Dear Sir,Your letters of November the 30th and December the 21st have been, received with great pleasure. A truth now and then projecting into the ocean of newspaper lies, serves like headlands to correct our course. Indeed, my scepticism as to everything I see in a newspaper, makes me indifferent whether I ever see one. The embarrassments at Washington, in August last, I expected would be great in any state of things ; but they proved greater than expected. I never doubted that the plans of the President were wise and sufficient. Their failure we all impute, 1, to the insubordinate temper of Armstrong; and 2, to the indecision of Winder. However, it ends well. It mortifies ourselves, and so may check, perhaps, the silly boasting spirit of our newspapers, and it enlists the feelings of the world on our side ; and the advantage of public opinion is like that of the weather-gauge in a naval action. In Europe, the transient possession of our capital can be no disgrace. Nearly every capital there was in possession of its enemy; some often and long. But diabolical as they paint that enemy, he burnt neither public edifices nor private dwellings. It was reserved for England to show that Bonaparte, in atrocity, was an infant to their ministers and their generals. They are taking his place in the eyes of Europe, and have turned into our channel all its good will. This will be worth the million of dollars the repairs of their conflagration will cost us. I hope that to preserve this weather-gauge of public opinion, and to counteract the slanders and falsehoods disseminated by the English papers, the government will make it a standing instruction to their ministers at foreign courts, to keep Europe truly informed of occurrences here, by publishing in their papers the naked truth always, whether favorable or unfavorable. For they will believe the good, if we candidly tell them the bad also.
But you have two more serious causes of uneasiness; the want of men and money. For the former, nothing more wise or efficient could have been imagined than what you proposed. It would have filled our ranks with regulars, and that, too, by throwing a just share of the burden on the purses of those whose persons are exempt either by age or office; and it would have rendered our militia, like those of the Greeks and Romans, a nation of warriors. But the go-by seems to have been given to your proposition, and longer sufferance is necessary to force us to what is best. We seem equally incorrigible to our financial course. Although a century of British experience has proved to what a wonderful extent the funding on specific redeeming taxes enables a nation to anticipate in war the resources of peace, and although the other nations of Europe have tried and trodden every path of force or folly in fruitless quest of the same object, yet we still expect to find in juggling tricks and banking dreams, that money can be made out of nothing, and in sufficient quantity to meet the expenses of a heavy war by sea and land. It is said, indeed, that money cannot be borrowed from our merchants as from those of England. But it can be borrowed from our people. They will give you all the necessaries of war they produce, if, instead of the bankrupt trash they now are obliged to receive for want of any other, you will give them a paper promise funded on a specific pledge, and of a size for common circulation. But you say the merchants will not take this paper. What the people take, the merchants must take, or sell nothing. All these doubts and fears prove only the extent of the dominion which the banking institutions have obtained over the minds of our citizens, and especially of those inhabiting cities or other banking places ; and this dominion must be broken, or it will break us. But here, as in the other case, we must make up our minds to suffer yet longer before we can get right. The misfortune is, that in the meantime we shall plunge ourselves in unextinguishable debt, and entail on our posterity an inheritance of eternal taxes, which will bring our government and people into the condition of those of England, a nation of pikes and gudgeons, the latter bred merely as food for the former. But, however these difficulties of men and money may be disposed of, it is fortunate that neither of them will affect our war by sea. Privateers will find their own men and money. Let nothing be spared to encourage them. They are the dagger which strikes at the heart of the enemy, their commerce. Frigates and seventy-fours are a sacrifice we must make, heavy as it is, to the prejudices of a part of our citizens. They have, indeed, rendered a great moral service, which has delighted me as much as any one in the United States. But they have had no physical effect sensible to the enemy; and now, while we must fortify them in our harbors and keep armies to defend them, our privateers are bearding and blockading the enemy in their own sea-ports. Encourage them to burn all their prizes, and let the public pay for them. They will cheat us enormously. No matter; they will make the merchants of England feel, and squeal, and cry out for peace.
I much regretted your acceptance of the War Department. Not that I know a person who I think would better conduct it. But, conduct it ever so wisely, it will be a sacrifice of yourself. Were an angel from heaven to undertake that office, all our miscarriages would be ascribed to him. Raw troops, no troops, insubordinate militia, want of arms, want of money, want of provisions, all will be charged to want of management in you. I speak from experience, when I was Governor of Virginia. Without a regular in the State, and scarcely a musket to put into the hands of the militia, invaded by two armies, Arnold's from the sea-board and Cornwallis' from the southward, when we were driven from Richmond and Charlottesville, and every member of my council fled from their homes, it was not the total destitution of means, but the mismanagement of them, which, in the querulous voice of the public, caused all our misfortunes. It ended, indeed, in the capture of the whole hostile force, but not till means were brought us by General Washington's army, and the French fleet and army. And although the legislature, who were personally intimate with both the means and measures, acquitted me with justice and thanks, yet General Lee has put all those imputations among the romances of his historical novel, for the amusement of credulous and uninquisitive readers. Not that I have seen the least disposition to censure you. On the contrary, your conduct on the attack of Washington has met the praises of every one, and your plan for regulars and militia, their approbation. But no campaign is as yet opened. No Generals have yet an interest in shifting their own incompetence on you, no army agents their rogueries. I sincerely pray you may never meet censure where you will deserve most praise, and that your own happiness and prosperity may be the result of your patriotic services.
Ever and affectionately yours.
Your favor of Dec. 27 with the letter inclosed, has been received. Knowing well that the bank-mania still possesses the great body of our countrymen, it was not expected that any radical cure of that could be at once effected. We must go further wrong, probably to a ne plus ultra before we shall be forced into what is right. Something will be obtained however, if we can excite, in those who think, doubt first, reflexion next, and conviction at last. The constitution too presents difficulties here with which the general government is not embarrassed. If your Auditors notes are made payable to bearer, and of sizes suitable for circulation, they will find their way into circulation, as well as into the hoards of the thrifty. Especially in important payments for land &c which are to lie on hand some time waiting for employment. A bank-note is now received only as a Robins alive.
On Mr. Ritchies declining the publication of Tracys work, I proposed it to a Mr. Milligan of Georgetown who undertakes it. I had therefore written to Genl. Duane to forward it to him; so that it will not be in my possession until it is published. Have you seen the Review of Montesquieu by an anonymous author ? The ablest work of the age. It was translated and published by Duane about 3. years ago. In giving the most correct analysis of the principles of political association which has yet been offered, he states, in the branch of political economy particularly, altho much is brief, some of the soundest and most profound views we have ever had on those subjects. I have lately received a letter from Say. He has in contemplation to remove to this country, and to this neighborhood particularly; and asks from me answers to some enquiries he makes. Could the petition which the Albemarle academy addressed to our legislature have succeeded at the late session a little aid additional to the objects of that would have enabled us to have here immediately the best seminary of the US. I do not know to whom P. Carr (President of the board of trustees) committed the petition and papers; but I have seen no trace of their having been offered. Thinking it possible you may not have seen them, I send for your perusal the copies I retained for my own use. They consist 1. of a letter to him, sketching at the request of the trustees, a plan for the institution. 2. One to Judge Cooper in answer to some observations he had favored me with, on the plan. 3. A copy of the petition of the trustees. 4. A copy of the act we wished from the legislature. They are long. But, as we always counted on you as the main pillar of their support, and we shall probably return to the charge at the next session, the trouble of reading them will come upon you, and as well now as then. The lottery allowed by the former act, the proceeds of our two glebes, and our dividend of the literary fund, with the reorganization of the institution are what was asked in that petition. In addition to this if we could obtain a loan for 4. or 5. years only, of 7. or 8000 D. I think I have it now in my power to obtain three of the ablest characters in the world to fill the higher professorships of what in the plan is called the IId or General grade of education, three such characters as are not in a single university of Europe and for those of languages & Mathematics, a part of the same grade, able professors doubtless could also be readily obtained. With these characters, I should not be afraid to say that the circle of the sciences composing that 2d or General grade, would be more profoundly taught here than in any institution in the US. and might I go farther.
The 1st or Elementary grade of education is not developed in this plan; an authority only being asked to its Visitors for putting into motion a former proposition for that object. For an explanation of this therefore, I am obliged to add to these papers a letter I wrote some time since to Mr. Adams, in which I had occasion to give some account of what had been proposed here for culling from every condition of our people the natural aristocracy of talents & virtue, and of preparing it by education, at the public expence, for the care of the public concerns. This letter will present to you some measures still requisite to compleat & secure our republican edifice, and which remain in charge for our younger statesmen. On yourself, Mr. Rives, Mr. Gilmer, when they shall enter the public councils, I rest my hopes for this great accomplishment, and doubtless you will have other able coadjutors not known to me.
Colo. Randolph having gone to Richmond before the rising of the legislature, you will have had an opportunity of explaining to him personally the part of your letter respecting his petition for opening the Milton falls, which his departure prevented my communicating to him. I had not heard him speak of it, and had been glad, as to myself, by the act recently passed, to have saved our own rights in the defensive war with the Rivanna company, and should not have advised the renewing and carrying the war into the enemys country.
Be so good as to return all the inclosed papers after perusal and to accept assurances of my great esteem & respect.
I have no document respecting Clarkes expedition except the letters of which you are in possession, one of which, I believe, gives some account of it; nor do I possess Imlays history of Kentucky.
Of Mr. Wythes early history I scarcely know anything, except that he was self-taught; and perhaps this might not have been as to the Latin language. Dr. Small was his bosom friend, and to me as a father. To his enlightened and affectionate guidance of my studies while at college, I am indebted for everything.
