject, and it is better that it should not be at variance with ours. I write this, too, myself, that it may not be considered as official, but merely my individual opinion, unadvised by those official counsellors whose opinions I deem my safest guide, and should unquestionably take in form, were circumstances to call for a solemn decision of the question.
When Europe assumed the general form in which it is occupied by the nations now composing it, and turned its attention to maritime commerce, we found among its earliest practices, that of taking the goods of an enemy from the ship of a friend; and that into this practice every maritime State went sooner or later, as it appeared on the theatre of the ocean. If, therefore, we are to consider the practice of nations as the sole and sufficient evidence of the law of nature among nations, we should unquestionably place this principle among those of the natural laws. But its inconveniences, as they affected neutral nations peaceably pursuing their commerce, and its tendency to embroil them with the powers happening to be at war, and thus to extend the flames of war, induced nations to introduce by special compacts, from time to time, a more convenient rule ; that "free ships should make free goods;" and this latter principle has by every maritime nation of Europe been established, to a greater or less degree, in its treaties with other nations; insomuch, that all of them have, more or less frequently, assented to it, as a rule of action in particular cases. Indeed, it is now urged, and I think with great appearance of reason, that this is the genuine principle dictated by national morality ; and that the first practice arose from accident, and the particular convenience of the States* which first figured on the water, rather than from well-digested reflections on the relations of friend and enemy, on the rights of territorial jurisdiction, and on the dictates of moral law applied to these. Thus it had never been supposed lawful, in the territory of a friend to seize the goods of an enemy. On an element which nature has not subjected to the jurisdiction of any particular nation, but has made common to all for the purposes to which it is fitted, it would seem that the particular portion of it which happens to be occupied by the vessel of any nation, in the course of its voyage, is for the moment, the exclusive property of that nation, and, with the vessel, is exempt from intrusion by any other, and from its jurisdiction, as much as if it were lying in the harbor of its sovereign. In no country, we believe, is the rule otherwise, as to the subjects of property common to all. Thus the place occupied by an individual in a highway, a church, a theatre, or other public assembly, cannot be intruded on, while its occupant holds it for the purposes of its institution. The persons on board a vessel traversing the ocean, carrying with them the laws of their nation, have among themselves a jurisdiction, a police, not established by their individual will, but by the authority of their nation, of whose territory their vessel still seems to compose a part, so long as it does not enter the exclusive territory of another. No nation ever pretended a right to govern by their laws the ship of another nation navigating the ocean. By what law then can it enter that ship while in peaceable and orderly use of the common element ? We recognize no natural precept for submission to such a right; and perceive no distinction between the movable and immovable jurisdiction of a friend, which would authorize the entering the one and not the other, to seize the property of an enemy.
It may be objected that this proves too much, as it proves you cannot enter the ship of a friend to search for contraband of war. But this is not proving too much. We believe the practice of seizing what is called contraband of war, is an abusive practice, not founded in natural right. War between two nations cannot diminish the rights of the rest of the world remaining at peace. The doctrine that the rights of nations remaining quietly in the exercise of moral and social duties, are to give way to the convenience of those who prefer plundering and murdering one another, is a monstrous doctrine; and ought to yield to the more rational law, that "the wrong which two nations endeavor to inflict on each other, must not infringe on the rights or conveniences of those remaining at peace." And what is contraband, by the law of nature ? Either everything which may aid or comfort an enemy, or nothing. Either all commerce which would accommodate him is unlawful, or none is. The difference between articles of one or another description, is a difference in degree only. No line between them can be drawn. Either all intercourse must cease between neutrals and belligerents, or all be permitted. Can the world hesitate to say which shall be the rule ? Shall two nations turning tigers, break up in one instant the peaceable relations of the whole world ? Reason and nature clearly pronounce that the neutral is to go on in the enjoyment of all its rights, that its commerce remains free, not subject to the jurisdiction of another, nor consequently its vessels to search, or to enquiries whether their contents are the property of an enemy, or are of those which have been called contraband of war.
