Your letter of August 3d asking information on the subject of Mr. Oliver Evans exclusive right to the use of what he calls his Elevators, Conveyers, and Hopper-boys, has been duly received. My wish to see new inventions encouraged, and old ones brought again into useful notice, has made me regret the circumstances which have followed the expiration of his first patent. I did not expect the retrospection which has been given to the reviving law. For although the second proviso seemed not so clear as it ought to have been, yet it appeared susceptible of a just construction; and the retrospective one being contrary to natural right, it was understood to be a rule of law that where the words of a statute admit of two constructions, the one just and the other unjust, the former is to be given them. The first proviso takes care of those who had lawfully used Evans improvements under the first patent; the second was meant for those who had lawfully erected and used them after that patent expired, declaring they should not be liable to damages therefor. These words may indeed be restrained to uses already past, but as there is parity of reason for those to come, there should be parity of law. Every man should be protected in his lawful acts, and be certain that no ex post facto law shall punish or endamage him for them. But he is endamaged, if forbidden to use a machine lawfully erected, at considerable expense, unless he will pay a new and unexpected price for it. The proviso says that he who erected and used lawfully should not be liable to pay damages. But if the proviso had been omitted, would not the law, construed by natural equity, have said the same thing ? In truth both provisos are useless. And shall useless provisos, inserted pro majori cautela only, authorize inferences against justice ? The sentiment that ex post facto laws are against natural right, is so strong in the United States, that few, if any, of the State constitutions have failed to proscribe them. The federal constitution indeed interdicts them in criminal cases only ; but they are equally unjust in civil as in criminal cases, and the omission of a caution which would have been right, does not justify the doing what is wrong. Nor ought it to be presumed that the legislature meant to use a phrase in an unjustifiable sense, if by rules of construction it can be ever strained to what is just. The law books abound with similar instances of the care the judges take of the public integrity. Laws, moreover, abridging the natural right of the citizen, should be restrained by rigorous constructions within their narrowest limits.
Your letter, however, points to a much broader question whether what have received from Mr. Evans the new and proper name of Elevators, are of his invention. Because, if they are not, his patent gives him no right to obstruct others in the use of what they possessed before. I assume it is a Lemma; that it is the invention of the machine itself, which is to give a patent right, and not the application of it to any particular purpose, of which it is susceptible. If one person invents a knife convenient for pointing our pens, another cannot have a patent right for the same knife to point our pencils. A compass was invented for navigating the sea; another could not have a patent right for using it to survey land. A machine for threshing wheat has been invented in Scotland; a second person cannot get a patent right for the same machine to thresh oats, a third rye, a fourth peas, a fifth clover, &c. A string of buckets is invented and used for raising water, ore, &c., can a second have a patent right to the same machine for raising wheat, a third oats, a fourth rye, a fifth peas, &c.? The question then whether such a string of buckets was invented first by Oliver Evans, is a mere question of fact in mathematical history. Now, turning to such books only as I happen to possess, I find abundant proof that this simple machinery has been in use from time immemorial. Doctor Shaw, who visited Egypt and the Barbary coast in the years 1727-8-9, in the margin of his map of Egypt, gives us the figure of what he calls a Persian wheel, which is a string of round cups or buckets hanging on a pulley, over which they revolved, bringing up water from a well and delivering it into a trough above. He found this used at Cairo, in a well 264 feet deep, which the inhabitants believe to have been the work of the patriarch Joseph. Shaws travels, 341, Oxford edition of 1738 in folio, and the Universal History, I. 416, speaking of the manner of watering the higher lands in Egypt, says, formerly they made use of Archimedes screw, thence named the Egyptian pump, but they now generally use wheels (wallowers) which carry a rope or chain of earthen pots holding about seven or eight quarts apiece, and draw the water from the canals. There are besides a vast number of wells in Egypt, from which the water is drawn in the same manner to water the gardens and fruit trees; so that it is no exaggeration to say, that there are in Egypt above 200,000 oxen daily employed in this labor. Shaws name of Persian wheel has been since given more particularly to a wheel with buckets, either fixed or suspended on pins, at its periphery. Mortimers husbandry, I. 18, Duhamel III. II., Fergusons Mechanics plate, XIII ; but his figure, and the verbal description of the Universal History, prove that the string of buckets is meant under that name. His figure differs from Evans construction in the circumstances of the buckets being round, and strung through their bottom on a chain. But it is the principle, to wit, a string of buckets, which constitutes the invention, not the form of the buckets, round, square, or hexagon; nor the manner of attaching them, nor the material of the connecting band, whether chain, rope, or leather. Vitruvius, L. x. c. 9, describes this machinery as a windlass, on which is a chain descending to the water, with vessels of copper attached to it ; the windlass being turned, the chain moving on it will raise the vessel, which in passing over the windlass will empty the water they have brought up into a reservoir. And Perrault, in his edition of Vitruvius, Paris, 1684, folio plates 61, 62, gives us three forms of these water elevators, in one of which the buckets are square, as Mr. Evans are. Bossuet, Histoire des Mathematiques, I. 86, says, the drum wheel, the wheel with buckets and the Chapelets, are hydraulic machines which come to us from the ancients. But we are ignorant of the time when they began to be put into use. The Chapelets are the revolving bands of the buckets which Shaw calls the Persian wheel, the moderns a chain-pump, and Mr. Evans elevators. The next of my books in which I find these elevators is Wolfs Cours de Mathematiques, I. 370, and plate I, Paris, 1747, 8vo; here are two forms. In one of them the buckets are square, attached to two chains, passing over a cylinder or wallower at top, and under another at bottom, by which they are made to revolve. It is a nearly exact representation of Evans Elevators. But a more exact one is to be seen in Desaguliers Experimental Philosophy, ii. plate 34; in the Encyclopedie de Diderot et DAlembert, 8vo edition of Lausanne, first volume of plates in the four subscribed Hydraulique. Norie, is one where round eastern pots are tied by their collars between two endless ropes suspended on a revolving lantern or wallower. This is said to have been used for raising ore out of a mine. In a book which I do not possess, LArchitecture Hidraulique de Belidor, the second volume of which is said [De la Landes continuation of Montuclas Histoire de Mathematiques iii. 711] to contain a detail of all the pumps, ancient and modern, hydraulic machines, fountains, wells, &c., I have no doubt this Persian wheel, chain pump, chapelets, elevators, by whichever name you choose to call it, will be found in various forms. The last book I have to quote for it is Pronys Architecture Hydraulique I., Avertissement vii., and § 648, 649, 650. In the latter of which passages he observes that the first idea which occurs for raising water is to lift it in a bucket by hand. When the water lies too deep to be reached by hand, the bucket is suspended by a chain and let down over a pulley or windlass. If it be desired to raise a continued stream of water, the simplest means which offers itself to the mind is to attach to an endless chain or cord a number of pots or buckets, so disposed that, the chain being suspended on a lanthorn or wallower above, and plunged in water below, the buckets may descend and ascend alternately, filling themselves at bottom and emptying at a certain height above, so as to give a constant stream. Some years before the date of Mr. Evans patent, a Mr. Martin of Caroline county in this State, constructed a drill-plough, in which he used the band of buckets for elevating the grain from the box into the funnel, which let them down into the furrow. He had bands with different sets of buckets adapted to the size of peas, of turnip seed, &c. I have used this machine for sowing Benni seed also, and propose to have a band of buckets for drilling Indian corn, and another for wheat. Is it possible that in doing this I shall infringe Mr. Evans patent ? That I can be debarred of any use to which I might have applied my drill, when I bought it, by a patent issued after I bought it ?
These verbal descriptions, applying so exactly to Mr. Evans elevators, and the drawings exhibited to the eye, flash conviction both on reason and the senses that there is nothing new in these elevators but their being strung together on a strap of leather: If this strap of leather be an invention, entitling the inventor to a patent right, it can only extend to the strap, and the use of the string of buckets must remain free to be connected by chains, ropes, a strap of hempen girthing, or any other substance except leather. But, indeed, Mr. Martin had before used the strap of leather.
The screw of Archimedes is as ancient, at least, as the age of that mathematician, who died more than 2,000 years ago. Diodorus Siculus speaks of it, L. I., p. 21, and L. v., p. 217, of Stevens edition of 1559, folio; and Vitruvius, xii. The cutting of its spiral worm into sections for conveying flour or grain, seems to have been an invention of Mr. Evans, and to be a fair subject of a patent right. But it cannot take away from others the use of Archimedes screw with its perpetual spiral, for any purposes of which it is susceptible.
The hopper-boy is an useful machine, and so far as I know, original.
It has been pretended by some, (and in England especially,) that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs. But while it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from nature at all, it would be singular to admit a natural and even an hereditary right to inventors. It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre cf land, for instance. By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself ; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine ; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.
Considering the exclusive right to invention as given not of natural right, but for the benefit of society, I know well the difficulty of drawing a line between the things which are worth to the public the embarrassment of an exclusive patent, and those which are not. As a member of the patent board for several years, while the law authorized a board to grant or refuse patents, I saw with what slow progress a system of general rules could be matured. Some, however, were established by that board. One of these was, that a machine of which we were possessed, might be applied by every man to any use of which it is susceptible, and that this right ought not to be taken from him and given to a monopolist, because the first perhaps had occasion so to apply it. Thus a screw for crushing plaster might be employed for crushing corn-cobs. And a chain-pump for raising water might be used for raising wheat : this being merely a change of application. Another rule was that a change of material should riot give title to a patent. As the making a ploughshare of cast rather than of wrought iron ; a comb of iron instead of horn or of ivory, or the connecting buckets by a band of leather rather than of hemp or iron. A third was that a mere change of form should give no right to a patent, as a high-quartered shoe instead of a low one ; a round hat instead of a three-square ; or a square bucket instead of a round one. But for this rule, all the changes of fashion in dress would have been under the tax of patentees. These were among the rules which the uniform decisions of the board had already established, and under each of them Mr. Evans patent would have been refused. First, because it was a mere change of application of the chain-pump, from raising water to raise wheat. Secondly, because the using a leathern instead of a hempen band, was a mere change of material ; and thirdly, square buckets instead of round, are only a change of form, and the ancient forms, too, appear to have been indifferently square or round. But there were still abundance of cases which could not be brought under rule, until they should have presented themselves under all their aspects ; and these investigations occupying more time of the members of the board than they could spare from higher duties, the whole was turned over to the judiciary, to be matured into a system, under which every one might know when his actions were safe and lawful. Instead of refusing a patent in the first instance, as the board was authorized to do, the patent now issues of course, subject to be declared void on such principles as should be established by the courts of law. This business, however, is but little analogous to their course of reading, since we might in vain turn over all the lubberly volumes of the law to find a single ray which would lighten the path of the mechanic or the mathematician. It is more within the information of a board of academical professors; and a previous refusal of patent would better guard our citizens against harassment by lawsuits. But England had given it to her judges, and the usual predominancy of her examples carried it to ours.
It happened that I had myself a mill built in the interval between Mr. Evans first and second patents. I was living in Washington, and left the construction to the millwright. I did not even know he had erected elevators, conveyers and hopper-boys, until I learnt it by an application from Mr. Evans agent for the patent price. Although I had no idea he had a right to it by law, (for no judicial decision had then been given,) yet I did not hesitate to remit to Mr. Evans the old and moderate patent price, which was what he then asked, from a wish to encourage even the useful revival of ancient inventions. But I then expressed my opinion of the law in a letter, either to Mr. Evans or to his agent.
I have thus, Sir, at your request, given you the facts and ideas which occur to me on this subject. I have done it without reserve, although I have not the pleasure of knowing you personally. In thus frankly committing myself to you, I trust you will feel it as a point of honor and candor, to make no use of my letter which might bring disquietude on myself. And particularly, I should be unwilling to be brought into any difference with Mr. Evans, whom, however, I believe too reasonable to take offence at an honest difference of opinion. I esteem him much, and sincerely wish him wealth and honor. I deem him a valuable citizen, of uncommon ingenuity and usefulness. And had I not esteemed still more the establishment of sound principles, I should now have been silent. If any of the matter I have offered can promote that object, I have no objection to its being so used ; if it offers nothing new, it will of course not be used at all. I have gone with some minuteness into the mathematical history of the elevator, because it belongs to a branch of science in which, as I have before observed, it is not incumbent on lawyers to be learned; and it is possible, therefore, that some of the proofs I have quoted may have escaped on their former arguments. On the law of the subject I should not have touched, because more familiar to those who have already discussed it ; but I wished to state my view of it merely in justification of myself, my name and approbation being subscribed to the act. With these explanations, accept the assurance of my respect.
Your favor of March 27th came during my absence on a journey of some length. It covered your Rudiments of English Grammar, for which I pray you to accept my thanks. This acknowledgment of it has been delayed, until I could have time to give the work such a perusal as the avocations to which I am subject would permit. In the rare and short intervals which these have allotted me, I have gone over with pleasure a considerable part, although not yet the whole of it. But I am entirely unqualified to give that critical opinion of it which you do me the favor to ask. Mine has been a life of business, of that kind which appeals to a mans conscience, as well as his industry, not to let it suffer, and the few moments allowed me from labor have been devoted to more attractive studies, that of grammar having never been a favorite with me. The scanty foundation, laid in at school, has carried me through a life of much hasty writing, more indebted for style to reading and memory, than to rules of grammar. I have been pleased to see that in all cases you appeal to usage, as the arbiter of language ; and justly consider that as giving law to grammar, and not grammar to usage. I concur entirely with you in opposition to Purists, who would destroy all strength and beauty of style, by subjecting it to a rigorous compliance with their rules. Fill up all the ellipses and syllepses of Tacitus, Sallust, Livy, &c., and the elegance and force of their sententious brevity are extinguished.
Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus, imperium appellant. Deorurn injurias, diis curae. Allieni appetens, sui profusus; ardens in cupiditatibus; satis loquentiae, sapientiae parum. Annibal peto pacem. Per diem Sol non uret te, neque Luna per noctem. Wire-draw these expressions by filling up the whole syntax and sense, and they become dull paraphrases on rich sentiments. We may say then truly with Quintilian, Aliud est Grammatice, aliud Latine loqui. I am no friend, therefore, to what is called Purism, but a zealous one to the Neology which has introduced these two words without the authority of any dictionary. I consider the one as destroying the nerve and beauty of language, while the other improves both, and adds to its copiousness. I have been not a little disappointed, and made suspicious of my own judgment, on seeing the Edinburgh Reviewers, the ablest critics of the age, set their faces against the introduction of new words into the English language ; they are particularly apprehensive that the writers of the United States will adulterate it. Certainly so great growing a population, spread over such an extent of country, with such a variety of climates, of productions, of arts, must enlarge their language, to make it answer its purpose of expressing all ideas, the new as well as the old. The new circumstances under which we are placed, call for new words, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects. An American dialect will therefore be formed; so will a West-Indian and Asiatic, as a Scotch and an Irish are already formed. But whether will these adulterate, or enrich the English language ? Has the beautiful poetry of Burns, or his Scottish dialect, disfigured it ? Did the Athenians consider the Doric, the Ionian, the Æolic, and other dialects, as disfiguring or as beautifying their language ? Did they fastidiously disavow Herodotus, Pindar, Theocritus, Sappho, Alcaeus, or Grecian writers ? On the contrary, they were sensible that the variety of dialects, still infinitely varied, by poetical license, constituted the riches of their language, and made the Grecian Homer the first of poets, as he must ever remain, until a language equally ductile and copious shall again be spoken.
Every language has a set of terminations, which make a part of its peculiar idiom. Every root among the Greeks was permitted to vary its termination, so as to express its radical idea in the form of any one of the parts of speech ; to wit, as a noun, an adjective, a verb, participle, or adverb; and each of these parts of speech again, by still varying the termination, could vary the shade of idea existing in the mind.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was not, then, the number of Grecian roots (for some other languages may have as many) which made it the most copious of the ancient languages ; but the infinite diversification which each of these admitted. Let the same license be allowed in English, the roots of which, native and adopted, are perhaps more numerous and its idiomatic terminations more various than of the Greek, and see what the language would become. Its idiomatic terminations are :
Subst. Gener-ationator; degener-acy; gener-osityousnessalshipalissimo; king-domling; joy-ance ; enjoy-erment ; herb-agealist ; sanct-uaryimonyitude; royal-ism; lamb-kin; childhood ; bishop-ric ; proced-ure ; horseman-ship ; worthi-ness.
Adj. Gener-antativeicicalableousal; joy-fullesssome; herb-y; accous-escentulent; child-ish ; wheat-en.
I do not pretend that this is a complete list of all the terminations of the two languages. It is as much so as a hasty recollection suggests, and the omissions are as likely to be to the disadvantage of the one as the other. If it be a full, or equally fair enumeration, the English are the double of the Greek terminations. But there is still another source of copiousness more abundant than that of termination. It is the composition of the root, and of every member of its family, 1, with prepositions, and 2, with other words. The prepositions used in the composition of Greek words are :
* * * * * * * * * * *
Now multiply each termination of a family into every preposition, and how prolific does it make each root! But the English language, beside its own prepositions, about twenty in number, which it compounds with English roots, uses those of the Greek for adopted Greek roots, and of the Latin for Latin roots. The English prepositions, with examples of their use, are a, as in a-long, a-board, a-thirst, a-clock ; be, as in be-lie ; mis, as in mishap ; these being inseparable. The separable, with examples, are above-cited, after-thought, gain-say, before-hand, fore-thought, behind-hand, by-law, for-give, fro-ward, in-born, on-set, over-go, out-go, thorough-go, under-take, up-lift, with-stand. Now let us see what copiousness this would produce, were it allowed to compound every root and its family with every preposition, where both sense and sound would be in its favor. Try it on an English root, the verb to place, Anglo-Saxon plæce,* for instance, and the Greek and Latin roots, of kindred meaning, adopted in English, to wit, (Greek inserted here) and locatio, with their prepositions.
Some of these compounds would be new ; but all present distinct meanings, and the synonisms of the three languages offer a choice of sounds to express the same meaning; add to this, that in some instances, usage has authorized the compounding an English root with a Latin preposition, as in de-place, dis-place, re-place. This example may suffice to show what the language would become, in strength, beauty, variety, and every circumstance which gives perfection to language, were it permitted freely to draw from all its legitimate sources.
The second source of composition is of one family of roots with another. The Greek avails itself of this most abundantly, and beautifully. The English once did it freely, while in its Anglo-Saxon form, e.g., (Greek inserted here), book-craft, learning, (Greek inserted here), right-belief-ful, orthodox. But it has lost by desuetude much of this branch of composition, which it is desirable however to resume.
If we wish to be assured from experiment of the effect of a judicious spirit of Neology, look at the French language. Even before the revolution, it was deemed much more copious than the English ; at a time, too, when they had an Academy which endeavored to arrest the progress of their language, by fixing it to a Dictionary, out of which no word was ever to be sought, used, or tolerated. The institution of parliamentary assemblies in 1789, for which their language had no apposite terms or phrases, as having never before needed them, first obliged them to adopt the Parliamentary vocabulary of England ; and other new circumstances called for corresponding new words; until by the number of these adopted, and by the analogies for adoption which they have legitimated, I think we may say with truth that a Dictionnaire Neologique of these would be half as large as the dictionary of the Academy ; and that at this time it is the language in which every shade of idea, distinctly perceived by the mind, may be more exactly expressed, than in any language at this day spoken by man. Yet I have no hesitation in saying that the English language is founded on a broader base, native and adopted, and capable, with the like freedom of employing its materials, of becoming superior to that in copiousness and euphony. Not indeed by holding fast to Johnsons Dictionary; not by raising a hue and cry against every word he has not licensed ; but by encouraging and welcoming new compositions of its elements. Learn from Lye and Benson what the language would now have been if restrained to their vocabularies. Its enlargement must be the consequence, to a certain degree, of its transplantation from the latitude of London into every climate of the globe; and the greater the degree the more precious will it become as the organ of the development of the human mind.