He was Professor of Mathematics at William and Mary, and, for some time, was in the philosophical chair. He first introduced into both schools rational and elevated courses of study, and, from an extraordinary conjunction of eloquence and logic, was enabled to communicate them to the students with great effect. He procured for me the patronage of Mr. Wythe, and both of them, the attentions of Governor Fauquier, the ablest man who ever filled the chair of government here. They were inseparable friends, and at their frequent dinners with the Governor, (after his family had returned to England,) he admitted me always, to make it a partie quarroe. At these dinners I have heard more good sense, more rational and philosophical conversations, than in all my life besides. They were truly Attic societies. The Governor was musical also, and a good performer, and associated me with two or three other amateurs in his weekly concerts. He merits honorable mention in your history, if any proper occasion offers. So also does Dabney Carr, father of Peter Carr, mover of the proposition of March, 1773, for committees of correspondence, the first fruit of which was the call of an American Congress. I return your two pamphlets with my thanks and salute you with esteem and respect.
Your letter of December 20th was four weeks on its way to me. I thank you for it; for although founded on a misconception, it is evidence of that friendly concern for my peace and welfare, which I have ever believed you to feel. Of publishing a book on religion, my dear Sir, I never had an idea. I should as soon think of writing for the reformation of Bedlam, as of the world of religious sects. Of these there must be, at least, ten thousand, every individual of every one of which believes all wrong but his own. To undertake to bring them all right, would be like undertaking, single-handed, to fell the forests of America. Probably you have heard me say I had taken the four Evangelists, had cut out from them every text they had recorded of the moral precepts of Jesus, and arranged them in a certain order, and although they appeared but as fragments, yet fragments of the most sublime edifice of morality which had ever been exhibited to man. This I have probably mentioned to you, because it is true; and the idea of its publication may have suggested itself as an inference of your own mind. I not only write nothing on religion, but rarely permit myself to speak on it, and never but in a reasonable society. I have probably said more to you than to any other person, because we have had more hours of conversation in duetto in our meetings at the Forest. I abuse the priests, indeed, who have so much abused the pure and holy doctrines of their Master, and who have laid me under no obligations of reticence as to the tricks of their trade. The genuine system of Jesus, and the artificial structures they have erected, to make them the instruments of wealth, power, and preeminence to themselves, are as distinct things in my view as light and darkness ; and while I have classed them with soothsayers and necromancers, I place Him among the greatest reformers of morals, and scourges of priest-craft that have ever existed. They felt Him as such, and never rested until they had silenced Him by death. But His heresies against Judaism prevailing in the long run, the priests have tacked about, and rebuilt upon them the temple which He destroyed, as splendid, as profitable, and as imposing as that.
Government, as well as religion, has furnished its schisms, its persecutions, and its devices for fattening idleness on the earnings of the people. It has its hierarchy of emperors, kings, princes, and nobles, as that has of popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests. In short, cannibals are not to be found in the wilds of America only, but are reveling on the blood of every living people. Turning, then, from this loathsome combination of Church and State, and weeping over the follies of our fellow men who yield themselves the willing dupes and drudges of these mountebanks, I consider reformation and redress as desperate, and abandon them to the Quixotism of more enthusiastic minds.
I have received from Philadelphia, by mail, the spectacles you had desired, and now forward them by the same conveyance, as equally safe and more in time, than were they to await my own going. In a separate case is a complete set of glasses, from early use to old age. I think the pair now in the frames will suit your eyes, but should they not, you will easily change them by the screws. I believe the largest numbers are the smallest magnifiers, but am not certain. Trial will readily ascertain it. You must do me the favor to accept them as a token of my friendship, and with them the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
Your favor of December 30th has been received. In answer to your question whether in the course of my reading I have ever found that any country or even considerable island was without inhabitants when first discovered ? I must answer, with Mr. Adams, in the negative. Although the fact is curious, it had never before struck my attention. Some small islands have been found, and are at this day, without inhabitants, but this is easily accounted for. Man being a gregarious animal, will not remain but where there can be a sufficient herd of his own kind to satisfy his social propensities. Add to this that insulated settlements, if small, would be liable to extirpations by occasional epidemics.
I thank you or the pamphlet you have been so kind as to send me, and have read it with much satisfaction. But with those to whom it is addressed Moses and the prophets have no authority but when administering to their worldly gain. The paradox with me is how any friend to the union of our country can, in conscience, contribute a cent to the maintenance of any one who perverts the sanctity of his desk to the open inculcation of rebellion, civil war, dissolution of government, and the miseries of anarchy. When England took alarm lest France, become republican, should recover energies dangerous to her, she employed emissaries with means to engage incendiaries and anarchists in the disorganization of all government there. These, assuming exaggerated zeal for republican government and the rights of the people, crowded their inscriptions into the Jacobin societies, and overwhelming by their majorities the honest and enlightened patriots of the original institution, distorted its objects, pursued its genuine founders under the name of Brissotines and Girondists unto death, intrigued themselves into the municipality of Paris, controlled by terrorism the proceedings of the legislature, in which they were faithfully aided by their co-stipendiaries there, the Dantons and Marats the Mountain, murdered their king, septembrized the nation, and thus accomplished their stipulated task of demolishing liberty and government with it. England now fears the rising force of this republican nation, and by the same means is endeavoring to effect the same course of miseries and destruction here; it is impossible where one sees like courses of events commence, not to ascribe them to like causes. We know that the government of England, maintaining itself by corruption at home, uses the same means in other countries of which she has any jealousy, by subsidizing agitators and traitors among themselves to distract and paralyze them. She sufficiently manifests that she has no disposition to spare ours. We see in the proceedings of Massachusetts, symptoms which plainly indicate such a course, and we know as far as such practices can ever be dragged into light, that she has practiced, and with success, on leading individuals of that State. Nay further, we see those individuals acting on the very plan which our information had warned us was settled between the parties. These elements of explanation, history cannot fail of putting together in recording the crime of combining with the oppressors of the earth to extinguish the last spark of human hope, that here, at length, will be preserved a model of government, securing to man his rights and the fruits of his labor, by an organization constantly subject to his own will. The crime indeed, if accomplished, would immortalize its perpetrators, and their names would descend in history with those of Robespierre and his associates, as the guardian genii of despotism, and demons of human liberty. I do not mean to say that all who are acting with these men are under the same motives. I know some of them personally to be incapable of it. Nor was that the case with the disorganizers and assassins of Paris. Delusions there, and party perversions here, furnish unconscious assistants to the hired actors in these atrocious scenes. But I have never entertained one moments fear on this subject. The people of this country enjoy too much happiness to risk it for nothing; and I have never doubted that whenever the incendiaries of Massachusetts should venture openly to raise the standard of separation, its citizens would rise in mass and do justice themselves to their own parricides.
I am glad to learn that you persevere in your historical work. I am sure it will be executed on sound principles of Americanism, and I hope your opportunities will enable you to make the abortive crimes of the present, useful as a lesson for future times.
In aid of your general work I possess no materials whatever, or they should be entirely at your service; and I am sorry that I have not a single copy of the pamphlet you ask, entitled "A Summary View of the Rights of British America." It was the draught of an instruction which I had meant to propose for our delegates to the first Congress. Being prevented by sickness from attending our convention, I sent it to them, and they printed without adopting it, in the hope that conciliation was not yet desperate. Its only merit was in being the first publication which carried the claim of our rights their whole length, and asserted that there was no rightful link of connection between us and England but that of being under the same king. Harings collection of our statutes is published, I know, as far as the third volume, bringing them down to 1710 ; and I rather believe a fourth has appeared. One more will probably complete the work of the Revolution, and will be to us an inestimable treasure, as being the only collection of all the acts of our legislatures now extant in print or manuscript.
Accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
Your very friendly letter of January 4th is but just received, and I am much gratified by the interest taken by yourself, and others of my colleagues of the Philosophical Society, in what concerned myself on withdrawing from the presidency of the Society. My desire to do so had been so long known to every member, and the continuance of it to some, that I did not suppose it can be misunderstood by the public. Setting aside the consideration of distance, which must be obvious to all, nothing is more incumbent on the old, than to know when they should get out of the way, and relinquish to younger successors the honors they can no longer earn, and the duties they can no longer perform. I rejoice in the election of Dr. Wistar, and trust that his senior standing in the society will have been considered as a fair motive of preference of those whose merits, standing alone, would have justly entitled them to the honor, and who, as juniors, according to the course of nature, may still expect their turn.
I have received, with very great pleasure, the visit of Mr. Ticknor, and find him highly distinguished by science and good sense. He was accompanied by Mr. Gray, son of the late Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, of great information and promise also. It gives me ineffable comfort to see such subjects coming forward to take charge of the political and civil rights, the establishment of which has cost us such sacrifices. Mr. Ticknor will be fortunate if he can get under the wing of Mr. Correa ; and, if the happiness of Mr. Correa requires (as I suppose it does) his return to Europe, we must sacrifice it to that which his residence here would have given us, and acquiesce under the regrets which our transient acquaintance with his worth cannot fail to embody with our future recollections of him. Of Michauxs work I possess three volumes, or rather cahiers, one on Oaks, another on Beeches and Birches, and a third on Pines.
I salute you with great friendship and respect.