Nor does this doctrine contravene the right of preventing vessels from entering a blockaded port. This right stands on other ground. When the fleet of any nation actually beleaguers the port of its enemy, no other has a right to enter their line, any more than their line of battle in the open sea, or their lines of circumvallation, or of encampment; or of battle array on land. The space included within their lines in any of those cases, is either the property of their enemy, or it is common property assumed and possessed for the moment, which cannot be intruded on, even by a neutral, without committing the very trespass we are now considering, that of intruding into the lawful possession of a friend.
Although I consider the observance of these principles as of great importance to the interests of peaceable nations, among whom I hope the United States will ever place themselves, yet in the present state of things they are not worth a war. Nor do I believe war the most certain means of enforcing them. Those peaceable coercions which are in the power of every nation, if undertaken in concert and in time of peace, are more likely to produce the desired effect.
The opinions I have here given are those which have generally been sanctioned by our government. In our treaties with France, the United Netherlands, Sweden and Prussia, the principle of free bottom, free goods, was uniformly maintained. In the instructions of 1784, given by Congress to their ministers appointed to treat with the nations of Europe generally, the same principle, and the doing away contraband of war, were enjoined, and were acceded to in the treaty signed with Portugal. In the late treaty with England, indeed, that power perseveringly refused the principle of free bottoms free goods; and it was avoided in the late treaty with Prussia, at the instance of our then administration, lest it should seem to take side in a question then threatening decision by the sword. At the commencement of the war between France and England, the representative of the French republic then residing in the United States, complaining that the British armed ships captured French property in American bottoms, insisted that the principle of "free bottoms, free goods," was of the acknowledged law of nations; that the violation of that principle by the British was a wrong committed on us, and such an one as we ought to repel by joining in the war against that country. We denied his position; and appealed to the universal practice of Europe, in proof that the principle of "free bottoms, free goods," was not acknowledged as of the natural law of nations, but only of its conventional law. And I believe we may safely affirm, that not a single instance can be produced where any nation of Europe, acting professedly under the law of nations alone, unrestrained by treaty, has, either by its executive or judiciary organs, decided on the principle of "free bottoms, free goods." Judging of the law of nations by what has been practised among nations, we were authorized to say that the contrary principle was their rule, and this but an exception to it, introduced by special treaties in special cases only; that having no treaty with England substituting this instead of the ordinary rule, we had neither the right nor the disposition to go to war for its establishment. But though we would not then, nor will we now, engage in war to establish this principle, we are nevertheless sincerely friendly to it. We think that the nations of Europe have originally set out in error; that experience has proved the error oppressive to the rights and interests of the peaceable part of mankind; that every nation but one has acknowledged this, by consenting to the change, and that one has consented in particular cases ; that nations have a right to correct an erroneous principle, and to establish that which is right as their rule of action; and if they should adopt measures for effecting this in a peaceable way, we shall wish them success, and not stand in their way to it. But should it become, at any time, expedient for us to co-operate in the establishment of this principle, the opinion of the executive, on the advice of its constitutional counsellors, must then be given; and that of the legislature, an independent and essential organ in the operation, must also be expressed; in forming which, they will be governed, every man by his own judgment, and may, very possibly, judge differently from the executive. With the same honest views, the most honest men often form different conclusions. As far, however, as we can judge, the principle of "free bottoms, free goods," is that which would carry the wishes of our nation.
Wishing you smooth seas and prosperous gales, with the enjoyment of good health, I tender you the assurances of my constant friendship and high consideration and respect.
* Venice and Genoa.