These are my visions on the improvement of the English language by a free use of its faculties. To realize them would require a course of time. The example of good writers, the approbation of men of letters, the judgment of sound critics, and of none more than of the Edinburgh Reviewers, would give it a beginning, and once begun, its progress might be as rapid as it has been in France, where we see what a period of only twenty years has effected. Under the auspices of British science and example it might commence with hope. But the dread of innovation there, and especially of any example set by France, has, I fear, palsied the spirit of improvement. Here, where all is new, no innovation is feared which offers good. But we have no distinct class of literati in our country. Every man is engaged in some industrious pursuit, and science is but a secondary occupation, always subordinate to the main business of his life. Few therefore of those who are qualified, have leisure to write. In time it will be otherwise. In the meanwhile, necessity obliges us to neologize. And should the language of England continue stationary, we shall probably enlarge our employment of it, until its new character may separate it in name as well as in power, from the mother-tongue.
Although the copiousness of a language may not in strictness make a part of its grammar, yet it cannot be deemed foreign to a general course of lectures on its structure and character; and the subject having been presented to my mind by the occasion of your letter, I have indulged myself in its speculation, and hazarded to you what has occurred, with the assurance of my great respect.
* Johnson derives place from the French place, an open square in a town. But its northern parentage is visible in its syno-nime platz, Teutonic, and plattse, Belgic, both of which signify locus, and the Anglo-Saxon place, platea, vicus.
Your letter of the 3d has been duly received. That of Mr. Eppes had before come to hand, covering your MS. on the reformation of the orthography of the plural of nouns ending in y, and ey, and on orthoepy. A change has been long desired in English orthography, such as might render it an easy and true index of the pronunciation of words. The want of conformity between the combinations of letters, and the sounds they should represent, increases to foreigners the difficulty of acquiring the language, occasions great loss of time to children in learning to read, and renders correct spelling rare but in those who read much. In England a variety of plans and propositions have been made for the reformation of their orthography. Passing over these, two of our countrymen, Dr. Franklin and Dr. Thornton, have also engaged in the enterprise; the former proposing an addition of two or three new characters only, the latter a reformation of the whole alphabet nearly. But these attempts in England, as well as here, have been without effect. About the middle of the last century an attempt was made to banish the letter d from the words bridge, judge, hedge, knowledge, &c., others of that termination, and to write them as we write age, cage, sacrilege, privilege ; but with little success. The attempt was also made, which you mention in your second part, to drop the letter u in words of Latin derivation ending in our, and to write honor, candor, rigor, &c., instead of honour, candour, rigour. But the u having been picked up in the passage of these words from the Latin, through the French, to us, is still preserved by those who consider it as a memorial of our title to the words. Other partial attempts have been made by individual writers, but with as little success. Pluralizing nouns in y, and ey, by adding s only, as you propose, would certainly simplify the spelling, and be analogous to the general idiom of the language. It would be a step gained in the progress of general reformation, if it could prevail. But my opinion being requested I must give it candidly, that judging of the future by the past, I expect no better fortune to this than similar preceding propositions have experienced. It is very difficult to persuade the great body of mankind to give up what they have once learned, and are now masters of, for something to be learnt anew. Time alone insensibly wears down old habits, and produces small changes at long intervals, and to this process we must all accommodate ourselves, and be content to follow those who will not follow us. Our Anglo-Saxon ancestors had twenty ways of spelling the word many. Ten centuries have dropped all of them and substituted that which we now use. I now return your MS. without being able, with the gentlemen whose letters are cited, to encourage hope as to its effect. I am bound, however, to acknowledge that this is a subject to which I have not paid much attention; and that my doubts therefore should weigh nothing against their more favorable expectations. That these may be fulfilled, and mine prove unfounded, I sincerely wish, because I am a friend to the reformation generally of whatever can be made better, and because it could not fail of gratifying you to be instrumental in this work. Accept the assurance of my respect.
Dear Sir,Since my letter of June the 27th, I am in your debt for many; all of which I have read with infinite delight. They open a wide field for reflection, and offer subjects enough to occupy the mind and the pen indefinitely. I must follow the good example you have set, and when I have not time to take up every subject, take up a single one. Your approbation of my outline to Dr. Priestley is a great gratification to me ; and I very much suspect that if thinking men would have the courage to think for themselves, and to speak what they think, it would be found they do not differ in religious opinions as much as is supposed. I remember to have heard Dr. Priestley say, that if all England would candidly examine themselves, and confess, they would find that Unitarianism was really the religion of all ; and I observe a bill is now depending in parliament for the relief of Anti-Trinitarians. It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three ; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one ; to divide mankind by a single letter into (Greek inserted here) and (Greek inserted here). But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of factitious religion, and they would catch no more flies. We should all then, like the Quakers, live without an order of priests, moralize for ourselves, follow the oracle of conscience, and say nothing about what no man can understand, nor therefore believe; for I suppose belief to be the assent of the mind to an intelligible proposition.
It is with great pleasure I can inform you, that Priestley finished the comparative view of the doctrines of the philosophers of antiquity, and of Jesus, before his death; and that it was printed soon after. And, with still greater pleasure, that I can have a copy of his work forwarded from Philadelphia, by a correspondent there, and presented for your acceptance, by the same mail which carries, you this, or very soon after. The branch of the work which the title announces, is executed with learning and candor; as was everything Priestley wrote, but perhaps a little hastily; for he felt himself pressed by the hand of death. The Abbé Batteux had, in fact, laid the foundation of this part in his Causes Premieres, with which he has given us the originals of Ocellus and Timaeus, who first committed the doctrines of Pythagoras to writing, and Enfield, to whom the Doctor refers, had done it more copiously. But he has omitted the important branch, which, in your letter of August the 9th, you say you have never seen executed, a comparison of the morality of the Old Testament with that of the New. And yet, no two things were ever more unlike. I ought not to have asked him to give it. He dared not. He would have been eaten alive by his intolerant brethren, the Cannibal priests. And yet, this was really the most interesting branch of the work.
Very soon after my letter to Doctor Priestley, the subject being still in my mind, I had leisure during an abstraction from business for a day or two, while on the road, to think a little more on it, and to sketcch more fully than I had done to him, a syllabus of the matter which I thought should enter into the work. I wrote it ta Doctor Rush, and there ended all my labor on the subject; himself and Doctor Priestley being the only two depositories of my secret. The fate of my letter to Priestley, after his death, was a warning to me on that of Doctor Rush; and at my request, his family were so kind as to quiet me by returning my original letter and syllabus. By this, you will be sensible how much interest I take in keeping myself clear of religious disputes before the public, and especially of seeing my syllabus disembowelled by the Aruspices of the modern Paganism. Yet I enclose it to you with entire confidence, free to be perused by yourself and Mrs. Adams, but by no one else, and to be returned to me.
You are right in supposing, in one of yours, that I had not read much of Priestleys Predestination, his no-soul system, or his controversy with Horsley. But I have read his Corruptions of Christianity, and Early Opinions of Jesus, over and over again ; and I rest on them, and on Middletons writings, especially his letters from Rome, and to Waterland, as the basis of my own faith. These writings have never been answered, nor can be answered by quoting historical proofs, as they have done. For these facts, therefore, I cling to their learning, so much superior to my own.
I now fly off in a tangent to another subject. Marshall, in the first volume of his history, chapter 3, p. 180, ascribes the petition to the King, of 1774, (1 Journ. Cong. 67) to the pen of Richard Henry Lee. I think myself certain it was not written by him, as well. from what I recollect to have heard, as from the internal evidence of style. His was loose, vague, frothy, rhetorical. He was a poorer writer than his brother Arthur ; and Arthurs standing may be seen in his Monitors letters, to insure the sale of which, they took the precaution of tacking to them a new edition of the Farmers letters like Mezentius, who mortua jungebat corpora vivis. You were of the committee, and can tell me who wrote this petition, and who wrote the address to the inhabitants of the colonies, ib. 45. Of the papers of July, 1775, I recollect well that Mr. Dickinson drew the petition to the King, ib. 149 ; I think Robert R. Livingston drew the address to the inhabitants of Great Britain, ib. 152. Am I right in this ? And who drew the address to the people of Ireland, ib. 180 ? On these questions I ask of your memory to help mine. Ever and affectionately yours.
DEAR SIR,I turn with great reluctance from the functions of a private citizen to matters of State. The swaggering on deck, as a passenger, is so much more pleasant than clambering the ropes as a seaman, and my confidence in the skill and activity of those employed to work the vessel is so entire, that I notice nothing en passant, but how smoothly she moves. Yet I avail myself of the leisure which a visit to this place procures me, to revolve again in my mind the subject of my former letter, and in compliance with the request of yours of , to add some further thoughts on it. Though intended as only supplementary to that, I may fall into repetitions, not having that with me, nor paper or book of any sort to supply the default of a memory on the wane.
The objects of finance in the United States have hitherto been very simple; merely to provide for the support of the government on its peace establishment, and to pay the debt contracted in the Revolutionary war, a war which will be sanctioned by the approbation of posterity through all future ages. The means provided for these objects were ample, and resting on a consumption which little affected the poor, may be said to have been sensibly felt by none. The fondest wish of my heart ever was that the surplus portion of these taxes, destined for the payment of that debt, should, when that object was accomplished, be continued by annual or biennial re-enactments, and applied, in time of peace, to the improvement of our country by canals, roads and useful institutions, literary or others ; and in time of war to the maintenance of the war. And I believe that keeping the civil list within proper bounds, the surplus would have been sufficient for any war, administered with integrity and judgment. For authority to apply the surplus to objects of improvement, an amendment of the Constitution would have been necessary. I have said that the taxes should be continued by annual or biennial re-enactments, because a constant hold, by the nation, of the strings of the public purse, is a salutary restraint from which an honest government ought not to wish, nor a corrupt one to be permitted to be free. No tax should ever be yielded for a longer term than that of the Congress wanting it, except when pledged for the reimbursement of a loan. On this system, the standing income being once liberated from the Revolutionary debt, no future loan nor future tax would ever become necessary, and wars would no otherwise affect our pecuniary interests than by suspending the improvements belonging to a state of peace. This happy consummation would have been achieved by another eight years' administration, conducted by Mr. Madison, and executed in its financial department by Mr. Gallatin, could peace have been so long preserved. So enviable a state in prospect for our country, induced me to temporize, and to bear with national wrongs which under no other prospect ought ever to have been unresented or unresisted. My hope was, that by giving time for reflection, and retraction of injury, a sound calculation of their own interests would induce the aggressing nations to redeem their own character by a return to the practice of right. But our lot happens to have been cast in an age when two nations to whom circumstances have given a temporary superiority over others, the one by land, the other by sea, throwing off all restraints of morality, all pride of national character, forgetting the mutability of fortune and the inevitable doom which the laws of nature pronounce against departure from justice, individual or national, have dared to treat her reclamations with derision, and to set up force instead of reason as the umpire of nations. Degrading themselves thus from the character of lawful societies into lawless bands of robbers and pirates, they are abusing their brief ascendency by desolating the world with blood and rapine. Against such a banditti, war had become less ruinous than peace, for then peace was a war on one side only. On the final and formal declarations of England, therefore, that she never would repeal her orders of council as to us, until those of France should be repealed as to other nations as well as us, and that no practicable arrangement against her impressment of our seamen could be proposed or devised, war was justly declared, and ought to have been declared. This change of condition has clouded our prospects of liberation from debt, and of being able to carry on a war without new loans or taxes. But although deferred, these prospects are not desperate. We should keep forever in view the state of 1817, towards which we were advancing, and consider it as that which we must attain. Let the old funds continue appropriated to the civil list and Revolutionary debt, and the reversion of the surplus to improvement during peace, and let us take up this war as a separate business, for which, substantive and distinct provision is to be made
That we are bound to defray its expenses within our own time, and unauthorized to burden posterity with them, I suppose to have been proved in my former letter. I will place the question nevertheless in one additional point of view. The former regarded their independent right over the earth; this over their own persons. There have existed nations, and civilized and learned nations, who have thought that a father had a right to sell his child as a slave, in perpetuity; that he could alienate his body and industry conjointly, and á fortiori his industry separately; and consume its fruits himself. A nation asserting this fratricide right might well suppose they could burden with public as well as private debt their "nati natorum, et qui nascentur at illis." But we, this age, and in this country especially, are advanced beyond those notions of natural law. We acknowledge that our children are born free; that that freedom is the gift of nature, and not of him who begot them ; that though under our care during infancy, and therefore of necessity under a duly tempered authority, that ears is confided to us to be exercised for the preservation and good of the child only; and his labors during youth are given as a retribution for the charges of infancy. As he was never the property of his father, so when adult he is sui juris, entitled himself to the use of his own limbs and the fruits of his own exertions: so far we are advanced, without mind enough, it seems to take the whole step. We believe, or we act as if we believed, that although an individual father cannot alienate the labor of his son, the aggregate body of fathers may alienate the labor of all their sons, of their posterity, in the aggregate, and oblige them to pay for all the enterprises, just or unjust, profitable or ruinous, into which our vices, our passions, or our personal interests may lead us. But I trust that this proposition needs only to be looked at by an American to be seen in its true point of view, and that we shall all consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves ; and consequently within what may be deemed the period of a generation, or the life of the majority. In my former letter I supposed this to be a little* over twenty years. We must raise then ourselves the money for this war, either by taxes within the year, or by loans; and if by loans, we must repay them ourselves, proscribing forever the English practice of perpetual funding; the ruinous consequences of which, putting right out of the question, should be a sufficient warning to a considerate nation to avoid the example.
The raising money by Tontine, more practised on the continent of Europe than in England, is liable to the same objection, of encroachment on the independent rights of posterity; because the annuities not expiring gradually, with the lives on which they rest, but all on the death of the last survivor only, they will of course over-pass the term of a generation, and the more probably as the subjects on whose lives the annuities depend, are generally chosen of the ages, constitutions and occupations most favorable to long life.
Annuities for single lives are also beyond our powers, because the single life may pass the term of a generation. This last practice is objectionable too, as encouraging celibacy, and the disinherison of heirs.
Of the modes which are within the limits of right, that of raising within the year its whole expenses by taxation, might be beyond the abilities of our citizens to bear. It is, moreover, generally desirable that the public contributions should be as uniform as practicable from year to year, that our habits of industry and of expense may become adapted to them; and that they maybe duly digested and incorporated with our annual economy.
There remains then for us but the method of limited anticipation, the laying taxes for a term of years within that of our right, which may be sold for a present sum equal to the expenses of the year; in other words, to obtain a loan equal to the expenses of the year, laying a tax adequate to its interest, and to such a surplus as will reimburse, by growing instalments, the whole principal within the term. This is, in fact, what has been called raising money on the sale of annuities for years. In this way a new loan, and of course a new tax, is requisite every year during the continuance of the war; and should that be so long as to produce an accumulation of tax beyond our ability, in time of war the resource would be an enactment of the taxes, requisite to ensure good terms, by securing the lender, with a suspension of the payment of instalments of principal and perhaps of interest also, until the restoration of peace. This method of anticipating our taxes, or of borrowing on annuities for years, insures repayment to the lender, guards the rights of posterity, prevents a perpetual alienation of the public contributions, and consequent destitution of every resource even for the ordinary support of government. The public expenses of England during the present reign, have amounted to the fee simple value of the whole island. If its whole soil could be sold, farm by farm, for its present market price, it would not defray the cost of governing it during the reign of the present king, as managed by him. Ought not then the right of each successive generation to be guaranteed against the dissipations and corruptions of those preceding, by a fundamental provision in our Constitution? And, if that has not been made, does it exist the less; there being between generation and generation, as between nation and nation, no other law than that of nature ? And is it the less dishonest to do what is wrong, because not expressly prohibited by written law? Let us hope our moral principles are not yet in that stage of degeneracy, and that in instituting the system of finance to be hereafter pursued, we shall adopt the only safe, the only lawful and honest one, of borrowing on such short terms of reimbursement of interest and principal as will fall within the accomplishment of our own lives.
The question will be asked and ought to be looked at, what is to be the resource if loans cannot be obtained ? There is but one, "Carthago delenda est." Bank paper must be suppressed, and the circulating medium must be restored to the nation to whom it belongs. It is the only fund on which they can rely for loans; it is the only resource which can never fail them, and it is an abundant one for every necessary purpose. Treasury bills, bottomed on taxes, bearing or not bearing interest, as may be found necessary, thrown into circulation will take the place of so much gold and silver, which last, when crowded, will find an efflux into other countries, and thus keep the quantum of medium at its salutary level. Let banks continue if they please, but let them discount for cash alone or for treasury notes. They discount for cash alone in every other country on earth except Great Britain, and her too often unfortunate copyist, the United States. If taken in time they may be rectified by degrees, and without injustice, but if let alone till the alternative forces itself on us, of submitting to the enemy for want of funds, or the suppression of bank paper, either by law or by convulsion, we cannot foresee how it will end. The remaining questions are mathematical only. How are the taxes and the time of their continuance to be proportioned to the sum borrowed, and the stipulated interest ?
The rate of interest will depend on the state of the money market, and the duration of the tax on the will of the legislature. Let us suppose that (to keep the taxes as low as possible) they adopt the term of twenty years for reimbursement, which we call their maximum; and let the interest they last gave of 7½ per cent. be that which they must expect to give. The problem then will stand in this form. Given the sum borrowed (which call s,) a million of dollars for example; the rate of interest, .075 or 75/1000 (call it ri) and the duration of the annuity or tax, twenty years, (=t,) what will be (a) the annuity or tax, which will reimburse principal and interest within the given term ? This problem, laborious and barely practicable to common arithmetic, is readily enough solved, Algebraically and with the aid of Logarithms. The theorem applied to the case is a = tr1x1/11/rt the solution of which gives a = $98,684.2, nearly $100,000, or one-tenth of the sum borrowed.
It may be satisfactory to see stated in figures the yearly progression of reimbursement of the million of dollars, and their interest at 7½ per cent. effected by the regular payment of dollars annually. It will be as follows :
Borrowed, $1,000,000. Balance after 1st payment, $975,000 " 2d " 948,125 " 3d " 919,234 " 4th " 888,177 " 5th " 854,790 " 6th " 818,900 " 7th " 780,318 " 8th " 738,841 " 9th " 694,254 " 10th " 646,324 " 11th " 594,800 " 12th " 539,410 " 13th " 479,866 " 14th " 415,850 " 15th " 347,039 " 16th " 273,068 " 17th " 193,548 " 18th " 108,064 " 19th " 16,169
If we are curious to know the effect of the same annual sum on loans at lower rates of interest, the following process will give it :
From the Logarithm of a, subtract the Logarithm ri, and from the number of the remaining Logarithm subtract s, then subtract the Logarithm of this last remainder from the difference between the Logarithm a and Logarithm ri as found before, divide the remainder by Logarithm r, the quotient will be t. It will be found that dollars will reimburse a million,
Years. Dollars. At 7½ per cent. interest in 19.17, costing in the whole 1,917,000 7 " " 17.82, " " 1,782,000 6½ " " 16.67, " " 1,667,000 6 " " 15.72, " " 1,572,000 5½ " " 14.91, " " 1,491,000 5 " " 14. 2, " " 1,420,000 0 " " 10. " " 1,000,000
By comparing the first and the last of these articles, we see that if the United States were in possession of the circulating medium, as they ought to be, they could redeem what they could borrow from that, dollar for dollar, and in ten annual instalments; whereas, the usurpation of that fund by bank paper, obliging them to borrow elsewhere at 7½ per cent., two dollars are required to reimburse one. So that it is literally true that the toleration of banks of paper discount, costs the United States one-half their war taxes ; or, in other words, doubles the expenses of every war. Now think, but for a moment, what a change of condition that would be, which should save half our war expenses, require but half the taxes, and enthral us in debt but half the time.
Two loans having been authorized, of sixteen and seven and a half millions, they will require for their due reimbursement two millions three hundred and fifty thousand dollars of the three millions expected from the taxes lately imposed. When the produce shall be known of the several items of these taxes, such of them as will make up this sum should be selected, appropriated, and pledged for the reimbursement of these loans. The balance of six hundred and fifty thousand dollars, will be a provision for six and a half millions of the loan of the next year; and in all future loans, I would consider it as a rule never to be departed from, to lay a tax of one-tenth, and pledge it for the reimbursement.