Dear Sir,I have to thank you for your letter of June 16th. It presents those special views of the state of things in Europe, for which we look in vain into newspapers. They tell us only of the downfall of Bonaparte, but nothing of the temper, the views, the secret workings of the high agents in these transactions. Although we neither expected, nor wished any act of friendship from Bonaparte, and always detested him as a tyrant, yet he gave employment to much of the force of the nation who was our common enemy. So far, his downfall was illy timed for us; it gave to England an opportunity to turn full-handed on us, when we were unprepared. No matter, we can beat her on our own soil, leaving the laws of the ocean to be settled by the maritime powers of Europe, who are equally oppressed and insulted by the usurpations of England on that element. Our particular and separate grievance is only the impressment of our citizens. We must sacrifice the last dollar and drop of blood to rid us of that badge of slavery; and it must rest with England alone to say whether it is worth eternal war, for eternal it must be if she holds to the wrong. She will probably find that the six thousand citizens she took from us by impressment have already cost her ten thousand guineas a man, and will cost her, in addition, the half of that annually, during the continuance of the war, besides the captures on the ocean, and the loss of our commerce. She might certainly find cheaper means of manning her fleet, or, if to be manned at this expense, her fleet will break her down. The first year of our warfare by land was disastrous. Detroit, Queenstown, Frenchtown, and Beaver Dam, witness that. But the second was generally successful, and the third entirely so, both by sea and land. For I set down the coup de main at Washington as more disgraceful to England than to us. The victories of the last year at Chippewa, Niagara, Fort Erie, Plattsburg, and New Orleans, the capture of their two fleets on Lakes Erie and Champlain, and repeated triumphs of our frigates over hers, whenever engaging with equal force, show that we have officers now becoming prominent, and capable of making them feel the superiority of our means, in a war on our own soil. Our means are abundant both as to men and money, wanting only skilful arrangement; and experience alone brings skill. As to men, nothing wiser can be devised than what the Secretary at War [Monroe] proposed in his Report at the commencement of Congress. It would have kept our regular army always of necessity full, and by classing our militia according to ages, would have put them into a form ready for whatever service, distant or at home, should require them. Congress have not adopted it, but their next experiment will lead to it. Our financial system is, at least, arranged. The fatal possession of the whole circulating medium by our banks, the excess of those institutions, and their present discredit, cause all our difficulties. Treasury notes of small as well as high denomination, bottomed on a tax which would redeem them in ten years, would place at our disposal the whole circulating medium of the United States; a fund of credit sufficient to carry us through any probable length of war. A small issue of such paper is now commencing. It will immediately supersede the bank paper; nobody receiving that now but for the purposes of the day, and never in payments which are to lie by for any time. In fact, all the banks having declared they will not give cash in exchange for their own notes, these circulate merely because there is no other medium of exchange. As soon as the treasury notes get into circulation, the others will cease to hold any competition with them. I trust that another year will confirm this experiment, and restore this fund to the public, who ought never more to permit its being filched from them by private speculators and disorganizers of the circulation.
Do they send you from Washington the Historical Register of the United States ? It is published there annually, and gives a succinct and judicious history of the events of the war, not too long to be inserted in the European newspapers, and would keep the European public truly informed, by correcting the lying statements of the British papers. It gives, too, all the public documents of any value. Niles Weekly Register is also an excellent repository of facts and documents, and has the advantage of coming out weekly, whereas the other is yearly.
This will be handed you by Mr. Ticknor, a young gentleman of Boston, of high education and great promise. After going through his studies here, he goes to Europe to finish them, and to see what is to be seen there. He brought me high recommendations from Mr. Adams and others, and from a stay of some days with me, I was persuaded he merited them, as he will whatever attentions you will be so good as to show him. I pray you to accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
P.S. February 26th. On the day of the date of this letter the news of peace reached Washington, and this place two days after. I am glad of it, although no provision being made against the impressment of our seamen, it is in fact but an armistice, to be terminated by the first act of impressment committed on an American citizen. It may be thought that useless blood was spilt at New Orleans, after the treaty of peace had been actually signed and ratified. I think it had many valuable uses. It proved the fidelity of the Orleanese to the United States. It proved that New Orleans can be defended both by land and water; that the western country will fly to its relief (of which ourselves had doubted before); that our militia are heroes when they have heroes to lead them on; and that, when unembarrassed by field evolutions, which they do not understand, their skill in the fire-arm, and deadly aim, give them great advantages over regulars. What nonsense for the manakin Prince Regent to talk of their conquest of the country east of the Penobscot river ! Then, as in the revolutionary war, their conquests were never more than of the spot on which their army stood, never extended beyond the range of their cannon shot. If England is now wise or just enough to settle peaceably the question of impressment, the late treaty may become one of peace, and of long peace. We owe to their past follies and wrongs the incalculable advantage of being made independent of them for every material manufacture. These have taken such root, in our private families especially, that nothing now can ever extirpate them.
Your letter of August the 14th has been received and read again, and again, with extraordinary pleasure. It is the first glimpse which has been furnished me of the interior workings of the late unexpected but fortunate revolution of your country. The newspapers told us only that the great beast was fallen; but what part in this the patriots acted, and what the egotists, whether the former slept while the latter were awake to their own interests only, the hireling scribblers of the English press said little and knew less. I see now the mortifying alternative under which the patriot there is placed, of being either silent, or disgraced by an association in opposition with the remains of Bonapartism. A full measure of liberty is not now perhaps to be expected by your nation, nor am I confident they are prepared to preserve it. More than a generation will be requisite, under the administration of reasonable laws favoring the progress of knowledge in the general mass of the people, and their habituation to an independent security of person and property, before they will be capable of estimating the value of freedom, and the necessity of a sacred adherence to the principles on which it rests for preservation. Instead of that liberty which takes root and growth in the progress of reason, if recovered by mere force or accident, it becomes, with an unprepared people, a tyranny still, of the many, the few, or the one. Possibly you may remember, at the date of the jue de paume, how earnestly I urged yourself and the patriots of my acquaintance, to enter then into a compact with the king, securing freedom of religion, freedom of the press, trial by jury, habeas corpus, and a national legislature, all of which it was known he would then yield, to go home, and let these work on the amelioration of the condition of the people, until they should have rendered them capable of more, when occasions would not fail to arise for communicating to them more. This was as much as I then thought them able to bear, soberly and usefully for themselves. You thought otherwise, and that the dose might still be larger. And I found you were right; for subsequent events proved they were equal to the constitution of 1791. Unfortunately, some of the most honest and enlightened of our patriotic friends, (but closet politicians merely, unpractised in the knowledge of man,) thought more could still be obtained and borne. They did not weigh the hazards of a transition from one form of government to another, the value of what they had already rescued from those hazards, and might hold in security if they pleased, nor the imprudence of giving up the certainty of such a degree of liberty, under a limited monarchy, for the uncertainty of a little more under the form of a republic. You differed from them. You were for stopping there, and for securing the constitution which the National Assembly had obtained. Here, too, you were right; and from this fatal error of the republicans, from their separation from yourself and the constitutionalists, in their councils, flowed all the subsequent sufferings and crimes of the French nation. The hazards of a second change fell upon them by the way. The foreigner gained time to anarchise by gold the government he could not overthrow by arms, to crush in their own councils the genuine republicans, by the fraternal embraces of exaggerated and hired pretenders, and to turn the machine of Jacobinism from the change to the destruction of order; and, in the end, the limited monarchy they had secured was exchanged for the unprincipled and bloody tyranny of Robespierre, and the equally unprincipled and maniac tyranny of Bonaparte. You are now rid of him, and I sincerely wish you may continue so. But this may depend on the wisdom and moderation of the restored dynasty. It is for them now to read a lesson in the fatal errors of the republicans; to be contented with a certain portion of power, secured by formal compact with the nation, rather than, grasping at more, hazard all upon uncertainty, and risk meeting the fate of their predecessor, or a renewal of their own exile. We are just informed, too, of an example which merits, if true, their most profound contemplation. The gazettes say that Ferdinand of Spain is dethroned, and his father re-established on the basis of their new constitution. This order of magistrates must, therefore, see, that although the attempts at reformation have not succeeded in their whole length, and some secession from the ultimate point has taken place, yet that men have by no means fallen back to their former passiveness, but on the contrary, that a sense of their rights, and a restlessness to obtain them, remain deeply impressed on every mind, and, if not quieted by reasonable relaxations of power, will break out like a volcano on the first occasion, and overwhelm everything again in its way. I always thought the present king an honest and moderate man; and having no issue, he is under a motive the less for yielding to personal considerations. I cannot, therefore, but hope, that the patriots in and out of your legislature, acting in phalanx, but temperately and wisely, pressing unremittingly the principles omitted in the late capitulation of the king, and watching the occasions which the course of events will create, may get those principles engrafted into it, and sanctioned by the solemnity of a national act.
With us the affairs of war have taken the most favorable turn which was to be expected. Our thirty years of peace had taken off, or superannuated, all our revolutionary officers of experience and grade; and our first draught in the lottery of untried characters had been most unfortunate. The delivery of the fort and army of Detroit by the traitor Hull; the disgrace at Queenstown, under Van Rensellaer; the massacre at Frenchtown under Winchester; and surrender of Boerstler in an open field to one-third of his own numbers, were the inauspicious beginnings of the first year of our warfare. The second witnessed but the single miscarriage occasioned by the disagreement of Wilkinson and Hampton, mentioned in my letter to you of November the 30th, 1813, while it gave us the capture of York by Dearborne and Pike; the capture of Fort George by Dearborne also; the capture of Proctors army on the Thames by Harrison, Shelby and Johnson, and that of the whole British fleet on Lake Erie by Perry. The third year has been a continued series of victories, to-wit: of Brown and Scott at Chippewa, of the same at Niagara; of Gaines over Drummond at Fort Erie; that of Brown over Drummond at the same place; the capture of another fleet on Lake Champlain by MDonough; the entire defeat of their army under Prevost, on the same day, by MComb, and recently their defeats at New Orleans by Jackson, Coffee and Carroll, with the loss of four thousand men out of nine thousand and six hundred, with their two generals, Packingham and Gibbs killed, and a third, Keane, wounded, mortally, as is said.