I trusted to Mr. Dawson to give you a full explanation, verbally, on a subject which I find he has but slightly mentioned to you. I shall therefore now do it. When I returned from France, after an absence of six or seven years, I was astonished at the change which I found had taken place in the United States in that time. No more like the same people; their notions, their habits and manners, the course of their commerce, so totally changed, that I, who stood in those of 1784, found myself not at all qualified to speak their sentiments, or forward their views in 1790. Very soon, therefore, after entering on the office of Secretary of State, I recommended to General Washington to establish as a rule of practice, that no person should be continued on foreign mission beyond an absence of six, seven, or eight years. He approved it. On the only subsequent missions which took place in my time, the persons appointed were notified that they could not be continued beyond that period. All returned within it except Humphreys. His term was not quite out when General Washington went out of office. The succeeding administration had no rule for anything; so he continued. Immediately on my coming to the administration, I wrote to him myself, reminded him of the rule I had communicated to him on his departure; that he had then been absent about eleven years, and consequently must return. On this ground solely he was superseded. Under these circumstances, your appointment was impossible after an absence of seventeen years. Under any others, I should never fail to give to yourself and the world proofs of my friendship for you, and of my confidence in you. Whenever you shall return, you will be sensible in a greater, of what I was in a smaller degree, of the change in this nation from what it was when we both left it in 1784. We return like foreigners, and, like them, require a considerable residence here to become Americanized.
The state of political opinions continues to return steadily towards republicanism. To judge from the opposition papers, a stranger would suppose that a considerable check to it had been produced by certain removals of public officers. But this is not the case. All offices were in the hands of the federalists. The injustice of having totally excluded republicans was acknowledged by every man. To have removed one half, and to have placed republicans in their stead, would have been rigorously just, when it was known that these composed a very great majority of the nation. Yet such was their moderation in most of the States, that they did not desire it. In these, therefore, no removals took place but for malversation. In the Middle States the contention had been higher, spirits were more sharpened and less accommodating. It was necessary in these to practise a different treatment, and to make a few changes to tranquillize the injured party. A few have been made there, a very few still remain to be made. When this painful operation shall be over, I see nothing else ahead of us which can give uneasiness to any of our citizens, or retard that consolidation of sentiment so essential to our happiness and our strength. The tory papers will still find fault with everything. But these papers are sinking daily, from their dissonance with the sentiments of their subscribers, and very few will shortly remain to keep up a solitary and ineffectual barking.
There is no point in which an American, long absent from his country, wanders so widely from its sentiments as on the subject of its foreign affairs. We have a perfect horror at everything like connecting ourselves with the politics of Europe. It would indeed be advantageous to us to have neutral rights established on a broad ground ; but no dependence can be placed in any European coalition for that. They have so many other bye-interests of greater weight, that some one or other will always be bought off. To be entangled with them would be a much greater evil than a temporary acquiescence in the false principles which have prevailed. Peace is our most important interest, and a recovery from debt. We feel ourselves strong, and daily growing stronger. The census just now concluded, shows we have added to our population a third of what it was ten years ago. This will be a duplication in twenty-three or twenty-four years. If we can delay but for a few years the necessity of vindicating the laws of nature on the ocean, we shall be the more sure of doing it with effect. The day is within my time as well as yours, when we may say by what laws other nations shall treat us on the sea. And we will say it. In the meantime, we wish to let every treaty we have drop off without renewal. We call in our diplomatic missions, barely keeping up those to the most important nations. There is a strong disposition in our countrymen to discontinue even these; and very possibly it may be done. Consuls will be continued as usual. The interest which European nations feel, as well as ourselves, in the mutual patronage of commercial intercourse, is a sufficient stimulus on both sides to insure that patronage. A treaty, contrary to that interest, renders war necessary to get rid of it.
I send this by Chancellor Livingston, named to the Senate the day after I came into office, as our Minister Plenipotentiary to France. I have taken care to impress him with the value of your society. You will find him an amiable and honorable man; unfortunately, so deaf that he will have to transact all his business by writing. You will have known long ago that Mr. Skipworth is reinstated in his consulship, as well as some others who had been set aside. I recollect no domestic news interesting to you. Your letters to your brother have been regularly transmitted, and I lately forwarded one from him, to be carried you by Mr. Livingston.
Present my best respects to our amiable and mutual friend, and accept yourself assurances of my sincere and constant affection.