In the preceding calculations no account is taken of the increasing population of the United States, which we know to be in a compound ratio of more than 3 per cent. per annum ; nor of the increase of wealth, proved to be in a higher ratio by the increasing productiveness of the imports on consumption. We shall be safe therefore in considering every tax as growing at the rate of 3 per cent. compound ratio annually. I say every tax, for as to those on consumption the fact is known; and the same growth will be found in the value of real estate, if valued annually; or, which would be better, 3 per cent. might be assumed by the law as the average increase, and an addition of one thirty-third of the tax paid the preceding year, be annually called for. Supposing then a tax laid which would bring in $100,000 at the time it is laid, and that it increases annually at the rate of 3 per cent. compound, its important effect may be seen in the following statement :
The 1st year 103,090, and reduces the million to $972,000 2d " 106,090, " " 938,810 3d " 109,273, " " 899,947 4th " 112,556, " " 854,896 The 5th year 115,920, and reduces the million to $803,053 6th " 119,410, " " 743,915 7th " 122,990, " " 676,719 8th " 126,680, " " 600,793 __________ 915,913 It yields the 9th year $130,470, and reduces it to $515,382 10th " 134,390, " " 419,646 11th " 138,420, " " 312,699 12th " 142,580, " " 193,517 13th " 146,850, " " 61,181 14th " 151,260, over pays, 85,491 _________ 1,759,883
This estimate supposes a million borrowed at 7½ per cent.; but, if obtained from the circulation without interest, it would be reimbursed within eight years and eight months, instead of fourteen years, or of twenty years, on our first estimate.
But this view being in prospect only, should not affect the quantum of tax which the former circulation pronounces necessary. Our creditors have a right to certainty, and to consider these political speculations as make-weights only to that, and at our risk, not theirs. To us belongs only the comfort of hoping an earlier liberation than that calculation holds out, and the right of providing expressly that the tax hypothecated shall cease so soon as the debt it secures shall be actually reimbursed; and I will add that to us belongs also the regret that improvident legislators should have exposed us to a twenty years' thraldom of debts and taxes, for the necessary defence of our country, where the same contributions would have liberated us in eight or nine years ; or have reduced us perhaps to an abandonment of our rights, by their abandonment of the only resource which could have ensured their maintenance.
I omit many considerations of detail because they will occur to yourself, and my letter is too long already. I can refer you to no book as treating of this subject fully and suitably to our circumstances. Smith gives the history of the public debt of England, and some views adapted to that ; and Dr. Price, in his book on annuities, has given a valuable chapter on the effects of a sinking fund. But our business being to make every loan tax a sinking fund for itself, no general one will be wanting ; and if my confidence is well founded that our original import, when freed from the revolutionary debt, will suffice to embellish and improve our country in peace, and defend her in war, the present may be the only occasion of perplexing ourselves with sinking funds.
Should the injunctions under which I laid you, as to my former letter, restrain any useful purpose to which you could apply it, I remove them ; preferring public benefit to all personal considerations. My original disapprobation of banks circulating paper is not unknown, nor have I since observed any effects either on the morals or fortunes of our citizens, which are any counterbalance for the public evils produced ; and a thorough conviction that, if this war continues, that circulation must be suppressed, or the government shaken to its foundation by the weight of taxes, and impracticability to raise funds on them, renders duty to that paramount to the love of ease and quiet.
When I was here in May last, I left it without knowing that Francis was at school in this neighborhood. As soon as I returned, on the present occasion, I sent for him, but his tutor informed me that he was gone on a visit to you. I shall hope permission for him always to see me on my visits to this place, which are three or four times a year.
* A lapse of memory, not having the letter to recur to.
Dear Sir,I owe you a thousand thanks for your favor of August 22d and its enclosures, and for Dr. Priestleys doctrines of Heathen Philosophy compared with those of Revelation. Your letter to Dr. Rush and the syllabus, I return enclosed with this according to your injunctions, though with great reluctance. May I beg a copy of both ?
They will do you no harm ; me and others much good.
I hope you will pursue your plan, for I am confident you will produce a work much more valuable than Priestleys, though that is curious, and considering the expiring powers with which it was written, admirable.
The bill in Parliament for the relief of Anti-Trinitarians, is a great event, and will form an epoch in ecclesiastical history. The motion was made by my friend Smith, of Clapham, a friend of the Belshams.
I should be very happy to hear that the bill is passed.
The human understanding is a revelation from its Maker which can never be disputed or doubted. There can be no scepticism, Pyrrhonism, or incredulity, or infidelity, here. No prophecies, no miracles are necessary to prove the celestial communication.
This revelation has made it certain that two and one make three, and that one is not three nor can three be one. We can never be so certain of any prophecy, or the fulfilment of any prophecy, or of any miracle, or the design of any miracle, as we are from the revelation of nature, i.e., Natures God, that two and two are equal to four. Miracles or prophecies might frighten us out of our wits; might scare us to death; might induce us to lie, to say that we believe that two and two make five. But we should not believe it. We should know the contrary.
Had you and I been forty days with Moses on Mount Sinai, and been admitted to behold the divine Shekinah, and there told that one was three and three one, we might not have had courage to deny it, but we could not have believed it.
The thunders, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and the transcendent splendors and glories might have overwhelmed us with terror and amazement, but we could not have believed the doctrine. We should be more likely to say in our hearts whatever we might say with our lips,This is chance. There is no God, no truth. This is all delusion, fiction, and a lie, or it is all chance. But what is chance ? It is motion, it is action, it is event, it is phenomenon without cause.
Chance is no cause at all, it is nothing. And nothing has produced all this pomp and splendor. And nothing may produce our eternal damnation in the flames of hell-fire and brimstone, for what we know, as well as this tremendous exhibition of terror and falsehood.
God has infinite wisdom, goodness and power. He created the universe. His duration is eternal, a parts ante and a parts post.
His presence is as extensive as space. What is space ? An infinite spherical vacuum. He created this speck of dirt and the human species for his glory, and with the deliberate design of making nine-tenths of our species miserable forever, for his glory.
This is the doctrine of Christian Theologians in general, ten to one.
Now, my friend, can prophecies or miracles convince you or me, that infinite benevolence, wisdom and power, created and preserves for a time, innumerable millions, to make them miserable forever for his own glory ?
Wretch ! What is his glory ? Is he ambitious ? Does he want promotion ? Is he vain-tickled with adulation ? Exulting and triumphing in his power and the sweetness of his vengeance ?
Pardon me, my Maker, for these awful questions. My answer to them is always ready. I believe no such things. My adoration of the Author of the Universe is too profound and too sincere.
The love of God and his creation, delight, joy, triumph, exultation in my own existence, though but an atom, a molecule organique in the universe, are my religion. Howl, snarl, bite, ye Calvinistic, ye Athanasian divines, if you will. Ye will say I am no Christian. I say ye are no Christians, and there the account is balanced.
Yet I believe all the honest men among you are Christians, in my sense of the word.
When I was at college, I was a metaphysician, at least I thought myself such. And such men as Locke, Hemmenway and West, thought me so too; for we were forever disputing though in great good humor.
When I was sworn as an attorney, in 1758, in Boston, though I lived in Braintree, I was in a low state of healththought in great danger of a consumption ; living on milk, vegetable pudding and water. Not an atom of meat, or a drop of spirit. My next neighbor, my cousin, my friend Dr. Savil, was my physician. He was anxious about me, and did not like to take the sole responsibility of my recovery. He invited me to a ride. I mounted my horse and rode with him to Hingham, on a visit to Dr. Ezekiel Hersey, a physician of great fame, who felt my pulse, looked in my eyes, heard Savil describe my regimen and course of medicine, and then pronounced his oracle : Persevere, and as sure as there is a God in Heaven you will recover.
He was an everlasting talker, and ran out into history, philosophy, metaphysics, &c., and frequently put questions to me as if he wanted to sound me, and see if there was anything in me besides hectic fever. I was young, and then very bashful, however saucy I may have sometimes been since. I gave him very modest and very diffident answers. But when I got upon metaphysics, I seemed to feel a little bolder, and ventured into something like argument with him. I drove him up, as I thought, into a corner, from which he could not escape. Sir, it will follow from what you have now advanced, that the universe, as distinct from God, is both infinite and eternal. Very true, said Dr. Hersey, your inference is just, the consequence is inevitable, and I believe the universe to be both eternal and infinite.
Here I was brought up ! I was defeated. I was not prepared for this answer. This was fifty-five years ago.
When I was in England, from 1785 to 1788, I may say I was intimate with Dr. Price. I had much conversation with him at his own house, at my house, and at the houses and tables of my friends. In some of our most unreserved conversations, when we have been alone, he has repeatedly said to me : I am inclined to believe that the universe is eternal and infinite. It seems to me that an eternal and infinite effect must necessarily flow from an eternal and infinite cause ; and an infinite wisdom, goodness and power, that could have been induced to produce a universe in time, must have produced it from eternity. It seems to me the effect must flow from the cause.
Now, my friend Jefferson, suppose an eternal, self-existent being, existing from eternity, possessed of infinite wisdom, goodness and power, in absolute, total solitude, six thousand years ago, conceiving the benevolent project of creating a universe ! I have no more to say at present.
It has been long, very long, a settled opinion in my mind, that there is now, never will be, and never was but one being who can understand the universe.
And that it is not only vain, but wicked, for insects to pretend to comprehend it.
Dear Sir,My last sheet would not admit an observation that was material to my design.
Dr. Price was inclined to think that infinite wisdom and goodness could not permit infinite power to be inactive from eternity, but that an infinite and eternal universe must have necessarily flowed from these attributes.
Platos system was (Greek inserted here), eternal, self-existent, &c. His ideas, his word, his reason, his wisdom, his goodness, or in one word his Logos was omnipotent, and produced the universe from all eternity. Now ! as far as you and I can understand Hersey, Price and Plato, are they not of one theory ? Of one mind ? What is the difference ? I own an eternal solitude of a self-existent being, infinitely wise, powerful and good, is to me altogether incomprehensible and incredible. I could as soon believe the Athanasian creed.
You will ask me what conclusion I draw from all this ? I answer, I drop into myself, and acknowledge myself to be a fool. No mind but one can see through the immeasurable system. It would be presumption and impiety in me to dogmatize on such subjects. My duties in my little infinitesimal circle I can understand and feel. The duties of a son, a brother, a father, a neighbor, a citizen, I can see and feel, but I trust the Ruler with His skies.
Si quid novisti rectius, istis
Candidus imperti, si non, his utere, mecum.
This world is a mixture of the sublime and the beautiful, the base and the contemptible, the whimsical and ridiculous, (according to our narrow sense and trifling feelings). It is an enigma and a riddle. You need not be surprised, then, if I should descend from these heights to the most egregious trifle. But first let me say, I asked you in a former letter how far advanced we were in the science of aristocracy since Theognis stallions, jacks and rams ? Have not Chancellor Livingston and Major General Humphreys introduced an hereditary aristocracy of Merino sheep ? How shall we get rid of this aristocracy ? It is entailed upon us forever. And an aristocracy of land jobbers and stock jobbers is equally and irremediably entailed upon us, to endless generations.
Now for the odd, the whimsical, the frivolous. I had scarcely sealed my last letter to you upon Theognis doctrine of well-born stallions, jacks and rams, when they brought me from the post office a packet, without post mark, without letter, without name, date or place. Nicely sealed was a printed copy of eighty or ninety pages, and in large full octavo, entitled: Section firstAristocracy. I gravely composed my risible muscles and read it through. It is from beginning to end an attack upon me by name for the doctrines of aristocracy in my three volumes of Defence, &c. The conclusion of the whole is that an aristocracy of bank paper is as bad as the nobility of France or England. I most assuredly will not controvert this point with this man. Who he is I cannot conjecture. The honorable John Taylor of Virginia, of all men living or dead, first occurred to me.
Is it Oberon ? Is it Queen Mab, that reigns and sports with us little beings ? I thought my books as well as myself were forgotten. But behold ! I am to become a great man in my expiring moments. Theognis and Plato, and Hersey and Price, and Jefferson and I, must go down to posterity together; and I know not, upon the whole, where to wish for better company. I wish to add Van der Kemp, who has been here to see me, after an interruption of twenty-four years. I could and ought to add many others, but the catalogue would be too long. I am, as ever.
P.S. Why is Plato associated with Theognis, &c.? Because no man ever expressed so much terror of the power of birth. His genius could invent no remedy or precaution against it, but a community of wives; a confusion of families; a total extinction of all relations of father, son and brother. Did the French Revolutionists contrive much better against the influence of birth ?
I have duly received your favor of August 27th, am sensible of the kind intentions from which it flows, and truly thankful for them. The more so as they could only be the result of a favorable estimate of my public course. During a long life, as much devoted to study as a faithful transaction of the trusts committed to me would permit, no subject has occupied more of my consideration than our relations with all the beings around us, our duties to them, and our future prospects. After reading and hearing everything which probably can be suggested respecting them, I have formed the best judgment I could as to the course they prescribe, and in the due observance of that course, I have no recollections which give me uneasiness. An eloquent preacher of your religious society, Richard Motte, in a discourse of much emotion and pathos, is said to have exclaimed aloud to his congregation, that he did not believe there was a Quaker, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist in heaven, having paused to give his hearers time to stare and to wonder. He added, that in heaven, God knew no distinctions, but considered all good men as his children, and as brethren of the same family. I believe, with the Quaker preacher, that he who steadily observes those moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven, as to the dogmas in which they all differ. That on entering there, all these are left behind us, and the Aristides and Catos, the Penns and Tillotsons, Presbyterians and Baptists, will find themselves united in all principles which are in concert with the reason of the supreme mind. Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus. He who follows this steadily need not, I think, be uneasy, although he cannot comprehend the subtleties and mysteries erected on his doctrines by those who, calling themselves his special followers and favorites, would make him come into the world to lay snares for all understandings but theirs. These metaphysical heads, usurping the judgment seat of God, denounce as his enemies all who cannot perceive the Geometrical logic of Euclid in the demonstrations of St. Athanasius, that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three nor the three one. In all essential points you and I are of the same religion ; and I am too old to go into inquiries and changes as to the unessential. Repeating therefore, my thankfulness for the kind concern you have been so good as to express, I salute you with friendship and brotherly esteem.
Dear Sir,Repeated inquiries on the part of Senator Tracy what has become of his book, (the MS. I last sent you,) oblige me to ask of you what I shall say to him. I congratulate you on the brilliant affair of the Enterprise and Boxer. No heart is more rejoiced than mine at these mortifications of English pride, and lessons to Europe that the English are not invincible at sea. And if these successes do not lead us too far into the navy mania, all will be well. But when are to cease the severe lessons we receive by land, demonstrating our want of competent officers ? The numbers of our countrymen betrayed into the hands of the enemy by the treachery, cowardice or incompetence of our high officers, reduce us to the humiliating necessity of acquiescing in the brutal conduct observed towards them. When, during the last war, I put Governor Hamilton and Major Hay into a dungeon and in irons for having themselves personally done the same to the American prisoners who had fallen into their hands, and was threatened with retaliation by Philips, then returned to New York, I declared to him I would load ten of their Saratoga prisoners (then under my care and within half a dozen miles of my house) with double irons for every American they should misuse under pretence of retaliation, and it put an end to the practice. But the ten for one are now with them. Our present hopes of being able to do something by land seem to rest on Chauncey. Strange reverse of expectations that our land force should be under the wing of our little navy. Accept the assurance of my esteem and respect.
I thank you for the communication of Mr. Jonathan Ellicots letter in yours of August 28th, and the information it conveys. With respect to mine of August 13th, I do not know that it contains anything but what any man of mathematical reading may learn from the same sources; however, if it can be used for the promotion of right, I consent to such an use of it. Your inquiry as to the date of Martins invention of the drill-plough, with a leathern band and metal buckets, I cannot precisely answer; but I received one from him in 1794, and have used it ever since for sowing various seeds, chiefly peas, turnips, and benni. I have always had in mind to use it for wheat; but sowing only a row at a time, I had proposed to him some years ago to change the construction so that it should sow four rows at a time, twelve inches apart, and I have been waiting for this to be done either by him or myself ; and have not, therefore, commenced that use of it. I procured mine at first through Colonel John Taylor of Caroline, who had been long in the use of it, and my impression was that it was not then a novel thing. Mr. Martin is still living, I believe. If not, Colonel Taylor, his neighbor, probably knows its date. If the bringing together under the same roof various useful things before known, which you mention as one of the grounds of Mr. Evans claim, entitles him to an exclusive use of all these, either separately or combined, every utensil of life might be taken from us by a patent. I might build a stable, bring into it a cutting-knife to chop straw, a hand-mill to grind the grain, a curry comb and brush to clean the horses, and by a patent exclude every one from ever more using these things without paying me. The elevator, the conveyer, the hopper-boy, are distinct things, unconnected but by juxtaposition. If no patent can be claimed for any one of these separately, it cannot be for all of them,several nothings put together cannot make a something;this would be going very wide of the object of the patent laws. I salute you with esteem and respect.
Your letter of August 20th, enabled me to turn to mine of February 23d, 1798, and your former one of February 22d, 1801, and to recall to my memory the oration at Jamaica, which was the subject of them. I see with pleasure a continuance of the same sound principles in the address to Mr. Quincy. Your quotation from the former paper alludes, as I presume, to the term of office to our Senate; a term, like that of the judges, too long for my approbation. I am for responsibilities at short periods, seeing neither reason nor safety in making public functionaries independent of the nation for life, or even for long terms of years. On this principle I prefer the Presidential term of four years, to that of seven years, which I myself had at first suggested, annexing to it, however, ineligibility forever after; and I wish it were now annexed to the second quadrennial election of President.
The conduct of Massachusetts, which is the subject of your address to Mr. Quincy, is serious, as embarrassing the operations of the war, and jeopardizing its issue ; and still more so, as an example of contumacy against the Constitution. One method of proving their purpose, would be to call a convention of their State, and to require them to declare themselves members of the Union, and obedient to its determinations, or not members, and let them go. Put this question solemnly to their people, and their answer cannot be doubtful. One-half of them are republicans, and would cling to the Union from principle. Of the other half, the dispassionate part would consider, 1st. That they do not raise bread sufficient for their own subsistence, and must look to Europe for the deficiency, if excluded from our ports, which vital interests would force us to do. 2d. That they are navigating people without a stick of timber for the hull of a ship, nor a pound of anything to export in it, which would be admitted at any market. 3d. That they are also a manufacturing people, and left by the exclusive system of Europe without a market but ours. 4th. That as the rivals of England in manufactures, in commerce, in navigation, and fisheries, they would meet her competition in every point. 5th. That England would feel no scruples in making the abandonment and ruin of such a rival the price of a treaty with the producing States; whose interest too it would be to nourish a navigation beyond the Atlantic, rather than a hostile one at our own door. And 6th. That in case of war with the Union, which occurrences between coterminous nations frequently produce, it would be a contest of one against fifteen. The remaining portion of the federal moiety of the State would, I believe, brave all these obstacles, because they are monarchists in principle, bearing deadly hatred to their republican fellow-citizens, impatient under the ascendency of republican principles, devoted in their attachment to England, and preferring to be placed under her despotism, if they cannot hold the helm of government here. I see, in their separation, no evil but the example, and I believe that the effect of that would be corrected by an early and humiliating return to the Union, after losing much of the population of their country, insufficient in its own resources to feed her numerous inhabitants, and inferior in all its allurements to the more inviting soils, climates, and governments of the other States. Whether a dispassionate discussion before the public, of the advantages and disadvantages of separation to both parties, would be the best medicine for this dialytic fever, or to consider it as sacrilege ever to touch the question, may be doubted. I am, myself, generally disposed to indulge, and to follow reason ; and believe that in no case would it be safer than in the present. Their refractory course, however, will not be unpunished by the indignation of their co-States, their loss of influence with them, the censures of history, and the stain on the character of their State. With my thanks for the paper enclosed, accept the assurance of my esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,I have duly received your favor of September 18th, and I perceive in it the same spirit of peace which I know you have ever breathed, and to preserve which you have made many personal sacrifices. That your efforts did much towards preventing declared war with France, I am satisfied. Of those with England, I am not equally informed. I have ever cherished the same spirit with all nations, from a consciousness that peace, prosperity, liberty, and morals, have an intimate connection. During the eight years of my administration, there was not a year that England did not give us such cause as would have provoked a war from any European government. But I always hoped that time and friendly remonstrances would bring her to a sounder view of her own interests, and convince her that these would be promoted by a return to justice and friendship towards us. Continued impressments of our seamen by her naval commanders, whose interest it was to mistake them for theirs, her innovations on the law of nations to cover real piracies, could illy be borne ; and perhaps would not have been borne, had not contraventions of the same law by France, fewer in number but equally illegal, rendered it difficult to single the object of war. England, at length, singled herself, and took up the gauntlet, when the unlawful decrees of France being revoked as to us, she, by the proclamation of her Prince Regent, protested to the world that she would never revoke hers until those of France should be removed as to all nations. Her minister too, about the same time, in an official conversation with our Chargé, rejected our substitute for her practice of impressment; proposed no other; and declared explicitly that no admissible one for this abuse could be proposed. Negotiation being thus cut short, no alternative remained but war, or the abandonment of the persons and property of our citizens on the ocean. The last one, I presume, no American would have preferred. War was therefore declared, and justly declared; but accompanied with immediate offers of peace on simply doing us justice. These offers were made through Russel, through Admiral Warren, through the government of Canada, and the mediation proposed by her best friend Alexander, and the greatest enemy of Bonaparte, was accepted without hesitation. An entire confidence in the abilities and integrity of those now administering the government, has kept me from the inclination, as well as the occasion, of intermeddling in the public affairs, even as a private citizen may justifiably do. Yet if you can suggest any conditions which we ought to accept, and which have not been repeatedly offered and rejected, I would not hesitate to become the channel of their communication to the administration. The revocation of the orders of council, and discontinuance of impressment, appear to me indispensable. And I think a thousand ships taken unjustifiably in time of peace, and thousands of our citizens impressed, warrant expectations of indemnification; such a western frontier, perhaps, given to Canada, as may put it out of their power hereafter to employ the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the Indians on our women and children ; or, what would be nearly equivalent, the exclusive right to the lakes. The modification, however, of this indemnification must be effected by the events of the war. No man on earth has stronger detestation than myself of the unprincipled tyrant who is deluging the continent of Europe with blood. No man was more gratified by his disasters of the last campaign ; nor wished, more sincerely, success to the efforts of the virtuous Alexander. But the desire of seeing England forced to just terms of peace with us, makes me equally solicitous for her entire exclusion from intercourse with the rest of the world, until by this peaceable engine of constraint, she can be made to renounce her views of dominion over the ocean, of permitting no other nation to navigate it but with her license, and on tribute to her; and her aggressions on the persons of our citizens, who may choose to exercise their right of passing over that element. Should the continental armistice issue in closing Europe against her, she may become willing to accede to just terms with us ; which I should certainly be disposed to meet, whatever consequences it might produce on our intercourse with the continental nations. My principle is to do whatever is right, and leave consequences to Him who has the disposal of them. I repeat, therefore, that if you can suggest what may lead to a just peace, I will willingly communicate it to the proper functionaries. In the meantime, its object will be best promoted by a vigorous and unanimous prosecution of the war.