This series of successes has been tarnished only by the conflagration at Washington, a coup de main differing from that at Richmond, which you remember, in the revolutionary war, in the circumstance only, that we had, in that case, but forty-eight hours notice that an enemy had arrived within our capes; whereas, at Washington, there was abundant previous notice. The force designated by the President was double of what was necessary; but failed, as is the general opinion, through the insubordination of Armstrong, who would never believe the attack intended until it was actually made, and the sluggishness of Winder before the occasion, and his indecision during it. Still, in the end, the transaction has helped rather than hurt us, by arousing the general indignation of our country, and by marking to the world of Europe the Vandalism and brutal character of the English government. It has merely served to immortalize their infamy. And add further, that through the whole period of the war, we have beaten them single-handed at sea, and so thoroughly established our superiority over them with equal force, that they retire from that kind of contest, and never suffer their frigates to cruize singly. The Endymion would never have engaged the frigate President, but knowing herself backed by three frigates and a razee, who, though somewhat slower sailers, would get up before she could be taken. The disclosure to the world of the fatal secret that they can be beaten at sea with an equal force, the evidence furnished by the military operations of the last year that experience is rearing us officers who, when our means shall be fully under way, will plant our standard on the walls of Quebec and Halifax, their recent and signal disaster at New Orleans, and the evaporation of their hopes from the Hartford convention, will probably raise a clamor in the British nation, which will force their ministry into peace. I say force them, because, willingly, they would never be at peace. The British ministers find in a state of war rather than of peace, by riding the various contractors, and receiving douceurs on the vast expenditures of the war supplies, that they recruit their broken fortunes, or make new ones, and therefore will not make peace as long as by any delusions they can keep the temper of the nation up to the war point. They found some hopes on the state of our finances. It is true that the excess of our banking institutions, and their present discredit, have shut us out from the best source of credit we could ever command with certainty. But the foundations of credit still remain to us, and need but skill which experience will soon produce, to marshal them into an order which may carry us through any length of war. But they have hoped more in their Hartford convention. Their fears of republican France being now done away, they are directed to republican America, and they are playing the same game for disorganization here, which they played in your country. The Marats, the Dantons and Robespierres of Massachusetts are in the same pay, under the same orders, and making the same efforts to anarchise us, that their prototypes in France did there.
I do not say that all who met at Hartford were under the same motives of money, nor were those of France. Some of them are Outs, and wish to be Inns; some the mere dupes of the agitators, or of their own party passions, while the Maratists alone are in the real secret; but they have very different materials to work on. The yeomanry of the United States are not the canaille of Paris. We might safely give them leave to go through the United States recruiting their ranks, and I am satisfied they could not raise one single regiment (gambling merchants and silk-stocking clerks excepted) who would support them in any effort to separate from the Union. The cement of this Union is in the heart-blood of every American. I do not believe there is on earth a government established on so immovable a basis. Let them, in any State, even in Massachusetts itself, raise the standard of separation, and its citizens will rise in mass, and do justice themselves on their own incendiaries. If they could have induced the government to some effort of suppression, or even to enter into discussion with them, it would have given them some importance, have brought them into some notice. But they have not been able to make themselves even a subject of conversation, either of public or private societies. A silent contempt has been the sole notice they excite; consoled, indeed, some of them, by the palpable favors of Philip. Have then no fears for us, my friend. The grounds of these exist only in English newspapers, endited or endowed by the Castlereaghs or the Cannings, or some other such models of pure and uncorrupted virtue. Their military heroes, by land and sea, may sink our oyster boats, rob our hen roosts, burn our negro huts, and run off. But a campaign or two more will relieve them from further trouble or expense in defending their American possessions.
You once gave me a copy of the journal of your campaign in Virginia, in 1781, which I must have lent to some one of the undertakers to write the history of the revolutionary war, and forgot to reclaim. I conclude this, because it is no longer among my papers, which I have very diligently searched for it, but in vain. An author of real ability is now writing that part of the history of Virginia. He does it in my neighborhood, and I lay open to him all my papers. But I possess none, nor has he any, which can enable him to do justice to your faithful and able services in that campaign. If you could be so good as to send me another copy, by the very first vessel bound to any port in the United States, it might be here in time; for although he expects to begin to print within a month or two, yet you know the delays of these undertakings. At any rate it might be got in as a supplement. The old Count Rochambeau gave me also his memoire of the operations at York, which is gone in the same way, and I have no means of applying to his family for it. Perhaps you could render them as well as us, the service of procuring another copy.
I learn, with real sorrow, the deaths of Monsieur and Madame de Tessé. They made an interesting part in the idle reveries in which I have sometimes indulged myself, of seeing all my friends of Paris once more, for a month or two; a thing impossible, which, however, I never permitted myself to despair of. The regrets, however, of seventy-three at the loss of friends, may be the less, as the time is shorter within which we are to meet again, according to the creed of our education.
This letter will be handed you by Mr. Ticknor, a young gentleman of Boston, of great erudition, indefatigable industry, and preparation for a life of distinction in his own country. He passed a few days with me here, brought high recommendations from Mr. Adams and others, and appeared in every respect to merit them. He is well worthy of those attentions which you so kindly bestow on our countrymen, and for those he may receive I shall join him in acknowledging personal obligations.
I salute you with assurances of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
P.S. February 26th. My letter had not yet been sealed, when I received news of our peace. I am glad of it, and especially that we closed our war with the eclat of the action at New Orleans. But I consider it as an armistice only, because no security is provided against the impressment of our seamen. While this is unsettled we are in hostility of mind with England, although actual deeds of arms may be suspended by a truce. If she thinks the exercise of this outrage is worth eternal war, eternal war it must be, or extermination of the one or the other party. The first act of impressment she commits on an American, will be answered by reprisal, or by a declaration of war here; and the interval must be merely a state of preparation for it. In this we have much to do, in further fortifying our seaport towns, providing military stores, classing and disciplining our militia, arranging our financial system, and above all, pushing our domestic manufactures, which have taken such root as never again can be shaken. Once more, God bless you.
My last to you was of November 29th and December 13th, 14th, since which I have received yours of July 14th. I have to congratulate you, which I do sincerely on having got back from Robespierre and Bonaparte, to your ante-revolutionary condition. You are now nearly where you were at the jeu de paume on the 20th of June, 1789. The king would then have yielded, by convention, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, trial by jury, habeas corpus, and a representative legislature. These I consider as the essentials constituting free government, and that the organization of the Executive is interesting, as it may ensure wisdom and integrity in the first place, but next as it may favor or endanger the preservation of these fundamentals. Although I do not think the late capitulation of the king quite equal to all this, yet believing his dispositions to be moderate and friendly to the happiness of the people, and seeing that he is without the bias of issue, I am in hopes your patriots may, by constant and prudent pressure, obtain from him what is still wanting to give you a temperate degree of freedom and security. Should this not be done, I should really apprehend a relapse into discontents, which might again let in Bonaparte.
Here, at length, we have peace. But I view it as an armistice only, because no provision is made against the practice of impressment. As this, then, will revive in the first moment of a war in Europe, its revival will be a declaration of war here. Our whole business, in the meantime, ought to be a sedulous preparation for it, fortifying our seaports, filling our magazines, classing and disciplining our militia, forming officers, and above all, establishing a sound system of finance. You will see by the want of system in this last department, and even the want of principles, how much we are in arrears in that science. With sufficient means in the hands of our citizens, and sufficient will to bestow them on the government, we are floundering in expedients equally unproductive and ruinous; and proving how little are understood here those sound principles of political economy first developed by the economists, since commented and dilated by Smith, Say, yourself, and the luminous reviewer of Montesquieu. I have been endeavoring to get the able paper on this subject, which you addressed to me in July, 1810, and enlarged in a copy received the last year, translated and printed here, in order to draw the attention of our citizens to this subject; but have not as yet succeeded. Our printers are enterprising only in novels and light reading. The readers of works of science, although in considerable number, are so sparse in their situations, that such works are of slow circulation. But I shall persevere.
This letter will be delivered to you by Mr. Ticknor, a young gentleman from Massachusetts, of much erudition and great merit. He has completed his course of law and reading, and, before entering on the practice, proposes to pass two or three years in seeing Europe, and adding to his stores of knowledge which he can acquire there. Should he enter the career of politics in his own country, he will go far in obtaining its honors and powers. He is worthy of any friendly offices you may be so good as to render him, and to his acknowledgments of them will be added my own. By him I send you a copy of the Review of Montesquieu, from my own shelf, the impression being, I believe, exhausted by the late President of the College of Williamsburg having adopted it as the elementary book there. I am persuading the author to permit me to give his name to the public, and to permit the original to be printed in Paris. Although your presses, I observe, are put under the leading strings of your government, yet this is such a work as would have been licensed at any period, early or late, of the reign of Louis XVI. Surely the present government will not expect to repress the progress of the public mind further back than that. I salute you with all veneration and affection.
Dear Sir,Your letter of June 15th came to hand in December, and it is not till the ratification of our peace, that a safe conveyance for an answer could be obtained. I thank you for the copy of the new edition of your work which accompanied your letter. I had considered it in its first form as superseding all other works on that subject ; and shall set proportional value on any improvement of it. I should have been happy to have received your son here, as expected from your letter ; on his passage through this State ; and to have given proofs through him of my respect for you. But I live far from the great stage road which forms the communication of our States from north to south, and such a deviation was probably not admitted by his business. The question proposed in my letter of February 1st, 1804, has since become quite a question viseuse. I had then persuaded myself that a nation, distant as we are from the contentions of Europe, avoiding all offences to other powers, and not over-hasty in resenting offence ; from them, doing justice to all, faithfully fulfilling the duties of neutrality, performing all offices of amity, and administering to their interests by the benefits of our commerce, that such a nation, I say, might expect to live in peace, and consider itself merely as a member of the great family of mankind ; that in such case it might devote itself to whatever it could best produce, secure of a peaceable exchange of surplus for what could be more advantageously furnished by others, as takes place between one county and another of France. But experience has shown that continued peace depends not merely on our own justice and prudence, but on that of others also, that when forced into war, the interception of exchanges which must be made across a wide ocean, becomes a powerful weapon in the hands of an enemy domineering over that element, and to the other distresses of war adds the want of all those necessaries for which we have permitted ourselves to be dependent on others, even arms and clothing. This fact, therefore, solves the question by reducing it to its ultimate form, whether profit or preservation is the first interest of a State ? We are consequently become manufacturers to a degree incredible to those who do not see it, and who only consider the short period of time during which we have been driven to them by the suicidal policy of England. The prohibiting duties we lay on all articles of foreign manufacture which prudence requires us to establish at home, with the patriotic determination of every good citizen to use no foreign article which can be made within ourselves, without regard to difference of price, secures us against a relapse into foreign dependency. And this circumstance may be worthy of your consideration, should you continue in the disposition to emigrate to this country. Your manufactory of cotton, on a moderate scale combined with a farm, might be preferable to either singly, and the one or the other might become principal, as experience should recommend. Cotton ready spun is in ready demand, and if woven, still more so.