Coming all of us into executive office, new, and unfamiliar with the course of business previously practised, it was not to be expected we should, in the first outset, adopt in every part a line of proceeding so perfect as to admit no amendment. The mode and degrees of communication, particularly between the President and heads of departments, have not been practised exactly on the same scale in all of them. Yet it would certainly be more safe and satisfactory for ourselves as well as the public, that not only the best, but also an uniform course of proceeding as to manner and degree, should be observed. Having been a member of the first administration under General Washington, I can state with exactness what our course then was. Letters of business came addressed sometimes to the President, but most frequently to the heads of departments. If addressed to himself, he referred them to the proper department to be acted on : if to one of the secretaries, the letter, if it required no answer, was communicated to the President, simply for his information. If an answer was requisite, the secretary of the department communicated the letter and his proposed answer to the President. Generally they were simply sent back after perusal, which signified his approbation. Sometimes he returned them with an informal note, suggesting an alteration or a query. If a doubt of any importance arose, he reserved it for conference. By this means, he was always in accurate possession of all facts and proceedings in every part of the Union, and to whatsoever department they related; he formed a central point for the different branches; preserved an unity of object and action among them ; exercised that participation in the suggestion of affairs which his office made incumbent on him; and met himself the due responsibility for whatever was done. During Mr. Adams, administration, his long and habitual absences from the seat of government, rendered this kind of communication impracticable, removed him from any share in the transaction of affairs, and parceled out the government, in fact, among four independent heads, drawing sometimes in opposite directions. That the former is preferable to the latter course, cannot be doubted. It gave, indeed, to the heads of departments the trouble of making up, once a day, a packet of all their communications for the perusal of the President ; it commonly also retarded one day their despatches by mail. But in pressing cases, this injury was prevented by presenting that case singly for immediate attention; and it produced us in return the benefit of his sanction for every act we did. Whether any change of circumstances may render a change in this procedure necessary, a little experience will show us. But I cannot withhold recommending to heads of departments, that we should adopt this course for the present, leaving any necessary modifications of it to time and trial. I am sure my conduct must have proved, better than a thousand declarations would, that my confidence in these whom I am so happy as to have associated with me, is unlimited, unqualified and unabated. I am well satisfied that everything goes on with a wisdom and rectitude which I could not improve. If I had the universe to choose from, I could not change one of my associates to my better satisfaction. My sole motives are those before expressed, as governing the first administration in chalking out the rules of their proceeding; adding to them only a sense of obligation imposed on me by the public will, to meet personally the duties to which they have appointed me. If this mode of proceeding shall meet the approbation of the heads of departments, it may go into execution without giving them the trouble of an answer; if any other can be suggested which would answer our views and add less to their labors, that will be a sufficient reason for my preferring it to my own proposition, to the substance of which only, and not the form, I attach any importance.
Accept for yourself particularly, my dear Sir, assurances of my constant and sincere affection and respect.
SIR,I receive with great satisfaction the address you have been pleased to enclose me from the House of Representatives, of the freemen of the State of Vermont. The friendly and favorable sentiments they are so good as to express towards myself personally, are high encouragement to perseverance in duty, and call for my sincere thanks.
With them I join cordially in admiring and revering the Constitution of the United States,the result of the collected wisdom of our country. That wisdom has committed to us the important task of proving by example that a government, if organized in all its parts on the Representative principle, unadulterated by the infusion of spurious elements, if founded, not in the fears and follies of man, but on his reason, on his sense of right, on the predominance of the social over his dissocial passions, may be so free as to restrain him in no moral right, and so firm as to protect him from every moral wrong. To observe our fellow citizens gathering daily under the banners of this faith, devoting their powers to its establishment, and strengthening with their confidence the instruments of their selection, cannot but give new animation to the zeal of those who, steadfast in the same belief, have seen no other object worthy the labors and losses we have all encountered.