I am happy in this occasion of renewing the interchange of sentiments between us, which has formerly been a source of much satisfaction to me; and with the homage of my affectionate attachment and respect to Mrs. Logan, I pray you to accept the assurance of my continued friendship and esteem for yourself.
Since mine of August the 22d, I have received your favors of August the 16th, September the 2d, 14th, 15th, and , and Mrs. Adams of September the 20th. I now send you, according to your request, a copy of the syllabus. To fill up this skeleton with arteries, with veins, with nerves, muscles and flesh, is really beyond my time and information. Whoever could undertake it would find great aid in Enfields judicious abridgment of Bruckers History of Philosophy, in which he has reduced five or six quarto volumes, of one thousand pages each of Latin closely printed, to two moderate octavos of English open type.
To compare the morals of the Old, with those of the New Testament, would require an attentive study of the former, a search through all its books for its precepts, and through all its history for its practices, and the principles they prove. As commentaries, too, on these, the philosophy of the Hebrews must be inquired into, their Mishna, their Gemara, Cabbala, Jezirah, Sohar, Cosri, and their Talmud, must be examined and understood, in order to do them full justice. Brucker, it would seem, has gone deeply into these repositories of their ethics, and Enfield, his epitomizer, concludes in these words : Ethics were so little understood among the Jews, that in their whole compilation called the Talmud, there is only one treatise on moral subjects. Their books of morals chiefly consisted in a minute enumeration of duties. From the law of Moses were deduced six hundred and thirteen precepts, which were divided into two classes, affirmative and negative, two hundred and forty-eight in the former, and three hundred and sixty-five in the latter. It may serve to give the reader some idea of the low state of moral philosophy among the Jews in the middle age, to add that of the two hundred and forty-eight affirmative precepts, only three were considered as obligatory upon women, and that in order to obtain salvation, it was judged sufficient to fulfil any one single law in the hour of death; the observance of the rest being deemed necessary, only to increase the felicity of the future life. What a wretched depravity of sentiment and manners must have prevailed, before such corrupt maxims could have obtained credit ! It is impossible to collect from these writings a consistent series of moral doctrine. Enfield, B. 4., chapter 3. It was the reformation of this wretched depravity of morals which Jesus undertook. In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites, and Gamalielites the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their Logos and Demiurgos, Æons and Dæmons, male and female, with a long train of &c., &c., &c., or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphiboligisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines, such as were professed and acted on by the unlettered Apostles, the Apostolic Fathers, and the Christians of the first century. Their Platonizing successors, indeed, in after times, in order to legitimate the corruptions which they had incorporated into the doctrines of Jesus, found it necessary to disavow the primitive Christians, who had taken their principles from the mouth of Jesus himself, of his Apostles, and the Fathers contemporary with them. They excommunicated their followers as heretics, branding them with the opprobrious name of Ebionites or Beggars.
For a comparison of the Grecian philosophy with that of Jesus, materials might be largely drawn from the same source. Enfield gives a history and detailed account of the opinions and principles of the different sects. These relate to the Gods, their natures, grades, places and powers; the demi-Gods and Daemons, and their agency with man ; the universe, its structure, extent and duration; the origin of things from the elements of fire, water, air and earth ; the human soul, its essence and derivation; the summum bonum and finis bonorum; with a thousand idle dreams and fancies on these and other subjects, the knowledge of which is withheld from man; leaving but a short chapter for his moral duties, and the principal section of that given to what he owes himself, to precepts for rendering him impassible, and unassailable by the evils of life, and for preserving his mind in a state of constant serenity.
Such a canvass is too broad for the age of seventy, and especially of one whose chief occupations have been in the practical business of life. We must leave, therefore; to others, younger and more learned than we are, to prepare this euthanasia for Platonic Christianity, and its restoration to the primitive simplicity of its founder. I think you give a just outline of the theism of the three religions, when you say that the principle of the Hebrew was the fear, of the Gentile the honor, and of the Christian the love of God.
An expression in your letter of September the 14th, that the human understanding is a revelation from its maker, gives the best solution that I believe can be given of the question, what did Socrates mean by his Daemon ? He was too wise to believe and too honest to pretend, that he had real and familiar converse with a superior and invisible being. He probably considered the suggestions of his conscience, or reason, as revelations or inspirations from the Supreme mind, bestowed, on important occasions, by a special superintending Providence.
I acknowledge all the merit of the hymn of Cleanthes to Jupiter, which you ascribe to it. It is as highly sublime as a chaste and correct imagination can permit itself to go. Yet in the contemplation of a being so superlative, the hyperbolic flights of the Psalmist may often be followed with approbation, even with rapture; and I have no hesitation in giving him the palm over all the hymnists of every language and of every time. Turn to the 148th psalm, in Brady and Tates version. Have such conceptions been ever before expressed ? Their version of the 15th psalm is more to be esteemed for its pithiness than its poetry. Even Sternhold, the leaden Sternhold, kindles, in a single instance, with the sublimity of his original, and expresses the majesty of God descending on the earth, in terms not unworthy of the subject :
The Lord descended from above,
And underneath his feet he cast
On Cherubim and Seraphim
And on the wings of mighty winds
And bowed the heavns most high ;
The darkness of the sky.
Full royally he rode ;
Came flying all abroad.Psalm xviii, 9, 10.
The Latin versions of this passage by Buchanan and by Johnston, are but mediocres. But the Greek of Duport is worthy of quotation, (A verse of Greek inserted here)
The best collection of these psalms is that of the Octagonian dissenters of Liverpool, in their printed form of prayer; but they are not always the best versions. Indeed, bad is the best of the English versions; not a ray of poetical genius having ever been employed on them. And how much depends on this, may be seen by comparing Brady and Tates 15th psalm with Blacklocks Justum et tenacem propositi virum of Horace, quoted in Humes history, Car. 2, ch. 65. A translation of David in this style, or in that of Pompeis Cleanthes, might give us some idea of the merit of the original. The character, too, of the poetry of these hymns is singular to us; written in monostichs, each divided into strophe and anti-strophe, the sentiment of the first member responded with amplification or antithesis in the second.
On the subject of the postscript of yours of August the 16th and of Mrs. Adams letter, I am silent. I know the depth of the affliction it has caused, and can sympathize with it the more sensibly, inasmuch as there is no degree of affliction, produced by the loss of those dear to us, which experience has not taught me to estimate. I have ever found time and silence the only medicine, and these but assuage, they never can suppress, the deep drawn sigh which recollection forever brings up, until recollection and life are extinguished together. Ever affectionately yours.
According to the reservation between us, of taking up one of the subjects of our correspondence at a time, I turn to your letters of August the 16th and September the 2d. The passage you quote from Theognis, I think has an ethical rather than a political object. The whole piece is a moral exhortation, (Greek inserted here), and this passage particularly seems to be a reproof to man; who, while with his domestic animals he is curious to improve the race, by employing always the finest male, pays no attention to the improvement of his own race, but intermarries with the vicious, the ugly, or the old, for considerations of wealth or ambition. It is in conformity with the principle adopted afterwards by the Pythagoreans, and expressed by Ocellus in another form; (Greek inserted here) &c., (Greek inserted here) Which, as literally as intelligibility will admit, may be thus translated : concerning the interprocreation of men, how, and of whom it shall be, in a perfect manner, and according to the laws of modesty and sanctity, conjointly, this is what I think right. First to lay it down that we do not commix for the sake of pleasure, but of the procreation of children. For the powers, the organs and desires for coition have not been given by God to man for the sake of pleasure, but for the procreation of the race. For as it were incongruous, for a mortal born to partake of divine life, the immortality of the race being taken away, God fulfilled the purpose by making the generations uninterrupted and continuous. This, therefore, we are especially to lay down as a principle, that coition is not for the sake of pleasure. But nature, not trusting to this moral and abstract motive, seems to have provided more securely for the perpetuation of the species, by making it the effect of the oestrum implanted in the constitution of both sexes. And not only has the commerce of love been indulged on this unhallowed impulse, but made subservient also to wealth and ambition by marriage, without regard to the beauty, the healthiness, the understanding, or virtue of the subject from which we are to breed. The selecting the best male for a harem of well-chosen females also, which Theognis seems to recommend from the example of our sheep and asses, would doubtless improve the human, as it does the brute animal, and produce a race of veritable (Greek inserted here). For experience proves, that the moral and physical qualities of man, whether good or evil, are transmissible in a certain degree from father to son. But I suspect that the equal rights of men will rise up against this privileged Solomon and his harem, and oblige us to continue acquiescence under the (Greek inserted here) which Theognis complains of, and to content ourselves with the accidental aristoi produced by the fortuitous concourse of breeders. For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Formerly, bodily powers gave place among the aristoi. But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humor, politeness and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground of distinction. There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government ? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency. On the question, what is the best provision, you and I differ; but we differ as rational friends, using the free exercise of our own reason, and mutually indulging its errors. You think it best to put the pseudo-aristoi into a separate chamber of legislation, where they may be hindered from doing mischief by their co-ordinate branches, and where, also, they may be a protection to wealth against the agrarian and plundering enterprises of the majority of the people. I think that to give them power in order to prevent them from doing mischief, is arming them for it, and increasing instead of remedying the evil. For if the co-ordinate branches can arrest their action, so may they that of the co-ordinates. Mischief may be done negatively as well as positively. Of this, a cabal in the Senate of the United States has furnished many proofs. Nor do I believe them necessary to protect the wealthy ; because enough of these will find their way into every branch of the legislation, to protect themselves. From fifteen to twenty legislatures of our own, in action for thirty years past, have proved that no fears of an equalization of property are to be apprehended from them. I think the best remedy is exactly that provided by all our constitutions, to leave to the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff. In general they will elect the really good and wise. In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them ; but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society.
It is probable that our difference of opinion may, in some measure, be produced by a difference of character in those among whom we live. From what I have seen of Massachusetts and Connecticut myself, and still more from what I have heard, and the character given of the former by yourself, (volume 1, page 111,) who know them so much better, there seems to be in those two States a traditionary reverence for certain families, which has rendered the offices of the government nearly hereditary in those families. I presume that from an early period of your history, members of those families happening to possess virtue and talents, have honestly exer- cised them for the good of the people, and by their services have endeared their names to them. In coupling Connecticut with you, I mean it politically only, not morally. For having made the Bible the common law of their land, they seem to have mod- eled their morality on the story of Jacob and Laban. But although this hereditary succession to office with you, may, in some degree, be founded in real family merit, yet in a much higher degree, it has proceeded from your strict alliance of Church and State. These families are canonized in the eyes of the people on common principles, you tickle me, and I will tickle you. In Virginia we have nothing of this. Our clergy, before the revolution, having been secured against rivalship by fixed salaries, did not give themselves the trouble of acquiring influence over the people. Of wealth, there were great accumulations in particular families, handed down from generation to generation, under the English law of entails. But the only object of ambition for the wealthy was a seat in the Kings Council. All their court then was paid to the crown and its creatures; and they Philipized in all collisions between the King and the people. Hence they were unpopular; and that unpopularity continues attached to their names. A Randolph, a Carter, or a Burwell must have great personal superiority over a common competitor to be elected by the people even at this day. At the first session of our legislature after the Declaration of Independence, we passed a law abolishing entails. And this was followed by one abolishing the privilege of primogeniture, and dividing the lands of intestates equally among all their children, or other representatives. These laws, drawn by myself, laid the axe to the foot of pseudo-aristocracy. And had another which I prepared been adopted by the legislature, our work would have been complete. It was a bill for the more general diffusion of learning. This proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six miles square, like your townships ; to establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools, who might receive, at the public expense, a higher degree of education at a district school; and from these district schools to select a certain number of the most promising subjects, to be completed at an university, where all the useful sciences should be taught. Worth and genius would thus have been sought out from every condition of life, and completely prepared by education for defeating the competition of wealth and birth for public trusts. My proposition had, for a further object, to impart to these wards those portions of self-government for which they are best qualified, by confiding to them the care of their poor, their roads, police, elections, the nomination of jurors, administration of justice in small cases, elementary exercises of militia; in short, to have made them little republics, with a warden at the head of each, for all those concerns which, being under their eye, they would better manage than the larger republics of the county or State. A general call of ward meetings by their wardens on the same day through the State, would at any time produce the genuine sense of the people on any required point, and would enable the State to act in mass, as your people have so often done, and with so much effect by their town meetings. The law for religious freedom, which made a part of this system, having put down the aristocracy of the clergy, and restored to the citizen the freedom of the mind, and those of entails and descents nurturing an equality of condition among them, this on education would have raised the mass of the people to the high ground of moral respectability necessary to their own safety, and to orderly government; and would have completed the great object of qualifying them to select the veritable aristoi, for the trusts of government, to the exclusion of the pseudalists; and the same Theognis who has furnished the epigraphs of your two letters, assures us that (Greek inserted here) Although this law has not yet been acted on but in a small and inefficient degree, it is still considered as before the legislature, with other bills of the revised code, not yet taken up, and I have great hope that some patriotic spirit will, at a favorable moment, call it up, and make it the keystone of the arch of our government.
With respect to aristocracy, we should further consider, that before the establishment of the American States, nothing was known to history but the man of the old world, crowded within limits either small or overcharged, and steeped in the vices which that situation generates. A government adapted to such men would be one thing ; but a very different one, that for the man of these States. Here every one may have land to labor for himself, if he chooses; or, preferring the exercise of any other industry, may exact for it such compensation as not only to afford a comfortable subsistence, but wherewith to provide for a cessation from labor in old age. Every one, by his property, or by his satisfactory situation, is interested in the support of law and order. And such men may safely and advantageously reserve to themselves a wholesome control over their public affairs, and a degree of freedom, which, in the hands of the canaille of the cities of Europe, would be instantly perverted to the demolition and destruction of everything public and private. The history of the last twenty-five years of France, and of the last forty years in America, nay of its last two hundred years, proves the truth of both parts of this observation.
But even in Europe a change has sensibly taken place in the mind of man. Science had liberated the ideas of those who read and reflect, and the American example had kindled feelings of right in the people. An insurrection has consequently begun, of science, talents, and courage, against rank and birth, which have fallen into contempt. It has failed in its first effort, because the mobs of the cities, the instrument used for its accomplishment, debased by ignorance, poverty, and vice, could not be restrained to rational action. But the world will recover from the panic of this first catastrophe. Science is progressive, and talents and enterprise on the alert. Resort may be had to the people of the country, a more governable power from their principles and subordination; and rank, and birth, and tinsel-aristocracy will finally shrink into insignificance, even there. This, however, we have no right to meddle with. It suffices for us, if the moral and physical condition of our own citizens qualifies them to select the able and good for the direction of their government, with a recurrence of elections at such short periods as will enable them to displace an unfaithful servant, before the mischief he meditates may be irremediable.
I have thus stated my opinion on a point on which we differ, not with a view to controversy, for we are both too old to change opinions which are the result of a long life of inquiry and reflection; but on the suggestions of a former letter of yours, that we ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other. We acted in perfect harmony, through a long and perilous contest for our liberty and independence. A constitution has been acquired, which, though neither of us thinks perfect, yet both consider as competent to render our fellow citizens the happiest and the securest on whom the sun has ever shone. If we do not think exactly alike as to its imperfections, it matters little to our country, which, after devoting to it long lives of disinterested labor, we have delivered over to our successors in life, who will be able to take care of it and of themselves.
Of the pamphlet on aristocracy which has been sent to you, or who may be its author, I have heard nothing but through your letter. If the person you suspect, it may be known from the quaint, mystical, and hyperbolical ideas, involved in affected, new-fangled and pedantic terms which stamp his writings. Whatever it be, I hope your quiet is not to be affected at this day by the rudeness or intemperance of scribblers ; but that you may continue in tranquillity to live and to rejoice in the prosperity of our country, until it shall be your own wish to take your seat among the aristoi who have gone before you. Ever and affectionately yours.
Dear Sir,I had not expected to have troubled you again on the subject of finance ; but since the date of my last, I have received from Mr. Law a letter covering a memorial on that subject, which, from its tenor, I conjecture must have been before Congress at their two last sessions. This paper contains two propositions ; the one for issuing treasury notes, bearing interest, and to be circulated as money ; the other for the establishment of a national bank. The first was considered in my former letter ; and the second shall be the subject of the present.
The scheme is for Congress to establish a national bank, suppose of thirty millions capital, of which they shall contribute ten millions in new six per cent. stock, the States ten millions, and individuals ten millions, one-half of the two last contributions to be of similar stock, for which the parties are to give cash to Congress ; the whole, however, to be under the exclusive management of the individual subscribers, who are to name all the directors ; neither Congress nor the States having any power of interference in its administration. Discounts are to be at five per cent., but the profits are expected to be seven per cent. Congress then will be paying six per cent. on twenty millions, and receiving seven per cent. on ten millions, being its third of the institution ; so that on the ten millions cash Which they receive from the States and individuals, they will, in fact, have to pay but five per cent. interest. This is the bait. The charter is proposed to be for forty or fifty years, and if any future augmentations should take place, the individual proprietors are to have the privilege of being the sole subscribers for that. Congress are further allowed to issue to the amount of three millions of notes, bearing interest, which they are to receive back in payment for lands at a premium of five or ten per cent., or as subscriptions for canals, roads, and bridges, in which undertakings they are, of course, to be engaged. This is a summary of the case as I understand it ; but it is very possible I may not understand it in all its parts, these schemes being always made unintelligible for the gulls who are to enter into them. The advantages and disadvantages shall be noted promiscuously as they occur ; leaving out the speculation of canals, etc., which, being an episode only in the scheme, may be omitted, to disentangle it as much as we can.