I will proceed now to answer the inquiries which respect your views of removal ; and I am glad that, in looking over our map, your eye has been attracted by the village of Charlottesville, because I am better acquainted with that than any other portion of the United States, being within three or four miles of the place of my birth and residence. It is a portion of country which certainly possesses great advantages. Its soil is equal in natural fertility to any high lands I have ever seen ; it is red and hilly, very like much of the country of Champagne and Burgundy, on the route of Sens, Vermanton, Vitteaux, Dijon, and along the Cote to Chagny, excellently adapted to wheat, maize, and clover ; like all mountainous countries it is perfectly healthy, liable to no agues and fevers, or to any particular epidemic, as is evidenced by the robust constitution of its inhabitants, and their numerous families. As many instances of nonagenaires exist habitually in this neighborhood as in the same degree of population anywhere. Its temperature may be considered as a medium of that of the United States. The extreme of cold in ordinary winters being about 7°(16°) of Reaumur below zero, and in the severest 12°(5°), while the ordinary mornings are above zero. The maximum of heat in summer is about 28°(96°), of which we have one or two instances in a summer for a few hours.
About ten or twelve days in July and August, the thermometer rises for two or three hours to about 23°(84°), while the ordinary mid-day heat of those months is about 21°(80°), the mercury continuing at that two or three hours, and falling in the evening to about 17°(70°). White frosts commence about the middle of October, tender vegetables are in danger from them till nearly the middle of April. The mercury begins, about the middle of November, to be occasionally at the freezing point, and ceases to be so about the middle of March. We have of freezing nights about fifty in the course of the winter, but not more than ten days in which the mercury does not rise above the freezing point. Fire is desirable even in close apartments whenever the outward air is below 10°, (=55° Fahrenheit,) and that is the case with us through the day, one hundred and thirty-two days in the year, and on mornings and evenings sixty-eight days more. So that we have constant fires five months, and a little over two months more on mornings and evenings. Observations made at Yorktown in the lower country, show that they need seven days less of constant fires, and thirty-eight less of mornings and evenings. On an average of seven years I have found our snows amount in the whole to fifteen inches depth, and to cover the ground fifteen days ; these, with the rains, give us four feet of water in the year. The garden pea, which we are now sowing, comes to table about the 12th of May ; strawberries and cherries about the same time ; asparagus the 1st of April. The artichoke stands the winter without cover ; lettuce and endive with a slight one of bushes, and often without any ; and the fig, protected by a little straw, begins to ripen in July ; if unprotected, not till the 1st of September. There is navigation for boats of six tons from Charlottesville to Richmond, the nearest tidewater, and principal market for our produce. The country is what we call well inhabited, there being in our county, Albemarle, of about seven hundred and fifty square miles, about twenty thousand inhabitants, or twenty-seven to a square mile, of whom, however, one-half are people of color, either slaves or free. The society is much better than is common in country situations ; perhaps there is not a better country society in the United States. But do not imagine this a Parisian or an academical society. It consists of plain, honest, and rational neighbors, some of them well informed and men of reading, all superintending their farms, hospitable and friendly, and speaking nothing but English: The manners of every nation are the standard of orthodoxy within itself. But these standards being arbitrary, reasonable people in all allow free toleration for the manners, as for the religion of others. Our culture is of wheat for market, and of maize, oats, peas, and clover, for the support of the farm. We reckon it a good distribution to divide a farm into three fields, putting one into wheat, half a one into maize, the other half into oats or peas, and the third into clover, and to tend the fields successively in this rotation. Some woodland in addition, is always necessary to furnish fuel, fences, and timber for constructions. Our best farmers (such as Mr. Randolph, my son-in-law) get from ten to twenty bushels of wheat to the acre ; our worst (such as myself) from six to eighteen, with little or more manuring. The bushel of wheat is worth in common times about one dollar. The common produce of maize is from ten to twenty bushels, worth half a dollar the bushel, which is of a cubic foot and a quarter, or, more exactly, of two thousand one hundred and seventy-eight cubic inches. From these data you may judge best for yourself of the size of the farm which would suit your family : bearing in mind, that while you can be furnished by the farm itself for consumption, with every article it is adapted to produce, the sale of your wheat at market is to furnish the fund for all other necessary articles. I will add that both soil and climate are admirably adapted to the vine, which is the abundant natural production of our forests, and that you cannot bring a more valuable laborer than one acquainted with both its culture and manipulation into wine.
Your only inquiry now unanswered is, the price of these lands. To answer this with precision, would require details too long for a letter ; the fact being, that we have no metallic measure of values at present, while we are overwhelmed with bank paper. The depreciation of this swells nominal prices, without furnishing any stable index of real value. I will endeavor briefly to give you an idea of this state of things by an outline of its history.
In 1781 we had 1 bank, its capital $1,000,000
" 1791 " 6 " $13,135,000
" 1794 " 17 " $18,642,000
" 1796 " 24 " $20,472,000
" 1803 " 34 " $29,112,000
" 1804 " 66 their amount of capital not known.
And at this time we have probably one hundred banks, with capitals amounting to one hundred millions of dollars, on which they are authorized by law to issue notes to three times that amount, so that our circulating medium may now be estimated at from two to three hundred millions of dollars, on a population of eight and a half millions. The banks were able, for awhile, to keep this trash at par with metallic money, or rather to depreciate the metals to a par with their paper, by keeping deposits of cash sufficient to exchange for such of their notes as they were called on to pay in cash. But the circumstances of the war draining away all our specie, all these banks have stopped payment, but with a promise to resume specie exchanges whenever circumstances shall produce a return of the metals. Some of the most prudent and honest will possibly do this ; but the mass of them never will nor can. Yet, having no other medium, we take their paper, of necessity, for purposes of the instant, but never to lay by us. The government is now issuing treasury notes for circulation, bottomed on solid funds, and bearing interest. The banking confederacy (and the merchants bound to them by their debts) will endeavor to crush the credit of these notes ; but the country is eager for them, as something they can trust to, and so soon as a convenient quantity of them can get into circulation, the bank notes die. You may judge that, in this state of things, the holders of bank notes will give free prices for lands, and that were I to tell you simply the present prices of lands in this medium, it would give you no idea on which you could calculate. But I will state to you the progressive prices which have been paid for particular parcels of land for some years back, which may enable you to distinguish between the real increase of value regularly produced by our advancement in population, wealth, and skill, and the bloated value arising from the present disordered and dropsical state of our medium. There are two tracts of land adjoining me, and another not far off, all of excellent quality, which happen to have been sold at different epochs as follows:
One was sold in 1793 for $4 an acre, in 1812 at $10, and is now rated $16.
The 2d " 1786 " 5 1/3 " 1803 " $10, " " $20
The 3d " 1797 " 7 " 1811 " $16, " " $20.
On the whole, however, I suppose we may estimate that the steady annual rise of our lands is in a geometrical ratio of 5 per cent.; that were our medium now in a wholesome state, they might be estimated at from twelve to fifteen dollars the acre ; and I may add, I believe with correctness, that there is not any part of the Atlantic States where lands of equal quality and advantages can be had as cheap. When sold with a dwelling-house on them, little additional is generally asked for the house. These buildings are generally of wooden materials, and of indifferent structure and accommodation. Most of the hired labor here is of people of color, either slaves or free. An able-bodied man has sixty dollars a year, and is clothed and fed by the employer ; a woman half that. White laborers may be had, but they are less subordinate, their wages higher, and their nourishment much more expensive. A good horse for the plough costs fifty or sixty dollars. A draught ox twenty to twenty-five dollars. A milch cow fifteen to eighteen dollars. A sheep two dollars. Beef is about five cents, mutton and pork seven cents the pound. A turkey or goose fifty cents apiece, a chicken eight and one-third cents ; a dozen eggs the same. Fresh butter twenty to twenty-five cents the pound. And, to render as full as I can, the information which may enable you to calculate for yourself, I enclose you a Philadelphia price-current, giving the prices in regular times of most of the articles of produce or manufacture, foreign and domestic.
That it may be for the benefit of your children and their descendants to remove to a country where, for enterprise and talents, so many avenues are open to fortune and fame, I have little doubt. But I should be afraid to affirm that, at your time of life, and with habits formed on the state of society in France, a change for one so entirely different would be for your personal happiness. Fearful, therefore, to persuade, I shall add with sincere truth, that I shall very highly estimate the addition of such a neighbor to our society, and that there is no service within my power which I shall not render with pleasure and promptitude. With this assurance be pleased to accept that of my great esteem and respect.
P.S. This letter will be handed you by Mr. Ticknor, a young gentleman of Massachusetts, of great erudition and worth, and who will be gratified by the occasion of being presented to the author of the Traité dEconomie Politique.