To draw around the whole nation the strength of the General Government, as a barrier against foreign foes, to watch the borders of every State, that no external hand may intrude, or disturb the exercise of self-government reserved to itself, to equalize and moderate the public contributions, that while the requisite services are invited by due remuneration, nothing beyond this may exist to attract the attention of our citizens from the pursuits of useful industry, nor unjustly to burthen those who continue in those pursuitsthese are functions of the General Government on which you have a right to call. They are in unison with those principles which have met the approbation of the Representatives of Vermont, as announced by myself on the former and recent occasions alluded to. These shall be faithfully pursued according to the plain and candid import of the expressions in which they were announced. No longer than they are so, will I ask that support which, through you, has been so respectfully tendered me. And I join in addressing Him, whose Kingdom ruleth over all, to direct the administration of their affairs to their own greatest good.
Praying you to be the channel of communicating these sentiments to the House of Representatives of the freemen of the State of Vermont, I beseech you to accept for yourself personally, as well as for them, the homage of my high respect and consideration.
Dear Sir,I had not been unmindful of your letter of June 15th, covering a resolution of the House of Representatives of Virginia, and referred to in yours of the 17th inst. The importance of the subject, and the belief that it gave us time for consideration till the next meeting of the Legislature, have induced me to defer the answer to this date. You will perceive that some circumstances connected with the subject, and necessarily presenting themselves to view, would be improper but for yours and the legislative ear. Their publication might have an ill effect in more than one quarter. In confidence of attention to this, I shall indulge greater freedom in writing.
Common malefactors, I presume, make no part of the object of that resolution. Neither their numbers, nor the nature of their offences, seem to require any provisions beyond those practised heretofore, and found adequate to the repression of ordinary crimes. Conspiracy, insurgency, treason, rebellion, (among that description of persons who brought on us the alarm, and on themselves the tragedy, of 1800,) were doubtless within the view of every one; but many perhaps contemplated, and one expression of the resolution might comprehend, a much larger scope. Respect to both opinions makes it my duty to understand the resolution in all the extent of which it is susceptible.
The idea seems to be to provide for these people by a purchase of lands; and it is asked whether such a purchase can be made of the United States in their western territory ? A very great extent of country, north of the Ohio, has been laid off into townships, and is now at market, according to the provisions of the acts of Congress, with which you are acquainted. There is nothing which would restrain the State of Virginia either in the purchase or the application of these lands; but a purchase, by the acre, might perhaps be a more expensive provision than the House of Representatives contemplated. Questions would also arise whether the establishment of such a colony within our limits, and to become a part of our union, would be desirable to the State of Virginia itself, or to the other Statesespecially those who would be in its vicinity ? Could we procure lands beyond the limits of the United States to form a receptacle for these people ? On our northern boundary, the country not occupied by British subjects, is the property of Indian nations whose title would be to be extinguished, with the consent of Great Britain; and the new settlers would be British subjects. It is hardly to be believed that either Great Britain or the Indian proprietors have so disinterested a regard for us, as to be willing to relieve us, by receiving such a colony themselves; and as much to be doubted whether that race of men could long exist in so rigorous a climate. On our western and southern frontiers; Spain holds an immense country, the occupancy of which, however, is in the Indian natives, except a few insulated spots possessed by Spanish subjects. It is very questionable, indeed, whether the Indians would sell ? whether Spain would be willing to receive these people ? and nearly certain that she would not alienate the sovereignty. The same question to ourselves would recur here also, as did in the first case : should we be willing to have such a colony in contact with us ? However our present interests may restrain us within our own limits, it is impossible not to look forward to distant times, when our rapid multiplication will expand itself beyond those limits, and cover the whole northern, if not the southern continent, with a people speaking the same language, governed in similar forms, and by similar laws; nor can we contemplate with satisfaction either blot or mixture on that surface. Spain, France, and Portugal hold possessions on the southern continent, as to which I am not well enough informed to say how far they might meet our views. But either there or in the northern continent, should the constituted authorities of Virginia fix their attention, of preference, I will have the dispositions of those powers sounded in the first instance.