1. Congress are to receive five millions from the States (if they will enter into this partnership, which few probably will), and five millions from the individual subscribers, in exchange for ten millions of six per cent. stock, one per cent. of which, however, they will make on their ten millions of stock remaining in bank, and so reduce it, in effect, to a loan of ten millions at five per cent interest, This is good ; but
2. They authorize this bank to throw into circulation ninety millions of dollars, (three times the capital,) which increases our circulating medium fifty per cent., depreciates proportionably the present value of a dollar, and raises the price of all future purchases in the same proportion.
3. This loan of ten millions at five per cent., is to be once for all, only. Neither the terms of the scheme, nor their own prudence could ever permit them to add to the circulation in the same, or any other way, for the supplies of the succeeding years of the war. These succeeding years then are to be left unprovided for, and the means of doing it in a great measure precluded.
4. The individual subscribers, on paying their own five millions of cash to Congress, become the depositories of ten millions of stock belonging to Congress, five millions belonging to the States, and five millions to themselves, say twenty millions, with which, as no one has a right ever to see their books, or to ask a question, they may choose their time for running away, after adding to their booty the proceeds of as much of their own notes as they shall be able to throw into circulation.
5. The subscribers may be one, two, or three, or more individuals, (many single individuals being able to pay in the five millions,) whereupon this bank oligarchy or monarchy enters the field with ninety millions of dollars, to direct and control the politics of the nation ; and of the influence of these institutions on our politics and into what scale it will be thrown, we have had abundant experience. Indeed, England herself may be the real, while her friend and trustee here shall be the nominal and sole subscriber.
6. This state of things is to be fastened on us, without the power of relief, for forty or fifty years. That is to say, the eight millions of people now existing, for the sake of receiving one dollar and twenty-five cents apiece, at five per cent. interest, are to subject the fifty millions of people who are to succeed them within that term, to the payment of forty-five millions of dollars, principal and interest, which will be payable in the course of the fifty years.
7. But the great and national advantage is to be the relief of the present scarcity of money, which is produced and proved by,
1. The additional industry created to supply a variety of articles for the troops, ammunition, etc.
2. By the cash sent to the frontiers, and the vacuum occasioned in the trading towns by that.
3. By the late loans.
4. By the necessity of recurring to shavers with good paper, which the existing banks are not able to take up ; and
5. By the numerous applications of bank charters, showing that an increase of circulating medium is wanting.
Let us examine these causes and proofs of the want of an increase of medium, one by one.
1. The additional industry created to supply a variety of articles for troops, ammunition, etc. Now, I had always supposed that war produced a diminution of industry, by the number of hands it withdraws from industrious pursuits for employment in arms, etc., which are totally unproductive. And if it calls for new industry in the articles of ammunition and other military supplies, the hands are borrowed from other branches on which the demand is slackened by the war ; so that it is but a shifting of these hands from one pursuit to another.
2. The cash sent to the frontiers occasions a vacuum in the trading towns, which requires a new supply. Let us examine what are the calls for money to the frontiers. Not for clothing, tents, ammunition, arms, which are all bought in the trading towns. Not for provisions ; for although these are bought partly in the immediate country, bank bills are more acceptable there than even in the trading towns. The pay of the army calls for some cash, but not a great deal, as bank notes are as acceptable with the military men, perhaps more so ; and what cash is sent must find its way back again in exchange for the wants of the upper from the lower country. For we are not to suppose that cash stays accumulating there forever.
3. This scarcity has been occasioned by the late loans. But does the government borrow money to keep it in their coffers ? Is it not instantly restored to circulation by payment for its necessary supplies ? And are we to restore a vacuum of twenty millions of dollars by an emission of ninety millions ?
4. The want of medium is proved by the recurrence of individuals with good paper to brokers at exorbitant interest ; and
5. By the numerous applications to the State governments for additional banks ; New York wanting eighteen millions, Pennsylvania ten millions, etc. But say more correctly, the speculators and spendthrifts of New York and Pennsylvania, but never consider them as being the States of New York and Pennsylvania. These two items shall be considered together.
It is a litigated question, whether the circulation of paper, rather than of specie, is a good or an evil. In the opinion of England and of English writers it is a good ; in that of all other nations it is an evil ; and excepting England and her copyist, the United States, there is not a nation existing, I believe, which tolerates a paper circulation. The experiment is going on, however, desperately in England, pretty boldly with us, and at the end of the chapter, we shall see which opinion experience approves : for I believe it to be one of those cases where mercantile clamor will bear down reason, until it is corrected by ruin. In the meantime, however, let us reason on this new call for a national bank.
After the solemn decision of Congress against the renewal of the charter of the bank of the United States, and the grounds of that decision, (the want of constitutional power,) I had imagined that question at rest, and that no more applications would be made to them for the incorporation of banks. The opposition on that ground to its first establishment, the small majority by which it was overborne, and the means practised for obtaining it, cannot be already forgotten. The law having passed, however, by a majority, its opponents, true to the sacred principle of submission to a majority, suffered the law to flow through its term without obstruction. During this, the nation had time to consider the constitutional question, and when the renewal was proposed, they condemned it, not by their representatives in Congress only, but by express instructions from different organs of their will. Here then we might stop, and consider the memorial as answered. But, setting authority apart, we will examine whether the legislature ought to comply with it, even if they had the power.
Proceeding to reason on this subject, some principles must be premised as forming its basis. The adequate price of a thing depends on the capital and labor necessary to produce it. [In the term capital, I mean to include science, because capital as well as labor has been employed to acquire it.] Two things requiring the same capital and labor, should be of the same price. If a gallon of wine requires for its production the same capital and labor with a bushel of wheat, they should be expressed by the same price, derived from the application of a common measure to them. The comparative prices of things being thus to be estimated and expressed by a common measure, we may proceed to observe, that were a country so insulated as to have no commercial intercourse with any other, to confine the interchange of all its wants and supplies within itself, the amount of circulating medium, as a common measure for adjusting these exchanges, would be quite immaterial. If their circulation, for instance, were of a million of dollars, and the annual produce of their industry equivalent to ten millions of bushels of wheat, the price of a bushel of wheat might be one dollar. If, then, by a progressive coinage, their medium should be doubled, the price of a bushel of wheat might become progressively two dollars, and without inconvenience. Whatever be the proportion of the circulating medium to the value of the annual produce of industry, it may be considered as the representative of that industry. In the first case, a bushel of wheat will be represented by one dollar ; in the second, by two dollars. This is well explained by Hume, and seems admitted by Adam Smith, B. a, c.2, 436, 441, 490. But where a nation is in a full course of interchange of wants and supplies with all others, the proportion of its medium to its produce is no longer indifferent. Ib. 441. To trade on equal terms, the common measure of values should be as nearly as possible on a par with that of its corresponding nations, whose medium is in a sound state ; that is to say, not in an accidental state of excess or deficiency. Now, one of the great advantages of specie as a medium is, that being of universal value, it will keep itself at a general level, flowing out from where it is .too high into parts where it is lower. Whereas, if the medium be of local value only, as paper money, if too little, indeed, gold and silver will flow in to supply the deficiency ; but if too much, it accumulates, banishes the gold and silver not locked up in vaults and hoards, and depreciates itself ; that is to say, its proportion to the annual produce of industry being raised, more of it is required to represent any particular article of produce than in the other countries. This is agreed by Smith, (B. 2, c. 2, 437,) the principal advocate for a paper circulation ; but advocating it on the sole condition that it be strictly regulated. He admits, nevertheless, that the commerce and industry of a country cannot be so secure when suspended on the Daedalian wings of paper money, as on the solid ground of gold and silver ; and that in time of war, the insecurity is greatly increased, and great confusion possible where the circulation is for the greater part in paper. B, 2, c. 2, 484. But in a country where loans are uncertain, and a specie circulation the only sure resource for them, the preference of that circulation assumes a far different degree of importance, as is explained in my former letters.
The only advantage which Smith proposes by substituting paper in the room of gold and silver money, B. 2, c. 2, 434, is to replace an expensive instrument with one much less costly, and sometimes equally convenient ; that is to say, page 437, to allow the gold and silver to be sent abroad and converted into foreign goods, and to substitute paper as being a cheaper measure. But this makes no addition to the stock or capital of the nation. The coin sent out was worth as much, while in the country, as the goods imported and taking its place. It is only, then, a change of form in a part of the national capital, from that of gold and silver to other goods. He admits, too, that while a part of the goods received in exchange for the coin exported may be materials, tools and provisions for the employment of an additional industry, a part, also, may be taken back in foreign wines ; silks, etc., to be consumed by idle people who produce nothing ; and so far the substitution promotes prodigality, increases expense and corruption, without increasing production. So far also, then, it lessens the capital of the nation. What may be the amount which the conversion of the part exchanged for productive goods may add to the former productive mass, it is not easy to ascertain, because, as he says, page 441, it is impossible to determine what is the proportion which the circulating money of any country bears to the whole value of the annual produce. It has been computed by different authors, from a fifth* to a thirtieth of that value. In the United States it must be less than in any other part of the commercial world ; because the great mass of their inhabitants being in responsible circumstances, the great mass of their exchanges in the country is effected on credit, in their merchants ledger, who supplies all their wants through the year, and at the end of it receives the produce of their farms, or other articles of their industry. It is a fact, that a farmer with a revenue of ten thousand dollars a year, may obtain all his supplies from his merchant, and liquidate them at the end of the year, by the sale of his produce to him, without the intervention of a single dollar of cash. This, then, is merely barter, and in this way of barter a great portion of the annual produce of the United States is exchanged without the intermediation of cash. We might safely, then, state our medium at the minimum of one-thirtieth. But what is one-thirtieth of the value of the annual produce of the industry of the United States ? Or what is the whole value of the annual produce of the United States ? An able writer and competent judge of the subject, in 1799, on as good grounds as probably could be taken, estimated it, on the then population of four and a half millions of inhabitants, to be thirty-seven and a half millions sterling, or one hundred and sixty-eight and three-fourths millions of dollars. See Coopers Political Arithmetic, page 47. According to the same estimate for our present population, it will be three hundred millions of dollars, one-thirtieth of which, Smith s minimum, would be ten millions, and one-fifth, his maximum, would be sixty millions for the quantum of circulation. But suppose that instead of our needing the least circulating medium of any nation, from the circumstance bef ore mentioned, we should place ourselves in the middle term of the calculation, to wit: at thirty-five millions. One-fifth of this, at the least, Smith thinks should be retained in specie, which would leave twenty-eight millions of specie to be exported in exchange for other commodities ; and if fifteen millions of that should be returned in productive goods, and not in articles of prodigality, that would be the amount of capital which this operation would add to the existing mass. But to what mass ? Not that of the three hundred millions, which is only its gross annual produce, but to that capital of which the three hundred millions are but the annual produce. But this being gross, we may infer from it the value of the capital by considering that the rent of lands is generally fixed at one-third of the gross produce, and is deemed its net profit, and twenty times that its fee simple value. The profits on landed capital may, with accuracy enough for our purpose, be supposed on a par with those of other capital. This would give us then for the United States, a capital of two thousand millions, all in active employment, and exclusive of unimproved lands lying in a great degree dormant. Of this, fifteen millions would be the hundred and thirty-third part. And it is for this petty addition to the capital of the nation, this minimum of one dollar, added to one hundred and thirty-three and a third or three-fourths per cent., that we are to give up our gold and silver medium, its intrinsic solidity, its universal value, and its saving powers in time of war, and to substitute for it paper, with all its train of evils, moral, political and physical, which I will not pretend to enumerate.
There is another authority to which we may appeal for the proper quantity of circulating medium for the United States. The old Congress, when we were estimated at about two millions of people, on a long and able discussion, June 22d, I decided the sufficient guantity to be two millions of dollars, which sum they emitted.** According to this, it should be eight millions, now that we are eight millions of people. This differs little from Smiths minimum of ten millions, and strengthens our respect for that estimate.
There is, indeed, a convenience in paper ; its easy transmission from one place to another. But this may be mainly supplied by bills of exchange, so as to prevent any great displacement of actual coin. Two places trading together balance their dealings, for the most part, by their mutual supplies, and the debtor individuals of either may, instead of cash, remit the bills of those who are creditors in the same dealings ; or may obtain them through some third place with which both have dealings. The cases would be rare where such bills could not be obtained, either directly or circuitously, and too unimportant to the nation to overweigh the train of evils flowing from paper circulation.
From eight to thirty-five millions then being our proper circulation, and two hundred millions the actual one, the memorial proposes to issue ninety millions more, because, it says, a great scarcity of money is proved by the numerous applications for banks ; to wit, New York for eighteen millions, Pennsylvania ten millions, etc. The answer to this shall be quoted from Adam Smith, B. 2, c.2, page 462 ; where speaking of the complaints of the trader against the Scotch bankers, who had already gone too far in their issues of paper, he says ; those traders and other undertakers having got so much assistance from banks, wished to get still more. The banks, they seem to have thought, could extend their credits to whatever sum might be wanted, without incurring any other expense besides that of a few reams of paper. They complained of the contracted views and dastardly spirit of the directors of those banks, which did not, they said, extend their credits in proportion to the extension of the trade of the country ; meaning, no doubt, by the extension of that trade, the extension of their own projects beyond what they could carry on, either with their own capital, or with what they had credit to borrow of private people in the usual way of bond or mortgage. The banks, they seem to have thought, were in honor bound to supply the deficiency, and to provide them with all the capital which they wanted to trade with. And again, page 470 : when bankers discovered that certain projectors were trading, not with any capital of their own, but with that which they advanced them, they endeavored to withdraw gradually, making every day greater and greater difficulties about discounting. These difficulties alarmed and enraged in the highest degree those projectors. Their own distress, of which this prudent and necessary reserve of the banks was no doubt the immediate occasion, they called the distress of the country ; and this distress of the country, they said, was altogether owing to the ignorance, pusillanimity, and bad conduct of the banks, which did not give a sufficiently liberal aid to the spirited undertakings of those who exerted themselves in order to beautify, improve and enrich the country. It was the duty of the banks, they seemed to think, to lend for as long a time, and to as great an extent, as they might wish to borrow. It is, probably, the good paper of these projectors which the memorial says, the bank being unable to discount, goes into the hands of brokers, who (knowing the risk of this good paper) discount it at a much higher rate than legal interest, to the great distress of the enterprising adventurers, who had rather try trade on borrowed capital, than go to the plough or other laborious calling. Smith again says, page 478, that the industry of Scotland languished for want of money to employ it, was the opinion of the famous Mr. Law. By establishing a bank of a particular kind, which, he seems to have imagined might issue paper to the amount of the whole value of all the lands in the country, he proposed to remedy this want of money. It was afterwards adopted, with some variations, by the Duke of Orleans, at that time Regent of France. The idea of the possibility of multiplying paper to almost any extent, was the real foundation of what is called the Mississippi scheme, the most extravagant project both of banking and stock jobbing, that perhaps the world ever saw. The principles upon which it was founded are explained by Mr. Law himself, in a discourse concerning money and trade, which he published in Scotland when he first proposed his project. The splendid but visionary ideas which are set forth in that and some other works upon the same principles, still continue to make an impression upon many people, and have perhaps, in part, contributed to that excess of banking which has of late been complained of both in Scotland and in other places. The Mississippi scheme, it is well known, ended in France in the bankruptcy of the public treasury, the crush of thousands and thousands of private fortunes, and scenes of desolation and distress equal to those of an invading army, burning and laying waste all before it.
At the time we were funding our national debt, we heard much about a public debt being a public blessing; that the stock representing it was a creation of active capital for the aliment of commerce, manufactures and agriculture. This paradox was well adapted to the minds of believers in dreams, and the gulls of that size entered bonā fide into it. But the art and mystery of banks is a wonderful improvement on that. It is established on the principle that private debts are a public blessing. That the evidences of those private debts, called bank notes, become active capital, and aliment the whole commerce, manufactures, and agriculture of the United States. Here are a set of people, for instance, who have bestowed on us the great blessing of running in our debt about two hundred millions of dollars, without our knowing who they are, where they are, or what property they have to pay this debt when called on ; nay, who have made us so sensible of the blessings of letting them run in our debt, that we have exempted them by law from the repayment of these debts beyond a given proportion, (generally estimated at one-third). And to fill up the measure of blessing, instead of paying, they receive an interest on what they owe from those to whom they owe ; for all the notes, or evidences of what they owe, which we see in circulation, have been lent to somebody on an interest which is levied again on us through the medium of commerce. And they are so ready still to deal out their liberalities to us, that they are now willing to let themselves run in our debt ninety millions more, on our paying them the same premium of six or eight per cent. interest, and on the same legal exemption from the repayment of more than thirty millions of the debt, when it shall be called for. But let us look at this principle in its original form, and its copy will then be equally understood. A public debt is a public blessing. That our debt was juggled from forty-three up to eighty millions, and funded at that amount, according to this opinion was a great public blessing, because the evidences of it could be vested in commerce, and thus converted into active capital, and then the more the debt was made to be, the more active capital was created. That is to say, the creditors could now employ in commerce the money due them from the public, and make from it an annual profit of five per cent., or four millions of dollars. But observe, that the public were at the same time paying on it an interest of exactly the same amount of four millions of dollars. Where then is the gain to either party, which makes it a public blessing ? There is no change in the state of things, but of persons only. A has a debt due to him from the public, of which he holds their certificate as evidence, and on which he is receiving an annual interest. He wishes, however, to have the money itself, and to go into business with it. B has an equal sum of money in business, but wishes now to retire, and live on the interest. He therefore gives it to A in exchange for As certificates of public stock. Now then, A has the money to employ in business ; which B so employed before. B has the money on interest to live on, which A lived on before ; and the public pays the interest to B which they paid to A before. Here is no new creation of capital, no additional money employed, nor even a change in the employment of a single dollar. The only change is of place between A and B in which we discover no creation of capital, nor public blessing. Suppose, again, the public to owe nothing. Then A not having lent his money to the public ; would be in possession of it himself, and would go into business without the previous operation of selling stock. Here again, the same quantity of capital is employed as in the former case, though no public debt exists. In neither case is there any creation of active capital, nor other difference than that there is a public debt in the first case, and none in the last ; and we may safely ask which of the two situations is most truly a public blessing ? If, then, a public debt be no public blessing, we may pronounce, a fortiori, that a private one cannot be so. If the debt which the banking companies owe be a blessing to anybody, it is to themselves alone, who are realizing a solid interest of eight or ten per cent. on it. As to the public, these companies have banished all our gold and silver medium, which, before their institution, we had without interest, which never could have perished in our hands, and would have been our salvation now in the hour of war ; instead of which they have given us two hundred million of froth and bubble, on which we are to pay them heavy interest, until it shall vanish into air, as Morns notes did. We are warranted, then, in affirming that this parody on the principle of a public debt being a public blessing, and its mutation into the blessing of private instead of public debts, is as ridiculous as the original principle itself. In both cases, he truth is, that capital may be produced by industry, and accumulated by economy ; but jugglers only will propose to create it by legerdemain tricks with paper.
I have called the actual circulation of bank paper in the United States, two hundred millions of dollars. I do not recollect where I have seen this estimate ; but I retain the impression that I thought it just at the time. It may be tested, however, by a list of the banks now in the United States, and the amount of their capital. I have no means of recurring to such a list for the present day ; but I turn to two lists in my possession for the years of 1803 and 1804.
In 1803, there were thirty-four banks, whose capital was. . . . . . . . . . . . . $28,902,000
In 1804, there were sixty-six, consequently thirty-two additional ones. Their capital is not stated, but at the average of the others, (excluding the highest, that of the United States, which was of ten millions,) they would be of six hundred thousand dollars each, and add. . . . . . . . . . . . . 19,200,000
Making a total of. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$48,102,000
or say of fifty millions in round numbers. Now, every one knows the immense multiplication of these institutions since 1804. If they have only doubled, their capital will be of one hundred millions and if trebled, as I think probable, it will be one hundred and fifty millions, on which, they are at liberty to circulate treble the amount. I should sooner, therefore, believe two hundred millions to be far below than above the actual circulation. In England, by a late parliamentary document, (see Virginia Argus of October the 18th, 1813, and other public papers of about that date,) it appears that six years ago the Bank of England had twelve millions of pounds sterling in circulation, which had increased to forty-two millions in 1812, or to one hundred and eighty-nine millions of dollars. What proportion all the other banks may add to this, I do not know ; if we were allowed to suppose they equal it, this would give a circulation of three hundred and seventy-eight millions, or the double of ours on a double population. But that nation is essentially commercial, ours essentially agricultural, and needing, therefore, less circulating medium, because the produce of the husbandman comes but once a year, and is then partly consumed at home, partly exchanged by barter. The dollar, which was of four shillings and sixpence sterling, was, by the same document, stated to be then six shillings and nine pence, a depreciation of exactly fifty per cent. The average price of wheat on the continent of Europe, at the commencement of its present war with England, was about a French crown, of one hundred and ten cents, the bushel. With us it was one hundred cents, and consequently we could send it there in competition with their own. That ordinary price has now doubled with us, and more than doubled in England ; and although a part of this augmentation may proceed from the war demand, yet from the extraordinary nominal rise in the prices of land and labor here both of which have nearly doubled in that period, and are still rising with every new bank, it is evident that were a general peace to take place to-morrow, and time allowed for the re-establishment of commerce, justice, and order, we could not afford to raise wheat for much less than two dollars, while the continent of Europe, having no paper circulation, and that of its specie not being augmented, would raise it at their former price of one hundred and ten cents. It follows, then, that with our redundancy of paper, we cannot, after peace, send a bushel of wheat to Europe, unless extraordinary circumstances double its price in particular places, and that then the exporting countries of Europe could undersell us.