Despatching to Mr. Ticknor my packet of letters for Paris, it occurs to me that I committed an error in a matter of information which you asked of me while here. It is indeed of little importance, yet as well corrected as otherwise, and the rather as it gives me an occasion of renewing my respects to you. You asked me in conversation, what constituted a mulatto by our law ? And I believe I told you four crossings with the whites. I looked afterwards into our law, and found it to be in these words : "Every person, other than a negro, of whose grandfathers or grandmothers any one shall have been a negro, shall be deemed a mulatto, and so every such person who shall have one-fourth part or more of negro blood, shall in like manner be deemed a mulatto; L. Virgà 1792, December 17: the case put in the first member of this paragraph of the law is exempli gratiâ. The latter contains the true canon, which is that one-fourth of negro blood, mixed with any portion of white, constitutes the mulatto. As the issue has one-half of the blood of each parent, and the blood of each of these may be made up of a variety of fractional mixtures, the estimate of their compound in some cases may be intricate; it becomes a mathematical problem of the same class with those on the mixtures of different liquors or different metals ; as in these, therefore, the algebraical notation is the most convenient and intelligible. Let us express the pure blood of the white in the capital letters of the printed alphabet, the pure blood of the negro in the small letters of the printed alphabet, and any given mixture of either; by way of abridgment in MS. letters.
Let the first crossing of a, pure negro, with A, pure white. The unit of blood of the issue being composed of the half of that of each parent, will be a/2+A/2. Call it, for abbreviation, h (half blood).
Let the second crossing be of h and B, the blood of the issue will be h/2+B/2, or substituting for h/2 its equivalent, it will be a/4+A/4+B/2, call it q (quarteroon) being ¼ negro blood.
Let the third crossing be of q and C, their offspring will be q/2+C/2=a/8+B/4+C/2, call this e (eighth), who having less than ¼ of a, or of pure negro blood, to wit 1/8 only, is no longer a mulatto, so that a third cross clears the blood.
From these elements let us examine their compounds. For example, let h and q cohabit, their issue will be h/2+q/2=a/4+A/4+a/8+A/8+B/4 = a/8+A/8+B/4, wherein we find 3/8 of a, or negro blood.
Let h and e cohabit, their issue will be h/2+e/2=a/4+ A/4+a/16+A/16+B/8+c/4 = a/16+A/16+B/8+c/4, wherein 5/16 a makes still a mulatto.
Let q and e cohabit, the half of the blood of each will be q/2+e/2 = a/8+A/8+B/4+a/16+A/16+B/8+C/4 = a/16+A/16+B/8+C/4 wherein 3/16 of a is no longer a mulatto, and thus may every compound be noted and summed, the sum of the fractions composing the blood of the issue being always equal to unit. It is understood in natural history that a fourth cross of one race of animals with another gives an issue equivalent for all sensible purposes to the original blood. Thus a Merino ram being crossed, first with a country ewe, second with his daughter, third with his granddaughter, and fourth with the great-granddaughter, the last issue is deemed pure Merino, having in fact but 1/16 of the country blood. Our canon considers two crosses with the pure white, and a third with any degree of mixture, however small, as clearing the issue of the negro blood. But observe, that this does not reestablish freedom, which depends on the condition of the mother, the principle of the civil law, partus sequitur ventrem, being adopted here. But if e be emancipated, he becomes a free white man, and a citizen of the United States to all intents and purposes. So much for this trifle by way of correction.
I sincerely congratulate you on the peace, and more especially on the close of our war with so much eclat. Our second and third campaigns here, I trust, more than redeemed the disgraces of the first, and proved that although a republican government is slow to move, yet, when once in motion, its momentum becomes irresistible; and I am persuaded it would have been found so in the last war, had it continued. Experience had just begun to elicit those among our officers who had talents for war, and under the guidance of these one campaign would have planted our standard on the walls of Quebec, and another on those of Halifax. But peace is better for us all; and if it could be followed by a cordial conciliation between us and England, it would ensure the happiness and prosperity of both. The bag of wind, however, on which they are now riding, must be suffered to blow out before they will be able soberly to settle on their true bottom. If they adopt a course of friendship with us, the commerce of one hundred millions of people, which some now born will live to see here, will maintain them forever as a great unit of the European family. But if they go on checking, irritating, injuring and hostilizing us, they will force on us the motto "Carthago delenda est." And some Scipio Americanus will leave to posterity the problem of conjecturing where stood once the ancient and splendid city of London ! Nothing more simple or certain than the elements of this circulation. I hope the good sense of both parties will concur in traveling rather the paths of peace, of affection, and reciprocations of interest. I salute you with sincere and friendly esteem, and if the homage offered to the virtues of your father can be acceptable to him, place mine at his feet.
I return the three cahiers, which I have perused with the usual satisfaction. You will find a few penciled notes merely verbal.
But in one place I have taken a greater liberty than I ever took before, or ever indeed had occasion to take. It is in the case of Josiah Philips, which I find strangely represented by Judge Tucker and Mr. Edmund Randolph, and very negligently vindicated by Mr. Henry. That case is personally known to me, because I was of the legislature at the time, was one of those consulted by Mr. Henry, and had my share in the passage of the bill. I never before saw the observations of those gentlemen, which you quote on this case, and will now therefore briefly make some strictures on them.
Judge Tucker, instead of a definition of the functions of bills of attainder, has given a diatribe against their abuse. The occasion and proper office of a bill of attainder is this : When a person charged with a crime withdraws from justice, or resists it by force, either in his own or a foreign country, no other means of bringing him to trial or punishment being practicable, a special act is passed by the legislature adapted to the particular case. This prescribes to him a sufficient time to appear and submit to a trial by his peers; declares that his refusal to appear shall be taken as a confession of guilt, as in the ordinary case of an offender at the bar refusing to plead, and pronounces the sentence which would have been rendered on his confession or conviction in a court of law. No doubt that these acts of attainder have been abused in England as instruments of vengeance by a successful over a defeated party. But what institution is insusceptible of abuse in wicked hands ?
Again, the judge says "the court refused to pass sentence of execution pursuant to the directions of the act." The court could not refuse this, because it was never proposed to them; and my authority for this assertion shall be presently given.
For the perversion of a fact so intimately known to himself, Mr. Randolph can be excused only by our indulgence for orators who, pressed by a powerful adversary, lose sight, in the ardor of conflict of the rigorous accuracies of fact, and permit their imagination to distort and color them to the views of the moment. He was Attorney General at the time, and told me himself, the first time I saw him after the trial of Philips, that when taken and delivered up to justice, he had thought it best to make no use of the act of attainder, and to take no measure under it; that he had indicted him at the common law either for murder or robbery (I forgot which and whether for both); that he was tried on this indictment in the ordinary way, found guilty by the jury, sentenced and executed under the common law ; a course which every one approves, because the first object of the act of attainder was to bring him to fair trial. Whether Mr. Randolph was right in this information to me, or when in the debate with Mr. Henry, he represents this atrocious offender as sentenced and executed under the act of attainder, let the record of the case decide.
" Without being confronted with his accusers and witnesses, without the privilege of calling for evidence in his behalf, he was sentenced to death, and afterwards actually executed." I appeal to the universe to produce one single instance from the first establishment of government in this State to the present day, where, in a trial at bar, a criminal has been refused confrontation with his accusers and witnesses, or denied the privilege of calling for evidence in his behalf ; had it been done in this case, I would have asked of the Attorney General why he proposed or permitted it. But without having seen the record, I will venture on the character of our courts, to deny that it was done. But if Mr. Randolph meant only that Philips had not these advantages on the passage of the bill of attainder, how idle to charge the legislature with omitting to confront the culprit with his witnesses, when he was standing out in arms and in defiance of their authority, and their sentence was to take effect only on his own refusal to come in and be confronted. We must either therefore consider this as a mere hyperbolism of imagination in the heat of debate, or what I should rather believe, a defective statement by the reporter of Mr. Randolphs argument. I suspect this last the rather because this point in the charge of Mr. Randolph is equally omitted in the defence of Mr. Henry. This gentleman must have known that Philips was tried and executed under the common law, and yet, according to his report, he rests his defence on a justification of the attainder only. But all who knew Mr. Henry, know that when at ease in argument, he was sometimes careless, not giving himself the trouble of ransacking either his memory or imagination for all the topics of his subject, or his audience that of hearing them. No man on earth knew better when he had said enough for his hearers.
Mr. Randolph charges us with having read the bill three times in the same day. I do not remember the f act, nor whether this was enforced on us by the urgency of the ravages of Philips, or of the time at which the bill was introduced. I have some idea it Was at or near the close of the session; the journals, which I have not, will ascertain the fact.
After the particular strictures, I will proceed to propose, 1st, that the word "substantially," page 92 1. s, be changed for "which has been charged with," [subjoining a note of reference. 1 Tuckers Blackst. Append., 292. Debates of Virginia Convention.]