The West Indies offer a more probable and practicable retreat for them. Inhabited already by a people of their own race and color; climates congenial with their natural constitution; insulated from the other descriptions of men; nature seems to have formed these islands to become the receptacle of the blacks transplanted into this hemisphere. Whether we could obtain from the European sovereigns of those islands leave to send thither the persons under consideration, I cannot say ; but I think it more probable than the former propositions, because of their being already inhabited more or less by the same race. The most promising portion of them is the island of St. Domingo, where the blacks are established into a sovereignty de facto; and have organized themselves under regular laws and government. I should conjecture that their present ruler might be willing, on many considerations, to receive over that description which would be exiled for acts deemed criminal by us, but meritorious, perhaps, by him. The possibility that these exiles might stimulate and conduct vindicative or predatory descents on our coasts, and facilitate concert with their brethren remaining here, looks to a state of things between that island and us not probable on a contemplation of our relative strength, and of the disproportion daily growing ; and it is overweighed by the humanity of the measures proposed, and the advantages of disembarrassing ourselves of such dangerous characters. Africa would offer a last and undoubted resort, if all others more desirable should fail us. Whenever the Legislature of Virginia shall have brought its mind to a point, so that I may know exactly what to propose to foreign authorities, I will execute their wishes with fidelity and zeal. I hope, however, they will pardon me for suggesting a single question for their own consideration. When we contemplate the variety of countries and of sovereigns towards which we may direct our views, the vast resolutions and changes of circumstances which are now in a course of progression, the possibilities that arrange- ments now to be made, with a view to any particular plea, may, at no great distance of time, be totally deranged by a change of sovereignty, of government, or of other circumstances, it will be for the Legislature to consider whether, after they shall have made all those general provisions which may be fixed by legislative authority, it would be reposing too much confidence in their Executive to leave the place of relegation to be decided on by them. They could accommodate their arrangements to the actual state of things, in which countries or powers may be found to exist at the day; and may prevent the effect of the law from being defeated by intervening changes. This, however, is for them to decide. Our duty will be to respect their decision.
Accept assurances of my constant affection, and high consideration and respect.
SIR,Your favor of October 27 was received some time since, and read with pleasure. It is not for me to pronounce on the hypothesis you present of a transmigration of souls from one body to another in certain cases. The laws of nature have withheld from us the means of physical knowledge of the country of spirits, and revelation has, for reasons unknown to us, chosen to leave us in the dark as we were. When I was young I was fond of the speculations which seemed to promise some insight into that hidden country, but observing at length that they left me in the same ignorance in which they had found me, I have for very many years ceased to read or to think concerning them, and have reposed my head on that pillow of ignorance which a benevolent Creator has made so soft for us, knowing how much we should be forced to use it. I have thought it better, by nourishing the good passions and controlling the bad, to merit an inheritance in a state of being of which I can know so little, and to trust for the future to Him who has been so good for the past. I perceive too that these speculations have with you been only the amusement of leisure hours ; while your labors have been devoted to the education of your children, making them good members of society, to the instructing men in their duties, and performing the other offices of a large parish. I am happy in your approbation of the principles I avowed on entering on the government. Ingenious minds, availing themselves of the imperfection of language, have tortured the expressions out of their plain meaning in order to infer departures from. them in practice. If revealed language has not been able to guard itself against misinterpretations, I could not expect it. But if an administration quadrating with the obvious import of my language can conciliate the affections of my opposers, I will merit that conciliation. I pray you to accept assurances of my respect and best wishes.
SIR,The circumstances under which we find ourselves at this place rendering inconvenient the mode heretofore practised of making, by personal address, the first communications between the legislative and executive branches, I have adopted that by message, as used on all subsequent occasions through the session. In doing this, I have had principal regard to the convenience of the Legislature, to the economy of their time, to their relief from the embarrassment of immediate answers, on subjects not yet fully before them, and to the benefits thence resulting to the public affairs. Trusting that a procedure, founded on these motives, will meet their approbation, I beg leave through you, Sir, to communicate the enclosed copy, with the documents accompanying it, to the honorable the Senate, and pray you to accept for yourself and them, the homage of my high regard and consideration.