It is said that our paper is as good as silver, because we may have silver for it at the bank where it issues. This is not true. One, two, or three persons might have it ; but a general application would soon exhaust their vaults, and leave a ruinous proportion of, their paper in its intrinsic worthless form. It is a fallacious pretence, for another reason. The inhabitants of the banking cities might obtain cash for their paper, as far as the cash of the vaults would hold out, but distance puts it out of the power of the country to do this. A farmer having a note of a Boston or Charleston bank, distant hundreds of miles, has no means of calling for the cash. And while these calls are impracticable for the country, the banks have no fear of their being made from the towns ; because their inhabitants are mostly on their books, and there on sufferance only, and during good behavior.
In this state of things, we are called on to add ninety millions more to the circulation. Proceeding in this career, it is infallible, that we must end where the revolutionary paper ended. Two hundred millions was the whole amount of all the emissions of the old Congress, at which point their bills ceased to circulate. We are now ,at that sum, but with treble the population, and of course a longer tether. Our depreciation is, as yet, but about two for one. Owing to the support its credit receives from the small reservoirs of specie in the vaults of the banks, it is impossible to say at what point their notes will stop. Nothing is necessary to effect it but a general alarm ; and that may take place whenever the public shall begin to reflect on, and perceive the impossibility that the banks should repay this sum. At present, caution is inspired no farther than to keep prudent men from selling property on long payments. Let us suppose the panic to arise at three hundred millions, a point to which every session of the legislatures hasten us by long strides. Nobody dreams that they would have three hundred millions of specie to satisfy the holders of their notes. Were they even to top now, no one supposes they have two hundred millions in cash, or even the sixty-six and two-third millions, to which amount alone the law compels them to repay. One hundred and thirty-three and one-third millions of loss, then, is thrown on the public by law ; and as to the sixty-six and two-thirds, which they are legally bound to pay, and ought to have in their vaults, every one knows there is no such amount of cash in the United States, and what would be the course with what they really have there ? Their notes are refused. Cash is called for. The inhabitants of the banking towns will get what is in the vaults, until a few banks declare their insolvency ; when, the general crush becoming evident, the others will withdraw even the cash they have, declare their bankruptcy at once, and leave an empty house and empty coffers for the holders of their notes. In this scramble of creditors, the country gets nothing, the towns but little. What are they to do ? Bring suits ? A million of creditors bring a million of suits against John Nokes and Robert Styles, wheresoever to be found ? All nonsense. The loss is total. And a sum is thus swindled from our citizens, of seven times the amount of the real debt, and four times that of the fictitious one of the United States, at the close of the war. All this they will justly charge on their legislatures ; but this will be poor satisfaction for the two or three hundred millions they will have lost. It is time, then, for the public functionaries to look to this. Perhaps it may not be too late. Perhaps, by giving time to the banks, they may call in and pay off their paper by degrees. But no remedy is ever to be expected while it rests with the State legislatures. Personal motive can be excited through so many avenues to their will, that, in their hands, it will continue to go on from bad to worse, until the catastrophe overwhelms us. I still believe ; however, that on proper representations of the subject, a great proportion of these legislatures would cede to Congress their power of establishing banks, saving the charter rights already granted. And this should be asked, not by way of amendment to the Constitution, be cause until three-fourths should consent, nothing could be done ; but accepted from them one by one, singly, as their consent might be obtained. Any single State, even if no other should come into the measure, would find its interest in arresting foreign bank paper immediately, and its own by degrees. Specie would flow in on them as paper disappeared. Their own banks would call in and pay off their notes gradually, and their constituents would thus be saved from the general wreck. Should the greater part of the States concede, as is expected, their power over banks to Congress, besides insuring their own safety, the paper of the non-conceding States might be so checked and circumscribed, by prohibiting its receipt in any of the conceding States, and even in the nonconceding as to duties, taxes, judgments, or other demands of the United States, or of the citizens of other States, that it would soon die of itself, and the medium of gold and silver be universally restored. This is what ought to be done. But it will not be done. Carthago non delibitur. The overbearing clamor of merchants, speculators, and projectors, will drive us before them with our eyes open, until, as in France, under the Mississippi bubble, our citizens will be overtaken by the crush of this baseless fabric, without other satisfaction than that of execrations on the heads of those functionaries, who, from ignorance, pusillanimity or corruption, have betrayed the fruits of their industry into the hands of projectors and swindlers.
When I speak comparatively of the paper emission of the old Congress and the present banks, let it not be imagined that I cover them under the same mantle. The object of the former was a holy one ; for if ever there was a holy war, it was that which saved our liberties and gave us independence. The object of the latter, is to enrich swindlers at the expense of the honest and industrious part of the nation.
The sum of what has been said is, that pretermitting the constitutional question on the authority of Congress, and considering this application on the grounds of reason alone, it would be best that our medium should be so proportioned to our produce, as to be on a par with that of the countries with which we trade, and whose medium is in a sound state ; that specie is the most perfect medium, because it will preserve its own level ; because, having intrinsic and universal value, it can never die in our hands, and it is the surest resource of reliance in time of war ; that the trifling economy of paper, as a cheaper medium, or its convenience for transmission, weighs nothing in opposition to the advantages of the precious metals ; that it is liable to be abused, has been, is, and forever will be abused, in every country in which it is permitted ; that it is already at a term of abuse in these States, which has never been reached by any other nation, France excepted, whose dreadful catastrophe should be a warning against the instrument which produced it ; that we are already at ten or twenty times the due quantity of medium ; insomuch, that no man knows what his property is now worth, because it is bloating while he is calculating ; and still less what it will be worth when the medium shall be relieved from its present dropsical state ; and that it is a palpable falsehood to say we can have specie for our paper whenever demanded. Instead, then, of yielding to the cries of scarcity of medium set up by speculators, projectors and commercial gamblers, no endeavors should be spared to begin the work of reducing it by such gradual means as may give time to private fortunes to preserve their poise, and settle down with the subsiding medium ; and that, for this purpose, the States should be urged to concede to the General Government, with a saving of chartered rights, the exclusive power of establishing banks of discount for paper.
To the existence of banks of discount for cash, as on the continent of Europe, there can be no objection, because there can be no danger of abuse, and they are a convenience both to merchants and individuals. I think they should even be encouraged, by allowing them a larger than legal interest on short discounts, and tapering thence, in proportion as the term of discount is lengthened, down to legal interest on those of a year or more. Even banks of deposit, where cash should be lodged, and a paper acknowledgment taken out as its representative, entitled to a return of the cash on demand, would be convenient for remittances, travelling persons, etc. But, liable as its cash would be to be pilfered and robbed, and its paper to be fraudulently re-issued, or issued without deposit, it would require skilful and strict regulation. This would differ from the bank of Amsterdam, in the circumstance that the cash could be redeemed on returning the note.
When I commenced this letter to you, my dear Sir, on Mr. Laws memorial, I expected a short one would have answered that. But as I advanced ; the subject branched itself before me into so many collateral questions, that even the rapid views I have taken of each have swelled the volume of my letter beyond my expectations, and, I fear, beyond your patience. Yet on a revisal of it, I find no part which has not so much bearing on the subject as to be worth merely the time of perusal. I leave it then as it is ; and will add only the assurances of my constant and affectionate esteem and respect.
* The real cash or money necessary to carry on the circulation and barter of a State, is nearly one-third part of all the annual rents of the proprietors of the said State ; that is, one-ninth of the whole produce of the land. Sir William Petty supposes one-tenth part of the value of the whole produce sufficient. Postlethwait, voce, Cash.
** Within five months after this, they were compelled by the necessities of the war, to abandon the idea of emitting only an adequate circulation, and to make those necessities the sole measure of their emissions.
Dear Sir,Your favor of October 18th has been duly received, and I learn with great pleasure the progress you have made towards an establishment on Columbia river. I view it as the germ of a great, free and independent empire on that side of our continent, and that liberty and self-government spreading from that as well as this side, will ensure their complete establishment over the whole. It must be still more gratifying to yourself to foresee that your name will be handed down with that of Columbus and Raleigh, as the father of the establishment and founder of such an empire. It would be an afflicting thing indeed, should the English be able to break up the settlement. Their bigotry to the bastard liberty of their own country, and habitual hostility to every degree of freedom in any other, will induce the attempt ; they would not lose the sale of a bale of furs for the freedom of the whole world. But I hope your party will be able to maintain themselves. If they have assiduously cultivated the interests and affections of the natives, these will enable them to defend themselves against the English, and furnish them an asylum even if their fort be lost. I hope, and have no doubt our government will do for its success whatever they have power to do, and especially that at the negotiations for peace, they will provide, by convention with the English, for the safety and independence of that country, and an acknowledgment of our right of patronizing them in all cases of injury from foreign nations. But no patronage or protection from this quarter can secure the settlement if it does not cherish the affections of the natives and make it their interest to uphold it. While you are doing so much for future generations of men, I sincerely wish you may find a present account in the just profits you are entitled to expect from the enterprise. I will ask of the President permission to read Mr. Stuarts journal. With fervent wishes for a happy issue to this great undertaking, which promises to form a remarkable epoch in the history of mankind, I tender you the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,As I owe you more for your letters of October 12th and 28th than I shall be able to pay, I shall begin with the P.S. to the last.
I am very sorry to say that I cannot assist your memory in the inquiries of your letter of August 22d. I really know not who was the compositor of any one of the petitions or addresses you enumerate. Nay, further : I am certain I never did know. I was so shallow a politician that I was not aware of the importance of those compositions. They all appeared to me, in the circumstances of the country, like childrens play at marbles or push-pin, or like misses in their teens, emulating each other in their pearls, their bracelets, their diamond pins and Brussels lace.
In the Congress of 1774, there was not one member, except Patrick Henry, who appeared to me sensible of the precipice, or rather the pinnacle on which we stood, and had candor and courage enough to acknowledge it. America is in total ignorance, or under infinite deception concerning that assembly. To draw the characters of them all would require a volume, and would now be considered as a caricatured print. One-third Tories, another Whigs, and the rest Mongrels.
There was a little aristocracy among us of talents and letters. Mr. Dickinson was primus interpares, the bell-wether, the leader of the aristocratical flock.
Billy, alias Governor Livingston, and his son-in-law, Mr. Jay, were of the privileged order. The credit of most if not all those compositions, was often if not generally given to one or the other of these choice spirits. Mr. Dickinson, however, was not on any of the original committees. He came not into Congress till October 17th. He was not appointed till the 15th by his assembly.
Vol. 1, 30. Congress adjourned October 27th though our correct secretary has not recorded any final adjournment or dissolution. Mr. Dickinson was in Congress but ten days. The business was all prepared, arranged, and even in a manner finished before his arrival.
R.H. Lee was the chairman of the committee for preparing the loyal and dutiful address to his majesty. Johnson and Henry were acute spirits, and understood the controversy very well, though they had not the advantages of education like Lee and John Rutledge.
The subject had been near a month under discussion in Congress, and most of the materials thrown out there. It underwent another deliberation in committee, after which they made the customary compliment to their chairman, by requesting him to prepare and report a draught, which was done, and after examination, correction, amelioration or pejoration, as usual reported to Congress. October 3d, 4th and 5th were taken up in debating and deliberating on matters proper to be contained in the address to his majesty, vol. 122. October 21st. The address to the king was, after debate, re-committed, and Mr. John Dickinson added to the committee. The first draught was made, and all the essential materials put together by Lee. It might be embellished and seasoned afterwards with some of Mr. Dickinsons piety, but I know not that it was. Neat and handsome as the composition is, having never had any confidence in the utility of it, I never have thought much about it since it was adopted. Indeed, I never bestowed much attention on any of those addresses which were all but repetitions of the same things, the same facts and arguments, dress and ornament rather than body, soul or substance. My thoughts and cares were nearly monopolized by the theory of our rights and wrongs, by measures, for the defence of the country, and the means of governing ourselves. I was in a great error, no doubt, and am ashamed to confess it; for those things were necessary to give popularity to our cause both at home and abroad. And to show my stupidity in a stronger light, the reputation of any one of those compositions has been a more splendid distinction than any aristocratical star or garter in the escutcheon of every man who has enjoyed it. Very sorry that I cannot give you more satisfactory information, and more so that I cannot at present give more attention to your two last excellent letters. I am, as usual, affectionately yours.
N.B. I am almost ready to believe that John Taylor, of Caroline, or of Hazlewood, Port Royal, Virginia, is the author of 630 pages of printed octavo upon my books that I have received. The style answers every characteristic that you have intimated. Within a week I have received and looked into his Arator. They must spring from the same brain, as Minerva issued from the head of Jove, or rather as Venus rose from the froth of the sea. There is, however, a great deal of good sense in Arator, and there is some in his Aristocracy.
Dear Sir,Accept my thanks for the comprehensive syllabus in your favor of October 12th.
The Psalms of David, in sublimity, beauty, pathos and originality, or, in one word, in poetry, are superior to all the odes, hymns and songs in our language. But I had rather read them in our prose translation, than in any version I have seen. His morality, however, often shocks me, like Tristram Shandys execrations.
Blacklocks translation of Horaces Justum, is admirable ; superior to Addisons. Could David be translated as well, his superiority would be universally acknowledged. We cannot compare the sublime poetry. By Virgils Pollio, we may conjecture there was prophecy as well as sublimity. Why have those verses been annihilated ? I suspect Platonic Christianity, Pharisaical Judaism or Machiavellian politics, in this case, as in all other cases, of the destruction of records and literary monuments,
The auri sacra fames, et dominandi sæva cupido.
Among all your researches in Hebrew history and controversy, have you ever met a book the design of which is to prove that the ten commandments, as we have them in our Catechisms and hung up in our churches, were not the ten commandments written by the finger of God upon tables delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, and broken by him in a passion with Aaron for his golden calf, nor those afterwards engraved by him on tables of stone ; but a very different set of commandments ?
There is such a book, by J.W. Goethe, Schriften, Berlin, 1775-1779. I wish to see this book. You will perceive the question in Exodus, 20:1, 17, 22, 28, chapter 24:3, &c.; chapter 24:12 ; chapter 25:31 ; chapter 31:18 ; chapter 31:19 ; chapter 34:1 ; chapter 34:10, &c.
I will make a covenant with all this people. Observe that which I command this day :
1. Thou shalt not adore any other God. Therefore take heed not to enter into covenant with the inhabitants of the country; neither take for your sons their daughters in marriage. They would allure thee to the worship of false gods. Much less shall you in any place erect images.
2. The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread, at the time of the month Abib ; to remember that about that time, I delivered thee from Egypt.
3. Every first born of the mother is mine; the male of thine herd, be it stock or flock. But you shall replace the first born of an ass with a sheep. The first born of your sons shall you redeem. No man shall appear before me with empty hands.
4. Six days shalt thou labor. The seventh day thou shalt rest from ploughing and gathering.
5. The feast of weeks shalt thou keep with the firstlings of the wheat harvest; and the feast of harvesting at the end of the year.
6. Thrice in every year all male persons shall appear before the Lord. Nobody shall invade your country, as long as you obey this command.
7. Thou shalt not sacrifice the blood of a sacrifice of mine, upon leavened bread.
8. The sacrifice of the Passover shall not remain till the next day.
9. The firstlings of the produce of your land, thou shalt bring to the house of the Lord.
10. Thou shalt not boil the kid, while it is yet sucking.
And the Lord spake to Moses : Write these words, as after these words I made with you and with Israel a covenant.
I know not whether Goethe translated or abridged from the Hebrew, or whether he used any translation, Greek, Latin, or German. But he differs in form and words somewhat from our version, Exodus 34:10 to 28. The sense seems to be the same. The tables were the evidence of the covenant, by which the Almighty attached the people of Israel to himself. By these laws they were separated from all other nations, and were reminded of the principal epochs of their history.
When and where originated our ten commandments ? The tables and the ark were lost. Authentic copies in few, if any hands; the ten Precepts could not be observed, and were little remembered.
If the book of Deuteronomy was compiled, during or after the Babylonian captivity, from traditions, the error or amendment might come in those.
I But you must be weary, as I am at present of problems, conjectures, and paradoxes, concerning Hebrew, Grecian and Christian and all other antiquities; but while we believe that the finis bonorum will be happy, we may leave learned men to their disquisitions and criticisms.
I admire your employment in selecting the philosophy and divinity of Jesus, and separating it from all mixtures. If I had eyes and nerves I would go through both Testaments and mark all that I understand. To examine the Mishna, Gemara, Cabbala, Jezirah, Sohar, Cosri and Talmud of the Hebrews would require the life of Methuselah, and after all his 969 years would be wasted to very little purpose. The dæmon of hierarchical despotism has been at work both with the Mishna and Gemara. In 1238 a French Jew made a discovery to the Pope (Gregory Ninth) of the heresies of the Talmud. The Pope sent thirty-five articles of error to the Archbishops of France, requiring them to seize the books of the Jews and burn all that contained any errors. He wrote in the same terms to the kings of France, England, Aragon, Castile, Leon, Navarre and Portugal. In consequence of this order, twenty cartloads of Hebrew books were burnt in France ; and how many times twenty cartloads were destroyed in the other kingdoms ? The Talmud of Babylon and that of Jerusalem were composed from 120 to 500 years after the destruction of Jerusalem.
If Lightfoot derived light from what escaped from Gregorys fury, in explaining many passages in the New Testament, by comparing the expressions of the Mishna with those of the Apostles and Evangelists, how many proofs of the corruptions of Christianity might we find in the passages burnt ?
Dear Sir,I cannot appease my melancholy commiseration for our armies in this furious snow storm, in any way so well as by studying your letter of October 28.
We are now explicitly agreed upon one important point, viz., that there is a natural aristocracy among men, the grounds of which are virtue and talents. You very justly indulge a little merriment upon this solemn subject of aristocracy. I often laugh at it too, for there is nothing in this laughable world more ridiculous than the management of it by all the nations of the earth ; but while we smile, mankind have reason to say to us, as the frogs said to the boys, what is sport to you, are wounds and death to us. When I consider the weakness, the folly, the pride, the vanity, the selfishness, the artifice, the low craft and mean cunning, the want of principle, the avarice, the unbounded ambition, the unfeeling cruelty of a majority of those (in all nations) who are allowed an aristocratical influence, and, on the other hand, the stupidity with which the more numerous multitude not only become their dupes, but even love to be taken in by their tricks, I feel a stronger disposition to weep at their destiny, than to laugh at their folly. But though we have agreed in one point, in words, it is not yet certain that we are perfectly agreed in sense. Fashion has introduced an indeterminate use of the word talents. Education, wealth, strength, beauty, stature, birth, marriage, graceful attitudes and motions, gait, air, complexion, physiognomy, are talents, as well as genius, science, and learning. Any one of these talents that in fact commands or influences two votes in society, gives to the man who possesses it the character of an aristocrat, in my sense of the word. Pick up the first hundred men you meet, and make a republic. Every man will have an equal vote ; but when deliberations and discussions are opened, it will be found that twenty-five, by their talents, virtues being equal, will be able to carry fifty votes. Every one of these twenty-five is an aristocrat in my sense of the word ; whether he obtains his one vote in addition to his own, by his birth, fortune, figure, eloquence, science, learning, craft, cunning, or even his character for good fellowship, and a bon vivant.