2. That the whole of the quotations from Tucker, Randolph and Henry, be struck out, and instead of the text beginning page 92, 1. 12, with the words "bills of attainder, &c.," to the words "so often merited," page 95, 1. 4, be inserted the following, to wit :
" This was passed on the following occasion. A certain Josiah Philips, laborer of the parish of Lynhaven, in the county of Princess Anne, a man of daring and ferocious disposition, associating with other individuals of a similar cast, spread terror and desolation through the lower country, committing murders, burning houses, wasting farms, and perpetrating other enormities, at the bare mention of which humanity shudders. Every effort to apprehend him proved abortive. Strong in the number of his ruffian associates, or where force would have failed resorting to stratagem and ambush, striking the deadly blow or applying the fatal torch at the midnight hour, and in those places which their insulated situation left almost unprotected, he retired with impunity to his secret haunts, reeking with blood, and loaded with plunder. [So far the text of Mr. Girardin is preserved.] The inhabitants of the counties which were the theatre of his crimes, never secure a moment by day or by night, in their fields or their beds, sent representations of their distresses to the Governor, claiming the public protection. He consulted with some members of the legislature then sitting, on the best method of proceeding against the atrocious offender. Too powerful to be arrested by the sheriff and his posse comitatus, it was not doubted but an armed force might be sent to hunt and destroy him and his accomplices in their morasses and fastnesses wherever found. But the proceeding concluded to be most consonant with the forms and principles of our government, was that the legislature should pass an act giving him a reasonable but limited day to surrender himself to justice, and to submit to a trial by his peers. According to the laws of the land, to consider a refusal as a confession of guilt, and divesting him as an outlaw of the character of citizen, to pass on him the sentence prescribed by the law ; and the public officer being defied, to make every one his deputy, and especially those whose safety hourly depended on his destruction. The case was laid before the legislature, the proofs were ample, his outrages as notorious as those of the public enemy, and well known to the members of both houses from those counties. No one pretended then that the perpetrator of crimes who could successfully resist the officers of justice, should be protected in the continuance of them by the privileges of his citizenship, and that baffling ordinary process, nothing extraordinary could be rightfully adopted to protect the citizens against him. No one doubted that society had a right to erase from the roll of its members any one who rendered his own existence inconsistent with theirs; to withdraw from him the protection of their laws, and to remove him from among them by exile, or even by death if necessary. An enemy in lawful war, putting to death in cold blood the prisoner he has taken, authorizes retaliation, which would be inflicted with peculiar justice on the individual guilty of the deed, were it to happen that he should be taken. And could the murders and robberies of a pirate or outlaw entitle him to more tenderness ? They passed the law, therefore, and without opposition. He did not come in before the day prescribed; continued his lawless outrages; was afterwards taken in arms, but delivered over to the ordinary justice of the county. The Attorney General for the commonwealth, the immediate agent of the government, waiving all appeal to the act of attainder, indicted him at the common law as a murderer and robber. He was arraigned on that indictment in the usual forms, before a jury of his vicinage, and no use whatever made of the act of attainder in any part of the proceedings. He pleaded that he was a British subject, authorized to bear arms by a commission from Lord Dunmore; that he was therefore a mere prisoner of war, and under the protection of the law of nations. The court being of opinion that a commission from an enemy could not protect a citizen in deeds of murder and robbery, overruled his plea; he was found guilty by his jury, sentenced by the court, and executed by the ordinary officer of justice, and all according to the forms and rules of the common law."
I recommend an examination of the records for ascertaining the facts of this case, for although my memory assures me of the leading ones, I am not so certain in my recollection of the details. I am not sure of the character of the particular crimes committed by Philips, or charged in his indictment, whether his plea of alien enemy was formally put in and overruled, what were the specific provisions of the act of attainder, the urgency which caused it to be read three times in one day, if the fact were, etc., etc.
Your favor of January the 30th was received after long delay on the road, and I have to thank you for the volume of discourses which you have been so kind as to send me. I have gone over them with great satisfaction, and concur with the able preacher in his estimate of the character of the belligerents in our late war, and lawfulness of defensive war. I consider the war, with him, as "made on good advice" that is, for just causes, and its dispensation as providential, inasmuch as it has exercised our patriotism and submission to order, has planted and invigorated among us arts of urgent necessity, has manifested the strong and the weak parts of our republican institutions, and the excellence of a representative democracy compared with the misrule of kings, has rallied the opinions of mankind to the natural rights of expatriation, and of a common property in the ocean, and raised us to that grade in the scale of nations which the bravery and liberality of our citizen soldiers, by land and by sea, the wisdom of our institutions and their observance of justice, entitled us to in the eyes of the world. All this Mr. McLeod has well proved, and from these sources of argument particularly which belong to his profession. On one question only I differ from him, and it is that which constitutes the subject of his first discourse, the right of discussing public affairs in the pulpit. I add the last words, because I admit the right in general conversation and in writing; in which last form it has been exercised in the valuable book you have now favored me with.
The mass of human concerns, moral and physical, is so vast, the field of knowledge requisite for man to conduct them to the best advantage is so extensive, that no human being can acquire the whole himself, and much less in that degree necessary for the instruction of others. It has of necessity, then, been distributed into different departments, each of which, singly, may give occupation enough to the whole time and attention of a single individual. Thus we have teachers of Languages, teachers of Mathematics, of Natural Philosophy, of Chemistry, of Medicine, of Law, of History, of Government, etc. Religion, too, is a separate department, and happens to be the only one deemed requisite for all men, however high or low. Collections of men associate together, under the name of congregations, and employ a religious teacher of the particular sect of opinions of which they happen to be, and contribute to make up a stipend as a compensation for the trouble of delivering them, at such periods as they agree on, lessons in the religion they profess. If they want instruction in other sciences or arts, they apply to other instructors ; and this is generally the business of early life. But I suppose there is not an instance of a single congregation which has employed their preacher for the mixed purposes of lecturing them from the pulpit in Chemistry, Medicine, in Law, in the science and principles of Government, or in anything but Religion exclusively. Whenever, therefore, preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put them off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art or science. In choosing our pastor we look to his religious qualifications, without inquiring into his physical or political dogmas, with which we mean to have nothing to do. I am aware that arguments may be found, which may twist a thread of politics into the cord of religious duties. So may they for every other branch of human art or science. Thus, for example, it is a religious duty to obey the laws of our country ; the teacher of religion, therefore, must instruct us in those laws, that we may know how to obey them. It is a religious duty to assist our sick neighbors ; the preacher must, therefore, teach us medicine, that we may do it understandingly. It is a religious duty to preserve our own health ; our religious teacher, then, must tell us what dishes are wholesome, and give us recipes in cookery, that we may learn how to prepare them. And so, ingenuity, by generalizing more and more, may amalgamate all the branches of science into any one of them, and the physician who is paid to visit the sick, may give a sermon instead of medicine, and the merchant to whom money is sent for a hat, may send a handkerchief instead of it. But notwithstanding this possible confusion of all sciences into one, common sense draws lines between them sufficiently distinct for the general purposes of life, and no one is at a loss to understand that a recipe in medicine or cookery, or a demonstration in geometry, is not a lesson in religion. I do not deny that a congregation may, if they please, agree with their preacher that he shall instruct them in Medicine also, or Law, or Politics. Then, lectures in these, from the pulpit, become not only a matter of right, but of duty also. But this must be with the consent of every individual; because the association being voluntary, the mere majority has no right to apply the contributions of the minority to purposes unspecified in the agreement of the congregation. I agree, too, that on all other occasions, the preacher has the right, equally with every other citizen, to express his sentiments, in speaking or writing, on the subjects of Medicine, Law, Politics, etc., his leisure time being his own, and his congregation not obliged to listen to his conversation or to read his writings ; and no one would have regretted more than myself, had any scruple as to this right withheld from us the valuable discourses which have led to the expression of an opinion as to the true limits of the right. I feel my portion of indebtment to the reverend author for the distinguished learning, the logic and the eloquence with which he has proved that religion, as well as reason, confirms the soundness of those principles on which our government has been founded and its rights asserted.
These are my views on this question. They are in opposition to those of the highly respected and able preacher, and are, therefore, the more doubtingly offered. Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to truth; and that, I am sure, is the ultimate and sincere object of us both. We both value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by our Constitution, not to cherish its exercise even where in opposition to ourselves.
Unaccustomed to reserve or mystery in the expression of my opinions, I have opened myself frankly on a question suggested by your letter and present. And although I have not the honor of your acquaintance, this mark of attention, and still more the sentiments of esteem so kindly expressed in your letter, are entitled to a confidence that observations not intended for the public will not be ushered to their notice, as has happened to me sometimes. Tranquillity, at my age, is the balm of life. While I know I am safe in the honor and charity of a McLeod, I do not wish to be cast forth to the Marats, the Dantons, and the Robespierres of the priesthood; I mean the Parishes, the Ogdens, and the Gardiners of Massachusetts.
I pray you to accept the assurances of my esteem and respect.
Your letter of February the 19th has been received with very sincere pleasure. It recalls to memory the sociability, the friendship, and the harmony of action which united personal happiness with public duties, during the portion of our lives in which we acted together. Indeed, the affectionate harmony of our Cabinet is among the sweetest of my recollections. I have just received a letter of friendship from General Dearborn. He writes me that he is now retiring from every species of public occupation, to pass the remainder of life as a private citizen; and he promises me a visit in the course of the summer. As you hold out a hope of the same gratification, if chance or purpose could time your visits together, it would make a real jubilee. But come as you will, or as you can, it will always be. joy enough to me. Only you must give me a months notice; because I go three or four times a year to a possession ninety miles southwestward, and am absent a month at a time, and the mortification would be indelible of losing such a visit by a mistimed absence. You will find me in habitual good health, great contentedness, enfeebled in body, impaired in memory, but without decay in my friendships.
Great, indeed, have been the revolutions in the world, since you and I have had anything to do with it. To me they have been like the howlings of the winter storm over the battlements, while warm in my bed. The unprincipled tyrant of the land is fallen, his power reduced to its original nothingness, his person only not yet in the mad-house, where it ought always to have been. His equally unprincipled competitor, the tyrant of the ocean, in the madhouse indeed, in person, but his power still stalking over the deep. "Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat." The madness is acknowledged; the perdition of course impending. Are we to be the instruments ? A friendly, a just, and a reasonable conduct on their part, might make us the main pillar of their prosperity and existence. But their deep-rooted hatred to us seems to be the means which Providence permits to lead them to their final catastrophe. "Nullam enim in terris gentem esse, nullum in festiorem populum, nomini Romano," said the General who erased Capua from the list of powers. What nourishment and support would not England receive from an hundred millions of industrious descendants, whom some of her people now born will live to see here ? What their energies are, she has lately tried. And what has she not to fear from an hundred millions of such men, if she continues her maniac course of hatred and hostility to them ? I hope in God she will change. There is not a nation on the globe with whom I have more earnestly wished a friendly inter course on equal conditions. On no other would I hold out the hand of friendship to any. I know that their creatures represent me as personally an enemy to England. But fools only can believe this, or those who think me a fool. I am an enemy to her insults and injuries. I am an enemy to the flagitious principles of her administration, and to those which govern her conduct towards other nations. But would she give to morality some place in her political code, and especially would she exercise decency, and at least neutral passions towards us, there is not, I repeat it, a people on earth with whom I would sacrifice so much to be in friendship. They can do us, as enemies, more harm than any other nation ; and in peace and in war; they have more means of disturbing us internally. Their merchants established among us, the bonds by which our own are chained to their feet, and the banking combinations interwoven with the whole, have shown the extent of their control, even during a war with her. They are the workers of all the embarrassments our finances have experienced during the war. Declaring themselves bankrupt, they have been able still to chain the government to a dependence on them, and had the war continued, they would have reduced us to the inability to command a single dollar. They dared to proclaim that they would not pay their own paper obligations, yet our government could not venture to avail themselves of this opportunity of sweeping their paper from the circulation, and substituting their own notes bottomed on specific taxes for redemption, which every one would have eagerly taken and trusted, rather than the baseless trash of bankrupt companies ; our government, I say, have still been overawed from a contest with them, and has even countenanced and strengthened their influence, by proposing new establishments, with authority to swindle yet greater sums from our citizens. This is the British influence to which I am an enemy, and which we must subject to our government, or it will subject us to that of Britain.