The approbation of my ancient friends is, above all things, the most grateful to my heart. They know for what objects we relinquished the delights of domestic society, tranquillity and science, and committed ourselves to the ocean of revolution, to wear out the only life God has given us here in scenes the benefits of which will accrue only to those who follow us. Surely we had in view to obtain the theory and practice of good government ; and how any, who seemed so ardent in this pursuit, could as shamelessly have apostatized, and supposed we meant only to put our government into other hands, but not other forms, is indeed wonderful. The lesson we have had will probably be useful to the people at large, by showing to them how capable they are of being made the instruments of their own bondage. A little more prudence and moderation in those who had mounted themselves on their fears, and it would have been long and difficult to unhorse them. Their madness had done in three years what reason alone, acting against them, would not have effected in many; and the more, as they might have gone on forming new entrenchments for themselves from year to year. My great anxiety at present is, to avail ourselves of our ascendancy to establish good principles and good practices; to fortify republicanism behind as many barriers as possible, that the outworks may give time to rally and save the citadel, should that be again in danger. On their part, they have retired into the judiciary as a stronghold. There the remains of federalism are to be preserved and fed from the treasury, and from that battery all the works of republicanism are to be beaten down and erased. By a fraudulent use of the Constitution, which has made judges irremovable, they have multiplied useless judges merely to strengthen their phalanx.
You will perhaps have been alarmed, as some have been, at the proposition to abolish the whole of the internal taxes. But it is perfectly safe. They are under a million of dollars, and we can economize the government two or three millions a year. The impost alone gives us ten or eleven millions annually, increasing at a compound ratio of six and two-thirds per cent. per annum, and consequently doubling in ten years. But leaving that increase for contingencies, the present amount will support the government, pay the interest of the public debt, and discharge the principal in fifteen years. If the increase proceeds, and no contingencies demand it, it will pay off the principal in a shorter time. Exactly one half of the public debt, to wit, thirty-seven millions of dollars, is owned in the United States. That capital, then, will be set afloat, to be employed in rescuing our commerce from the hands of foreigners, or in agriculture, canals, bridges, or other useful enterprises. By suppressing at once the whole internal taxes, we abolish three-fourths of the offices now existing, and spread over the land. Seeing the interest you take in the public affairs, I have indulged myself in observations flowing from a sincere and ardent desire of seeing our affairs put into an honest and advantageous train. Accept assurances of my constant and affectionate esteem and high respect.
I have received your favor of November 27, with your introductory lecture, which I have read with the pleasure and edification I do everything from you. I am happy to see that vaccination is introduced, and likely to be kept up, in Philadelphia ; but I shall not think it exhibits all its utility until experience shall have hit upon some mark or rule by which the popular eye may distinguish genuine from spurious virus. It was with this view that I wished to discover whether time could not be made the standard, and supposed, from the little experience I had, that matter, taken at eight times twentyfour hours from the time of insertion, could always be in the proper state. As far as I went I found it so ; but I shall be happy to learn what the immense field of experience in Philadelphia will teach us on that subject.
Our winter campaign has opened with more good humor than I expected. By sending a message, instead of making a speech at the opening of the session, I have prevented the bloody conflict to which the making an answer would have committed them. They consequently were able to set into real business at once, without losing ten or twelve days in combating an answer. Hitherto there has been no disagreeable altercations. The suppression of useless offices, and lopping off the parasitical plant engrafted at the last session on the judiciary body, will probably produce some. Bitter men are not pleased with the suppression of taxes. Not daring to condemn the measure, they attack the motive and too disingenuous to ascribe it to the honest one of freeing our citizens from unnecessary burdens and unnecessary systems of office, they ascribe it to a desire of popularity. But every honest man will suppose honest acts to flow from honest principles, and the rogues may rail without intermission.
My health has been always so uniformly firm, that I have for some years dreaded nothing so much as the living too long. I think, however, that a flaw has appeared which ensures me against that, without cutting short any of the period during which I could expect to remain capable of being useful. It will probably give me as many years as I wish, and without pain or debility. Should this be the case, my most anxious prayers will have been fulfilled by Heaven.
I have said as much to no mortal breathing, and my florid health is calculated to keep my friends as well as foes quiet, as they should be. Accept assurances of my constant esteem and high respect.