What gave Sir William Wallace his amazing aristocratical superiority ? His strength. What gave Mrs. Clark her aristocratical influenceto create generals, admirals, and bishops ? Her beauty. What gave Pompadour and Du Barry the power of making cardinals and popes ? And I have lived for years in the Hotel de Valentinois, with Franklin, who had as many virtues as any of them. In the investigation of the meaning of the word talents, I could write 630 pages as pertinent as John Taylors, of Hazlewood ; but I will select a single example ; for female aristocrats are nearly as formidable as males. A daughter of a greengrocer walks the streets in London daily, with a basket of cabbage sprouts, dandelions, and spinach, on her head. She is observed by the painters to have a beautiful face, an elegant figure, a graceful step, and a debonair. They hire her to sit. She complies, and is painted by forty artists in a circle around her. The scientific Dr. William Hamilton outbids the painters, sends her to school for a genteel education, and marries her. This lady not only causes the triumphs of the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar, but separates Naples from France, and finally banishes the king and queen from Sicily. Such is the aristocracy of the natural talent of beauty. Millions of examples might be quoted from history, sacred and profane, from Eve, Hannah, Deborah, Susanna, Abigail, Judith, Ruth, down to Helen, Mrs. de Mainbenon, and Mrs. Fitzherbert. For mercys sake do not compel me to look to our chaste States and territories to find women, one of whom let go would in the words of Holophernes guards, deceive the whole earth.
The proverbs of Theognis, like those of Solomon, are observations on human nature, ordinary life, and civil society, with moral reflections on the facts. I quoted him as a witness of the fact, that there was as much difference in the races of men as in the breeds of sheep, and as a sharp reprover and censurer of the sordid, mercenary practice of disgracing birth by preferring gold to it. Surely no authority can be more expressly in point to prove the existence of inequalities, not of rights, but of moral, intellectual, and physical inequalities in families, descents and generations. If a descent from pious, virtuous, wealthy, literary, or scientific ancestors, is a letter of recommendation, or introduction in a mans favor, and enables him to influence only one vote in addition to his own, he is an aristocrat; for a democrat can have but one vote. Aaron Burr has 100,000 votes from the single circumstance of his descent from President Burr and President Edwards.
Your commentary on the proverbs of Theognis, reminded me of two solemn characters ; the one resembling John Bunyan, the other Scarron. The one John Torrey, the other Ben Franklin. Torrey, a poet, an enthusiast, a superstitious bigot, once very gravely asked my brother, whether it would not be better for mankind if children were always begotten by religious motives only ? Would not religion in this sad case have as little efficacy in encouraging procreation, as it has now in discouraging it ? I should apprehend a decrease of population, even in our country where it increases so rapidly.
In 1775, Franklin made a morning visit at Mrs. Yards, to Sam Adams and John. He was unusually loquacious. Man, a rational creature ! said Franklin. Come, let us suppose a rational man. Strip him of all his appetites, especially his hunger and thirst. He is in his chamber, engaged in making experiments, or in pursuing some problem. He is highly entertained. At this moment a servant knocks. Sir, dinner is on the table. Dinner ! pox ! pough ! but what have you for dinner ? Ham and chickens. Ham ! and must I break the chain of my thoughts to go down and gnaw a morsel of damned hogs arse ? Put aside your ham ; I will dine to-morrow. Take away appetite, and the present generation would not live a month, and no future generation would ever exist; and thus the exalted dignity of human nature would be annihilated and lost, and in my opinion the whole loss would be of no more importance than putting out a candle, quenching a torch, or crushing a firefly, if in this world we only have hope. Your distinction between natural and artificial aristocracy, does not appear to me founded. Birth and wealth are conferred upon some men as imperiously by nature as genius, strength, or beauty. The heir to honors, and riches, and power, has often no more merit in procuring these advantages, than he has in obtaining a handsome face, or an elegant figure. When aristocracies are established by human laws, and honor, wealth and power are made hereditary by municipal laws and political institutions, then I acknowledge artificial aristocracy to commence ; but this never commences till corruption in elections become dominant and uncontrollable. But this artificial aristocracy can never last. The everlasting envies, jealousies, rivalries, and quarrels among them; their cruel rapacity upon the poor ignorant people, their followers, compel them to set up Cæsar, a demagogue, to be a monarch, a master; pour mettre chacun à sa place. Here you have the origin of all artificial aristocracy, which is the origin of all monarchies. And both artificial aristocracy and monarchy, and civil, military, political, and hierarchical despotism, have all grown out of the natural aristocracy of virtues and talents. We, to be sure, are far remote from this. Many hundred years must roll away before we shall be corrupted. Our pure, virtuous, public-spirited, federative republic will last forever, govern the globe, and introduce the perfection of man ; his perfectibility being already proved by Price, Priestley, Condorcet, Rousseau, Diderot, and Godwin. Mischief has been done by the Senate of the United States. I have known and felt more of this mischief, than Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, all together. But this has been all caused by the constitutional power of the Senate, in executive business, which ought to be immediately, totally, and essentially abolished. Your distinction between the (Greek inserted here) and (Greek inserted here), will not help the matter. I would trust one as well as the other with unlimited power. The law wisely refuses an oath as a witness in his own case, to the saint as well as the sinner. No romance would be more amusing than the history of your Virginian and our New England aristocratical families. Yet even in Rhode Island there has been no clergy, no church, and I had almost said no State, and some people say no religion. There has been a constant respect for certain old families. Fifty-seven or fifty-eight years ago, in company with Colonel, Counsellor, Judge, John Chandler, whom I have quoted before, a newspaper was brought in. The old sage asked me to look for the news from Rhode Island, and see how the elections had gone there. I read the list of Wanbous, Watrous, Greens, Whipples, Malboues, &c. I expected as much said the aged gentleman, for I have always been of opinion that in the most popular governments, the elections will generally go in favor of the most ancient families. To this day, when any of these tribesand we may add Ellerys, Channings, Champlins, &c.,are pleased to fall in with the popular current, they are sure to carry all before them.
You suppose a difference of opinion between you and me on the subject of aristocracy. I can find none. I dislike and detest hereditary honors, offices, emoluments, established by law. So do you. I am for excluding legal, hereditary distinctions from the United States as long as possible. So are you. I only say that mankind have not yet discovered any remedy against irresistible corruption in elections to offices of great power and profit, but making them hereditary.
But will you say our elections are pure ? Be it so, upon the whole ; but do you recollect in history a more corrupt election than that of Aaron Burr to be President, or that of De Witt Clinton last year ? By corruption here, I mean a sacrifice of every national interest and honor to private and party objects. I see the same spirit in Virginia that you and I see in Rhode Island and the rest of New England. In New York it is a struggle of family feudsa feudal aristocracy. Pennsylvania is a contest between German, Irish and Old England families. When Germans and Irish unite they give 30,000 majorities. There is virtually a white rose and a red rose, a Cæsar and a Pompey, in every State in this Union, and contests and dissensions will be as lasting. The rivalry of Bourbons and Noailleses produced the French Revolution, and a similar competition for consideration and influence exists and prevails in every village in the world. Where will terminate the rabies agri ? The continent will be scattered over with manors much larger than Livingstons, Van Rensselaers or Philipss ; even our Deacon Strong will have a principality among you southern folk. What inequality of talents will be produced by these land jobbers. Where tends the mania of banks ? At my table in Philadelphia, I once proposed to you to unite in endeavors to obtain an amendment of the Constitution prohibiting to the separate States the power of creating banks ; but giving Congress authority to establish one bank with a branch in each State, the whole limited to ten millions of dollars. Whether this project was wise or unwise, I know not, for I had deliberated little on it then, and have never thought it worth thinking of since. But you spurned the proposition from you with disdain. This system of banks, begotten, brooded and hatched by Duer, Robert and Gouverneur Morris, Hamilton and Washington, I have always considered as a system of national injustice. A sacrifice of public and private interest to a few aristocratical friends and favorites. My scheme could have had no such effect. Verres plundered temples, and robbed a few rich men, but he never made such ravages among private property in general, nor swindled so much out of the pockets of the poor, and middle class of people, as these banks have done. No people but this would have borne the imposition so long. The people of Ireland would not bear Woods halfpence. What inequalities of talent have been introduced into this country by these aristocratical banks ! Our Winthrops, Winslows, Bradfords, Saltonstalls, Quinceys, Chandlers, Leonards, Hutchinsons, Olivers, Sewalls, &c., are precisely in the situation of your Randolphs, Carters, and Burwells, and Harrisons. Some of them unpopular for the part they took in the late Revolution, but all respected for their names and connections; and whenever they fell in with the popular sentiments are preferred, ceteris paribus, to all others. When I was young the summum bonum in Massachusetts was to be worth 10,000 pounds sterling, ride in a chariot, be colonel of a regiment of militia, and hold a seat in his Majestys council. No mans imagination aspired to anything higher beneath the skies. But these plumbs, chariots, colonelships, and counsellorships, are recorded and will never be forgotten. No great accumulations of land were made by our early settlers. Mr. Baudoin, a French refugee, made the first great purchases, and your General Dearborn, born under a fortunate star, is now enjoying a large portion of the aristocratical sweets of them. As I have no amanuenses but females, and there is so much about generation in this letter that I dare not ask any of them to copy it, and I cannot copy it myself, I must beg of you to return it to me. Your old friend.
I will not fatigue you, my dear Sir, with long and labored excuses for having been so tardy in writing to you; but I will briefly mention that the thousand hostile ships which cover the ocean render attempts to pass it now very unfrequent, and these concealing their intentions from all, that they may not be known to the enemy, are gone before heard of in such inland situations as mine. To this, truth must add the torpidity of age as one of the obstacles to punctual correspondence.
Your letters of October 21 and November 15, 1811, and August 29, 1813, were duly received, and with that of November 15 came the MS. copy of your work on Economy. The extraordinary merit of the former volume had led me to anticipate great satisfaction and edification from the perusal of this, and I can say with truth and sincerity that these expectations were completely fulfilled, new principles developed, former ones corrected, or rendered more perspicuous, present us an interesting science, heretofore voluminous and embarrassed, now happily simplified and brought within a very moderate compass. After an attentive perusal, which enabled me to bear testimony to its worth, I took measures for getting it translated and printed in Philadelphia; the distance from which place prepared me to expect great and unavoidable delays. But notwithstanding my continual urgencies these have gone far beyond my calculations. In a letter of September 26th from the editor, in answer to one of mine, after urging in excuse the causes of the delay, he expresses his confidence that it would be ready by the last of October, and that period being now past, I am in daily expectation of hearing from him. As I write the present letter without knowing by what conveyance it may go, I am not without a hope of receiving a copy of the work in time to accompany this. I shall then be anxious to learn that better health and more encouraging circumstances enable you to pursue your plan through the two remaining branches of morals and legislation, which executed in the same lucid, logical and condensed style, will present such a whole as the age we live in will not before have received. Should the same motives operate for their first publication here, I am now offered such means, nearer to me, as promise a more encouraging promptitude in the execution. And certainly no effort should be spared on my part to ensure to the world such an acquisition. The MS. of the first work has been carefully recalled and deposited with me. That of the second, when done with, shall be equally taken care of.
If unmerited praise could give pleasure to a candid mind, I should have been highly exalted, in my own opinion, on the occasion of the first work. One of the best judges and best men of the age has ascribed it to myself ; and has for some time been employed in translating it into French. It would be a gratification to which you are highly entitled, could I transcribe the sheets he has written me in praise, nay in rapture with the work ; and were I to name the man, you would be sensible there is not another whose suffrage would be more encouraging. But the casualties which lie between us would render criminal the naming any one. In a letter which I am now writing him, I shall set him right as to myself, and acknowledge my humble station far below the qualifications necessary for that work; and shall discourage his perseverance in retranslating into French a work the original of which is so correct in its diction that not a word can be altered but for the worse; and from a translation, too, where the authors meaning has sometimes been illy understood, sometimes mistaken, and often expressed in words not the best chosen. Indeed, when the work, through its translation, becomes more generally known here, the high estimation in which it is held by all who become acquainted with it, encourages me to hope I may get it printed in the original. I sent a copy of it to the late President of William and Mary College of this State, who adopted it at once as the elementary book of that institution. From these beginnings it will spread and become a political gospel for a nation open to reason, and in a situation to adopt and profit by its results, without a fear of their leading to wrong.
I sincerely wish you all the health, comfort and leisure necessary to dispose and enable you to persevere in employing yourself so useful for present and future times, and I pray you to be assured you have not a more grateful votary for your benefactions to mankind, nor one of higher sentiments of esteem and affectionate respect.
Dear Sir,The proverbs of the old Greek poets are as short and pithy as any of Solomon or Franklin. Hesiod has several. His (Greek inserted here ). Honor the gods established by law. I know not how we can escape martyrdom without a discreet attention to this precept. You have suffered, and I have suffered more than you, for want of a strict observance of this rule.
There is another oracle of this Hesiod, which requires a kind of dance upon a tight rope and a slack rope too, in philosophy and theology : (Greek inserted here ). If believing too little or too much is so fatal to mankind, what will become of us all ?
In studying the perfectibility of human nature and its progress towards perfection in this world, on this earth, remember that I have met many curious and interesting characters.
About three hundred years ago, there appeared a number of men of letters, who appeared to endeavor to believe neither too little nor too much. They labored to imitate the Hebrew archers, who could shoot to an hairs breadth. The Pope and his church believed too much. Luther and his church believed too little. This little band was headed by three great scholars : Erasmus, Vives and Badens. This triumvirate is said to have been at the head of the republic of letters in that age. Had Condorcet been master of his subject, I fancy he would have taken more notice, in his History of the Progress of Mind, of these characters. Have you their writings ? I wish I had. I shall confine myself at present to Vives. He wrote commentaries on the City of God of St. Augustine, some parts of which were censured by the Doctors of the Louvain, as too bold and too free. I know not whether the following passage of the learned Spaniard was among the sentiments condemned or not :
I have been much afflicted, says Vives, when I have seriously considered how diligently, and with what exact care, the actions of Alexander, Hannibal, Scipio, Pompey, Cæsar and other commanders, and the lives of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers, have been written and fixed in an everlasting remembrance, so that there is not the least danger they can ever be lost ; but then the acts of the Apostles, and martyrs and saints of our religion, and of the affairs of the rising and established church, being involved in much darkness, are almost totally unknown, though they are of so much greater advantage than the lives of the philosophers or great generals, both as to the improvement of our knowledge and practice. For what is written of these holy men, except a very few things, is very much corrupted and defaced with the mixture of many fables, while the writer, indulging his own humor, doth not tell us what the saint did, but what the historian would have had him do. And the fancy of the writer dictates the life and not the truth of things. And again Vives says : There have been men who have thought it a great piece of piety, to invent lies for the sake of religion.
The great Cardinal Barronius, too, confesses : There is nothing which seems so much neglected to this day, as a true and certain account of the affairs of the church, collected with an exact diligence. And that I may speak of the more ancient, it is very difficult to find any of them who have published commentaries on this subject, which have hit the truth in all points.
Canus, too, another Spanish prelate of great name, says : I speak it with grief and not by way of reproach, Laertius has written the lives of the philosophers with more ease and industry than the Christians have those of the saints. Suetonius has represented the lives of the Cæsars with much more truth and sincerity than the Catholics have the affairs (I will not say of the emperors) but even those of the martyrs, holy virgins and confessors. For they have not concealed the vice nor the very suspicions of vice, in good and commendable philosophers or princes, and in the worst of them they discover the very colors or appearances of virtue. But the greatest part of our writers either follow the conduct of their affections, or industriously feign many things; so that I, for my part, am very often both weary and ashamed of them, because I know that they have thereby brought nothing of advantage to the church of Christ, but very much inconvenience. Vives and Canus are moderns, but Arnobius, the converter of Lætantius, was ancient. He says : But neither could all that was done be written, or arrive at the knowledge of all menmany of our great actions being done by obscure men and those who had no knowledge of letters. And if some of them are committed to letters and writings, yet even here, by the malice of the devils and men like them, whose great design and study is to intercept and ruin this truth, by interpolating or adding some things to them, or by changing or taking out words, syllables or letters, they have put a stop to the faith of wise men, and corrupted the truth of things.
Indeed, Mr. Jefferson, what could be invented to debase the ancient Christianism, which Greeks, Romans, Hebrews and Christian factions, above all the Catholics, have not fraudulently imposed upon the public ? Miracles after miracles have rolled down in torrents, wave succeeding wave in the Catholic church, from the Council of Nice, and long before, to this day.
Aristotle, no doubt, thought his (Greek inserted here), very wise and very profound ; but what is its worth ? What man, woman or child ever believed everything or nothing ? Oh ! that Priestley could live again, and have leisure and means ! An inquirer after truth, who had neither time nor means, might request him to search and re-search for answers to a few questions :
1. Have we more than two witnesses of the life of JesusMatthew and John ?
2. Have we one witness to the existence of Matthews gospel in the first century ?
3. Have we one witness of the existence of Johns gospel in the first century ?
4. Have we one witness of the existence of Marks gospel in the first century ?
5. Have we one witness of the existence of Lukes gospel in the first century ?
6. Have we any witness of the existence of St. Thomas gospel, that is the gospel of the infancy, in the first century ?
7. Have we any evidence of the existence of the Acts of the Apostles in the first century ?
8. Have we any evidence of the existence of the supplement to the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, or Paul and Tecle, in the first century ?
Here I was interrupted by a new book, Chateaubriands Travels in Greece, Palestine and Egypt, and by a lung fever with which the amiable companion of my life has been violently and dangerously attacked.
December 13th. I have fifty more questions to put to Priestley, but must adjourn them to a future opportunity. I have read Chateaubriand with as much delight as I ever read Bunyans Pilgrims Progress, Robinson Crusoes Travels or Gullivers, or Whitefields or Wesleys Life, or the Life of St. Francis, St. Anthony, or St. Ignatius Loyola. A work of infinite learning, perfectly well written, a magazine of information, but enthusiastic, bigoted, superstitious, Roman Catholic throughout. If I were to indulge in jealous criticism and conjecture, I should suspect that there had been an Ecumenical council of Popes, Cardinals and Bishops, and that this traveller has been employed at their expense to make this tour, to lay a foundation for the resurrection of the Catholic Hierarchy in Europe.
Have you read La Harpes Cours de Literature, in fifteen volumes ? Have you read St. Pierres Studies of Nature ?
I am now reading the controversy between Voltaire and Monotte.
Our friend Rush has given us for his last legacy, an analysis of some of the diseases of the mind.
Johnson said, We are all more or less mad and who is or has been more mad than Johnson ?
I know of no philosopher, or theologian, or moralist, ancient or modern, more profound, more infallible than Whitefield, if the anecdote I heard be true.
He began : Father Abraham, with his hands and eyes gracefully directed to the heavens, as I have more than once seen him ; Father Abraham whom have you there with you ? Have you Catholics ? No. Have you Protestants ? No. Have you Churchmen ? No. Have you Dissenters ? No. Have you Presbyterians ? No. Quakers ? No. Anabaptists ? No. Whom have you there ? Are you alone ? No.
My brethren, you have the answer to all these questions in the words of my text : He who feareth God and worketh righteousness, shall be accepted of Him.
Allegiance to the Creator and Governor of the Milky-Way, and the Nebulæ, and benevolence to all His creatures, is my Religion.
Si quid novisti rectius istis, candidus imperti.
I am as ever.
I have to acknowledge your two letters of December 20 and 26, 1811, by Mr. Correa, and am first to thank you for making me acquainted with that most excellent character. He was so kind as to visit me at Monticello, and I found him one of the most learned and amiable of men. It was a subject of deep regret to separate from so much worth in the moment of its becoming known to us.
The livraison of your astronomical observations, and the 6th and 7th on the subject of New Spain, with the corresponding atlases, are duly received, as had been the preceding cahiers. For these treasures of a learning so interesting to us, accept my sincere thanks. I think it most fortunate that your travels in those countries were so timed as to make them known to the world in the moment they were about to become actors on its stage. That they will throw off their European dependence I have no doubt ; but in what kind of government their revolution will end I am not so certain. History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. The vicinity of New Spain to the United States, and their consequent intercourse, may furnish schools for the higher, and example for the lower classes of their citizens. And Mexico, where we learn from you that men of science are not wanting, may revolutionize itself under better auspices than the Southern provinces. These last, I fear, must end in military despotisms. The different castes of their inhabitants, their mutual hatreds and jealousies, their profound ignorance and bigotry, will be played off by cunning leaders, and each be made the instrument of enslaving the others. But of all this you can best judge, for in truth we have little knowledge of them to be depended on, but through you. But in whatever governments they end they will be American governments, no longer to be involved in the never-ceasing broils of Europe. The European nations constitute a separate division of the globe; their localities make them part of a distinct system ; they have a set of interests of their own in which it is our business never to engage ourselves. America has a hemisphere to itself. It must have its separate system of interests, which must not be subordinated to those of Europe. The insulated state in which nature has placed the American continent, should so far avail it that no spark of war kindled in the other quarters of the globe should be wafted across the wide oceans which separate us from them. And it will be so. In fifty years more the United States alone will contain fifty millions of inhabitants, and fifty years are soon gone over. The peace of 1763 is within that period. I was then twenty years old, and of course remember well all the transactions of the war preceding it. And you will live to see the epoch now equally ahead of us ; and the numbers which will then be spread over the other parts of the American hemisphere, catching long before that the principles of our portion of it, and concurring with us in the maintenance of the same system. You see how readily we run into ages beyond the grave; and even those of us to whom that grave is already opening its quiet bosom. I am anticipating events of which you will be the bearer to me in the Elysian fields fifty years hence.
You know, my friend, the benevolent plan we were pursuing here for the happiness of the aboriginal inhabitants in our vicinities. We spared nothing to keep them at peace with one another. To teach them agriculture and the rudiments of the most necessary arts, and to encourage industry by establishing among them separate property. In this way they would have been enabled to subsist and multiply on a moderate scale of landed possession. They would have mixed their blood with ours, and been amalgamated and identified with us within no distant period of time. On the commencement of our present war, we pressed on them the observance of peace and neutrality, but the interested and unprincipled policy of England has defeated all our labors for the salvation of these unfortunate people. They have seduced the greater part of the tribes within our neighborhood, to take up the hatchet against us, and the cruel massacres they have committed on the women and children of our frontiers taken by surprise, will oblige us now to pursue them to extermination, or drive them to new seats beyond our reach. Already we have driven their patrons and seducers into Montreal, and the opening season will force them to their last refuge, the walls of Quebec. We have cut off all possibility of intercourse and of mutual aid, and may pursue at our leisure whatever plan we find necessary to secure ourselves against the future effects of their savage and ruthless warfare. The confirmed brutalization, if not the extermination of this race in our America, is therefore to form an additional chapter in the English history of the same colored man in Asia, and of the brethren of their own color in Ireland, and wherever else Anglo-mercantile cupidity can find a two-penny interest in deluging the earth with human blood. But let us turn from the loathsome contemplation of the degrading effects of commercial avarice.
That their Arrowsmith should have stolen your Map of Mexico, was in the piratical spirit of his country. But I should be sincerely sorry if our Pike has made an ungenerous use of your candid communications here ; and the more so as he died in the arms of victory gained over the enemies of his country. Whatever he did was on a principle of enlarging knowledge, and not for filthy shillings and pence of which he made none from that work. If what he has borrowed has any effect it will be to excite an appeal in his readers from his defective information to the copious volumes of it with which you have enriched the world. I am sorry he omitted even to acknowledge the source of his information. It has been an oversight, and not at all in the spirit of his generous nature. Let me solicit your forgiveness then of a deceased hero, of an honest and zealous patriot, who lived and died for his country.
You will find it inconceivable that Lewiss journey to the Pacific should not yet have appeared; nor is it in my power to tell you the reason. The measures taken by his surviving companion, Clarke, for the publication, have not answered our wishes in poin of despatch. I think, however, from what I have heard, that the mere journal will be out within a few weeks in two volumes 8vo. These I will take care to send you with the tobacco seed you desired, if it be possible for them to escape the thousand ships of our enemies spread over the ocean. The botanical and zoological discoveries of Lewis will probably experience greater delay, and become known to the world through other channels before that volume will be ready. The Atlas, I believe, waits on the leisure of the engraver.
Although I do not know whether you are now at Paris or ranging the regions of Asia to acquire more knowledge for the use of men, I cannot deny myself the gratification of an endeavor to recall myself to your recollection, and of assuring you of my constant attachment, and of renewing to you the just tribute of my affectionate esteem and high respect and consideration.
While at war, my dear Madame and friend, with the leviathan of the ocean, there is little hope of a letter escaping his thousand ships ; yet I cannot permit myself longer to withhold the acknowledgment of your letter of June 28 of the last year, with which came the memoirs of the Margrave of Bareuth. I am much indebted to you for this singular morsel of history which has given us a certain view of kings, queens and princes, disrobed of their formalities. It is a peep into the state of the Egyptian god Apis. It would not be easy to find grosser manners, coarser vices, or more meanness in the poorest huts of our peasantry. The princess shows herself the legitimate sister of Frederic, cynical, selfish, and without a heart. Notwithstanding your wars with England, I presume you get the publications of that country. The memoirs of Mrs. Clarke and of her darling prince, and the book, emphatically so called, because it is the Biblia Sacra Deorum et Dearum sub-coelestium, the Prince Regent, his Princess and the minor deities of his sphere, form a worthy sequel to the memoirs of Bareuth; instead of the vulgarity and penury of the court of Berlin, giving us the vulgarity and profusion of that of London, and the gross stupidity and profligacy of the latter, in lieu of the genius and misanthropism of the former. The whole might be published as a supplement to M. de Buffon, under the title of the Natural History of Kings and Princes, or as a separate work and called Medicine for Monarchists. The Intercepted Letters, a later English publication of great wit and humor, has put them to their proper use by holding them up as butts for the ridicule and contempt of mankind. Yet by such worthless beings is a great nation to be governed and even made to deify their old king because he is only a fool and a maniac, and to forgive and forget his having lost to them a great and flourishing empire, added nine hundred millions sterling to their debt, for which the fee simple of the whole island would not sell, if offered farm by farm at public auction, and increased their annual taxes from eight to seventy millions sterling, more than the whole rent-roll of the island. What must be the dreary prospect from the son when such a father is deplored as a national loss. But let us drop these odious beings and pass to those of an higher order, the plants of the field. I am afraid I have given you a great deal more trouble than I intended by my inquiries for the Maronnier or Castanea Saliva, of which I wished to possess my own country, without knowing how rare its culture was even in yours. The two plants which your researches have placed in your own garden, it will be all but impossible to remove hither. The war renders their safe passage across the Atlantic extremely precarious, and, if landed anywhere but in the Chesapeake, the risk of the additional voyage along the coast to Virginia, is still greater. Under these circumstances it is better they should retain their present station, and compensate to you the trouble they have cost you.
I learn with great pleasure the success of your new gardens at Auenay. No occupation can be more delightful or useful. They will have the merit of inducing you to forget those of Chaville. With the botanical riches which you mention to have been derived to England from New Holland, we are as yet unacquainted. Lewiss journey across our continent to the Pacific has added a number of new plants to our former stock. Some of them are curious, some ornamental, some useful, and some may by culture be made acceptable on our tables. I have growing, which I destine for you, a very handsome little shrub of the size of a currant bush. Its beauty consists in a great produce of berries of the size of currants, and literally as white as snow, which remain on the bush through the winter, after its leaves have fallen, and make it an object as singular as it is beautiful. We call it the snow-berry bush, no botanical name being yet given to it, but I do not know why we might not call it Chionicoccos, or Kallicoccos. All Lewiss plants are growing in the garden of Mr. McMahon, a gardener of Philadelphia, to whom I consigned them, and from whom I shall have great pleasure, when peace is restored, in ordering for you any of these or of our other indigenous plants. The port of Philadelphia has great intercourse with Bordeaux and Nantes, and some little perhaps with Havre. I was mortified not long since by receiving a letter from a merchant in Bordeaux, apologizing for having suffered a box of plants addressed by me to you, to get accidentally covered in his warehouse by other objects, and to remain three years undiscovered, when every thing in it was found to be rotten. I have learned occasionally that others rotted in the warehouses of the English pirates. We are now settling that account with them. We have taken their Upper Canada and shall add the Lower to it when the season will admit; and hope to remove them fully and finally from our continent. And what they will feel more, for they value their colonies only for the bales of cloth they take from them, we have established manufactures, not only sufficient to supersede our demand from them, but to rivalize them in foreign markets. But for the course of our war I will refer you to M. de Lafayette, to whom I state it more particularly.
Our friend Mr. Short is well. He makes Philadelphia his winter quarters, and New York, or the country, those of the summer. In his fortune he is perfectly independent and at ease, and does not trouble himself with the party politics of our country. Will you permit me to place here for M. de Tessé the testimony of my high esteem and respect, and accept for yourself an assurance of the warm recollections I retain of your many civilities and courtesies to me, and the homage of my constant and affectionate attachment and respect.
Dear Sir,I have had the pleasure of receiving several letters from you, covering printed propositions and pamphlets on the state of your affairs, and all breathing the genuine sentiments of order, liberty and philanthropy, with which I know you to be sincerely inspired. We learn little to be depended on here as to your civil proceedings, or of the division of sentiments among you; but in this absence of information I have made whatever you propose the polar star of my wishes. What is to be the issue of your present struggles we here cannot judge. But we sincerely wish it may be what is best for the happiness and re-invigoration of your country. That its divorce from its American colonies, which is now unavoidable, will be a great blessing, it is impossible not to pronounce on a review of what Spain was when she acquired them, and of her gradual descent from that proud eminence to the condition in which her present war found her. Nature has formed that peninsula to be the second, and why not the first nation in Europe ? Give equal habits of energy to the bodies, and of science to the minds of her citizens, and where could her superior be found ? The most advantageous relation in which she can stand with her American colonies is that of independent friendship, secured by the ties of consanguinity, sameness of language, religion, manners, and habits, and certain from the influence of these, of a preference in her commerce, if, instead of the eternal irritations, thwartings, machinations against their new governments, the insults and aggressions which Great Britain has so unwisely practised towards us, to force us to hate her against our natural inclinations, Spain yields, like a genuine parent, to the forisfamiliation of her colonies, now at maturity, if she extends to them her affections, her aid, her patronage in every court and country, it will weave a bond of union indissoluble by time. We are in a state of semi-warfare with your adjoining colonies, the Floridas. We do not consider this as affecting our peace with Spain or any other of her former possessions. We wish her and them well ; and under her present difficulties at home, and her doubtful future relations with her colonies, both wisdom and interest will, I presume, induce her to leave them to settle themselves the quarrels they draw on themselves from their neighbors. The commanding officers in the Floridas have excited and armed the neighboring savages to war against us, and to murder and scalp many of our women and children as well as men, taken by surprisepoor creatures ! They have paid for it with the loss of the flower of their strength, and have given us the right, as we possess the power, to exterminate or to expatriate, them beyond the Mississippi. This conduct of the Spanish officers will probably oblige us to take possession of the Floridas, and the rather as we believe the English will otherwise seize them, and use them as stations to distract and annoy us. But should we possess ourselves of them, and Spain retain her other colonies in this hemisphere, I presume we shall consider them in our hands as subjects of negotiation.
We are now at the close of our second campaign with England. During the first we suffered several checks, from the want of capable and tried officers; all the higher ones of the Revolution having died off during an interval of thirty years of peace. But this second campaign has been more successful, having given us all the lakes and country of Upper Canada, except the single post of Kingston, at its lower extremity. The two immediate causes of the war were the orders of council, and impressment of our seamen. The first having been removed after we had declared war, the war is continued for the second; and a third has been generated by their conduct during the war, in exciting the Indian hordes to murder and scalp the women and children on our frontier. This renders peace forever impossible but on the establishment of such a meridian boundary to their possessions, as that they never more can have such influence with the savages as to excite again the same barbarities. The thousand ships, too, they took from us in peace, and the six thousand seamen impressed, call for this indemnification. On the water we have proved to the world the error of their invincibility, and shown that with equal force and well-trained officers, they can be beaten by other nations as brave as themselves. Their lying officers and printers will give to Europe very different views of the state of their war with us. But you will see now, as in the Revolutionary war, that they will lie, and conquer themselves out of all their possessions on this continent.
I pray for the happiness of your nation, and that it may be blessed with sound views and successful measures, under the difficulties in which it is involved; and especially that they may know the value of your counsels, and to yourself I tender the assurances of my high respect and esteem.
Dear Sir,Answer my letters at your leisure. Give yourself no concern. I write as for a refuge and protection against ennui.
The fundamental principle of all philosophy and all Christianity, is Rejoice always in all things !" Be thankful at all times for all good, and all that we call evil. Will it not follow that I ought to rejoice and be thankful that Priestley has lived ? That Gibbon has lived ? That Hume has lived though a conceited Scotchman ? That Bolingbroke has lived, though a haughty, arrogant, supercilious dogmatist ? That Burke and Johnson have lived, though superstitious slaves, or self-deceiving hypocrites, both ? Is it not laughable to hear Burke call Bolingbroke a superficial writer ? To hear him ask : Who ever read him through ? Had I been present, I would have answered him, I, I myself, I have read him through more than fifty years ago, and more than five times in my life, and once within five years past. And in my opinion, the epithet superficial, belongs to you and your friend Johnson more than to him.
I might say much more. But I believe Burke and Johnson to have been as political Christians as Leo Tenth.
I return to Priestley, though I have great complaints against him for personal injuries and persecution, at the same time that I forgive it all, and hope and pray that he may be pardoned for it all above.
Dr. Brocklesby, an intimate friend and convivial companion of Johnson, told me that Johnson died in agonies of horror of annihilation ; and all the accounts we have of his death, corroborate this account of Brocklesby. Dread of annihilation ! Dread of nothing ! A dread of nothing, I should think, would be no dread at all. Can there be any real, substantial, rational fear of nothing ? Were you on your death-bed, and in your last moments informed by demonstration of revelation, that you would cease to think and to feel, at your dissolution, should you be terrified ? You might be ashamed of yourself for having lived so long to bear the proud mans contumely. You might be ashamed of your Maker, and compare Him to a little girl, amusing herself, her brothers and sisters, by blowing bubbles in soap-suds. You might compare Him to boys sporting with crackers and rockets, or to men employed in making mere artificial fire-works, or to men and women at fairs and operas, or Sadlers Wells exploits, or to politicians in their intrigues, or to heroes in their butcheries, or to Popes in their devilisms. But what should you fear ? Nothing. Emori nolo, sed me mortuum esse nihil estimo.
To return to Priestley. You could make a more luminous book than his, upon the doctrines of heathen philosophers compared with those of revelation. Why has he not given us a more satisfactory account of the Pythagorean Philosophy and Theology ? He barely names Œileus, who lived long before Plato. His treatise of kings and monarchy has been destroyed, I conjecture, by Platonic Philosophers, Platonic Jews or Christians, or by fraudulent republicans or despots. His treatise of the universe has been preserved. He labors to prove the eternity of the world. The Marquis DArgens translated it, in all its noble simplicity. The Abbé Batteaux has since given another translation. DArgens not only explains the text, but sheds more light upon the ancient systems. His remarks are so many treatises, which develop the concatenation of ancient opinions. The most essential ideas of the theology, of the physics, and of the morality of the ancients are clearly explained, and their different doctrines compared with one another and with the modern discoveries. I wish I owned this book and one hundred thousand more that I want every day, now when I am almost incapable of making any use of them. No doubt he informs us that Pythagoras was a great traveller. Priestley barely mentions Timoeus, but it does not appear that he had read him. Why has he not given us an account of him and his book ? He was before Plato, and gave him the idea of his Timoeus, and much more of his philosophy.
After his master, he maintained the existence of matter ; that matter was capable of receiving all sorts of forms; that a moving power agitated all the parts of it, and that an intelligence produced a regular and harmonious world. This intelligence had seen a plan, an idea (Logos) in conformity to which it wrought, and without which it would not have known what it was about, nor what it wanted to do. This plan was the idea, image or model which had represented to the Supreme Intelligence the world before it existed, which had directed it in its action upon the moving power, and which it contemplated in forming the elements, the bodies and the world. This model was distinguished from the intelligence which produced the world, as the architect is from his plans. He divided the productive cause of the world into a spirit which directed the moving force, and into an image which determined it in the choice of the directions which it gave to the moving force, and the forms which it gave to matter. I wonder that Priestley has overlooked this, because it is the same philosophy with Platos, and would have shown that the Pythagorean as well as the Platonic philosophers probably concurred in the fabrication of the Christian Trinity. Priestley mentions the name of Achylas, but does not appear to have read him, though he was a successor of Pythagoras, and a great mathematician, a great statesman and a great general. John Gram, a learned and honorable Dane, has given a handsome edition of his works, with a Latin translation and an ample account of his life and writings. Zaleucus, the Legislator of Locris, and Charondas of Sybaris, were disciples of Pythagoras, and both celebrated to immortality for the wisdom of their laws, five hundred years before Christ. Why are those laws lost ? I say the spirit of party has destroyed them; civil, political and ecclesiastical bigotry.
Despotical, monarchical, aristocratical and democratical fury have all been employed in this work of destruction of everything that could give us true light, and a clear insight of antiquity. For every one of these parties, when possessed of power, or when they have been undermost, and struggling to get uppermost, has been equally prone to every species of fraud and violence and usurpation.
Why has not Priestley mentioned these Legislators ? The preamble to the laws of Zaleucus, which is all that remains, is as orthodox Christian theology as Priestleys, and Christian benevolence and forgiveness of injuries almost as clearly expressed.
Priestley ought to have done impartial justice to philosophy and philosophers. Philosophy, which is the result of reason, is the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature, man. When this revelation is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it. Philosophy is not only the love of wisdom, but the science of the universe and its cause.
There is, there was, and there will be but one master of philosophy in the universe. Portions of it, in different degrees, are revealed to creatures.
Philosophy looks with an impartial eye on all terrestrial religions. I have examined all, as well as my narrow sphere, my straitened means and my busy life would allow me, and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen ; and such parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little philosophy, I postpone for future investigation.
Priestley ought to have given us a sketch of the religion and morals of Zoroaster, of Sanchoniathon, of Confucius, and all the founders of religions before Christ, whose superiority would, from such a com- parison, have appeared the more transcendent.
Priestley ought to have told us that Pythagoras passed twenty years in his travels in India, in Egypt, in Chaldea, perhaps in Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon. He ought to have told us that in India he conversed with the Brahmins, and read the Shasta, five thousand years old, written in the language of the sacred Sansosistes, with the elegance and sentiments of Plato. Where is to be found theology more orthodox, or philosophy more profound, than in the introduction to the Shasta ? God is one creator of all universal sphere, without beginning, without end. God governs all the creation by a general providence, resulting from his eternal designs. Search not the essence and the nature of the eternal, who is one ; your research will be vain and presumptuous. It is enough that, day by day, and night by night, you adore his power, his wisdom and his goodness, in his works. The eternal willed in the fullness of time, to communicate of his essence and of his splendor, to beings capable of perceiving it. They as yet existed not. The eternal willed and they were. He created Birma, Vitsnou and Siv. These doctrines, sublime, if ever there were any sublime, Pythagoras learned in India, and taught them to Zaleucus and his other disciples. He there learned also his metempsychosis, but this never was popular, never made much progress in Greece or Italy, or any other country besides India and Tartary, the region of the grand immortal Lama. And how does this differ from the possessions of demons in Greece and Rome ? from the demon of Socrates ? from the worship of cows and crocodiles in Egypt and elsewhere ?
After migrating through various animals, from elephants to serpents, according to their behavior, souls that at last behaved well, became men and women, and then if they were good, they went to heaven.
All ended in heaven, if they became virtuous. Who can wonder at the widow of Malabar ? Where is the lady, who, if her faith were without doubt that she should go to heaven with her husband on the one, or migrate into a toad or a wasp on the other, would not lie down on the pile, and set fire to the fuel ?
Modifications and disguises of the Metempsychosis, have crept into Egypt, and Greece, and Rome, and other countries. Have you read Farmer on the Daemons and possessions of the New Testament ? According to the Shasta, Moisasor, with his companions, rebelled against the Eternal, and were precipitated down to Ondoro, the region of darkness.
Do you know anything of the Prophecy of Enoch ? Can you give me a comment on the 6th, the 9th, the 14th verses of the epistle of Jude ?
If I am not weary of writing, I am sure you must be of reading such incoherent rattle. I will not persecute you so severely in future, if I can help it.