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Come, and gratify, by seeing you once more, a friend who assures you with sincerity of his constant and affectionate attachment and respect.
I have received your favor of February the 27th, with very great pleasure, and sincerely reciprocate congratulations on late events. Peace was indeed desirable.; yet it would not have been as welcome without the successes of New Orleans. These last have established truths too important not to be valued; that the people of Louisiana are sincerely attaclied to the Union ; that their city can be defended; that the Western States make its defence their peculiar concern; that the militia are brave ; that their deadly aim countervails the manoeuvering skill of their enemy ; that we have officers of natural genius now starting forward from the mass; and that, putting together all our conflicts, we can beat the British by sea and by land, with equal numbers. All this being now proved, I am glad of the pacification of Ghent, and shall still be more so, if, by a reasonable arrangement against impressment, they will make it truly a treaty of peace, and not a mere truce, as we must all consider it, until the principle of the war is settled. Nor, among the incidents of the war, will we forget your services. After the disasters produced by the treason or the cowardice, or both, of Hull, and the follies of some others, your capture of York and Fort George, first turned the tide of success in our favor; and the subsequent campaigns sufficiently wiped away the disgrace of the first. If it were justifiable to look to your own happiness only, your resolution to retire from all public business could not but be approved. But you are too young to ask a discharge as yet, and the public counsels too much needing the wisdom of our ablest citizens, to relinquish their claim on you. And surely none needs your aid more than your own State. Oh, Massachusetts ! how have I lamented the degradation of your apostasy ! Massachusetts, with whom I went with pride in 1776, whose vote was my vote on every public question, and whose principles were then the standard of whatever was free or fearless. But she was then under the counsels of the two Adamses; while Strong, her present leader, was promoting petitions for submission to British power and British usurpation. While under her present counsels, she must be contented to be nothing; as having a vote, indeed, to be counted, but not respected. But should the State once more buckle on her republican harness, we shall receive her again as a sister, and recollect her wanderings among the crimes only of the parricide party, which would have basely sold what their fathers so bravely won from the same enemy. Let us look forward, then, to the act of repentance, which, by dismissing her venal traitors, shall be the signal of return to the bosom and to the principles of her brethren ; and if her late humiliation can just give her modesty enough to suppose that her Southern brethren are somewhat on a par with her in wisdom, in information, in patriotism, in bravery, and even in honesty, although not in psalm-singing, she will more justly estimate her own relative momentum in the Union. With her ancient principles, she would really be great, if she did not think herself the whole. I should be pleased to hear that you go into her counsels, and assist in bringing her back to those principles, and to a sober satisfaction with her proportionable share in the direction of our affairs.
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Be so good as to lay my homage at the feet of Mrs. Dearborn, and be assured that I am ever and affectionately yours.
I duly received your favor of the 12th, and with it the pamphlet on the causes and conduct of the war, which I now return. I have read it with great pleasure, but with irresistible desire that it should be published. The reasons in favor of this are strong, and those against it are so easily gotten over, that there appears to me no balance between them. 1. We need it in Europe. They have totally mistaken our character. Accustomed to rise at a feather themselves, and to be always fighting, they will see in our conduct, fairly stated, that acquiescence under wrong, to a certain degree, is wisdom, and not pusillanimity; and that peace and happiness are preferable to that false honor which, by eternal wars, keeps their people in eternal labor, want, and wretchedness. 2. It is necessary for the people of England, who have been deceived as to the causes and conduct of the war, and do not entertain a doubt, that it was entirely wanton and wicked on our part, and under the order of Bonaparte. By rectifying their ideas, it will tend to that conciliation which is absolutely necessary to the peace and prosperity of both nations. 3. It is necessary for our own people, who, although they have known the details as they went along, yet have been so plied with false facts and false views by the federalists, that some impression has been left that all has not been right. It may be said that it will be thought unfriendly. But truths necessary for our own character, must not be suppressed out of tenderness to its calumniators. Although written, generally, with great moderation, there may be some things in the pamphlet which may perhaps irritate. The characterizing every act, for example, by its appropriate epithet, is not necessary to show its deformity to an intelligent reader. The naked narrative will present it truly to his mind, and the more strongly, from its moderation, as he will perceive that no exaggeration is aimed at. Rubbing down these roughnesses, and they are neither many nor prominent, and preserving the original date, might, I think, remove all the offensiveness, and give more effect to the publication. Indeed, I think that a soothing postcript, addressed to the interests, the prospects, and the sober reason of both nations, would make it acceptable to both. The trifling expense of reprinting it ought not to be considered a moment. Mr. Gallatin could have it translated into French, and suffer it to get abroad in Europe without either avowal or disavowal. But it would be useful to print some copies of an appendix, containing all the documents referred to, to be preserved in libraries, and to facilitate to the present and future writers of history, the acquisition of the materials which test the truth it contains.
I sincerely congratulate you on the peace, and, more especially on the eclat with which the war was closed. The affair of New Orleans was fraught with useful lessons to ourselves, our enemies, and our friends, and will powerfully influence our future relations with the nations of Europe. It will show them we mean to take no part in their wars, and count no odds when engaged in our own. I presume that, having spared to the pride of England her formal acknowledgment of the atrocity of impressment in an article of the treaty, she will concur in a convention for relinquishing it. Without this, she must understand that the present is but a truce, determinable on the first act of impressment of an American citizen, committed by any officer of hers. Would it not be better that this convention should be a separate act, unconnected with any treaty of commerce, and made an indispensable preliminary to all other treaty ? If blended with a treaty of commerce she will make it the price of injurious concessions. Indeed, we are infinitely better without such treaties with any nation. We cannot too distinctly detach ourselves from the European system, which is essentially belligerent, nor too sedulously cultivate an American system, essentially pacific. But if we go into commercial treaties at all, they should be with all, at the same time, with whom we have important commercial relations. France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, all should proceed pari passu. Our ministers marching in phalanx on the same line, and intercommunicating freely, each will be supported by the weight of the whole mass, and the facility with which the other nations will agree to equal terms of intercourse, will discountenance the selfish higglings of England, or justify our rejection of them. Perhaps, with all of them, it would be best to have but the single article gentis amicissimæ, leaving everything else to the usages and courtesies of civilized nations. But all these things will occur to yourself, with their counter-consideration.
Mr. Smith wrote to me on the transportation of the library, and, particularly, that it is submitted to your direction. He mentioned, also, that Dougherty would be engaged to superintend it. No one will more carefully and faithfully execute all those duties which would belong to a wagon master. But it requires a character acquainted with books, to receive the library. I am now employing as many hours of every day as my strength will permit, in arranging the books, and putting every one in its place on the shelves, corresponding with its order on the catalogue, and shall have them numbered correspondently. This operation will employ me a considerable time yet. Then I should wish a competent agent to attend, and, with the catalogue in his hand, see that every book is on the shelves, and have their lids nailed on, one by one, as he proceeds. This would take such a person about two days; after which, Doughertys business would be the mere mechanical removal, at convenience. I enclose you a letter from Mr. Milligan, offering his service, which would not cost more than eight or ten days reasonable compensation. This is necessary for my safety and your satisfaction, as a just caution for the public. You know that there are persons, both in and out of the public councils, who will seize every occasion of imputation on either of us, the more difficult to be repelled in this case, in which a negative could not be proved. If you approve of it, therefore, as soon as I am through the review, I will give notice to Mr. Milligan, or any other person you will name, to come on immediately. Indeed it would be well worth while to add to his duty, that of covering the books with a little paper, (the good bindings, at least,) and filling the vacancies of the presses with paper parings, to be brought from Washington. This would add little more to the time, as he could carry on both operations at once.
Accept the assurance of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
I return your 14th chapter with only two or three unimportant alterations as usual, and with a note suggested, of doubtful admissibility. I believe it would be acceptable to the reader of every nation except England, and I do not suppose that, even without it, your book will be a popular one there, however you will decide for yourself.
As to what is to be said of myself, I of course am not the judge. But my sincere wish is that the faithful historian, like the able surgeon, would consider me in his hands, while living, as a dead subject, that the same judgment may now be expressed which will be rendered hereafter, so far as my small agency in human affairs may attract future notice ; and I would of choice now stand as at the bar of posterity, "Cum semel occidaris, et de te ultima Minos Fecerit arbitria." The only exact testimony of a man is his actions, leaving the reader to pronounce on them his own judgment. In anticipating this, too little is safer than too much ; and I sincerely assure you that you will please me most by a rigorous suppression of all friendly partialities. This candid expression of sentiments once delivered, passive silence becomes the future duty.
It is with real regret I inform you that the day of delivering the library is close at hand. A letter by last mail informs me that Mr. Milligan is ordered to come on the instant I am ready to deliver. I shall complete the arrangement of the books on Saturday. There will then remain only to paste on them their numbers, which will be begun on Sunday. Of this Mr. Milligan has notice, and may be expected every hour after Monday next. He will examine the books by the catalogue, and nail up the presses, one by one, as he gets through them. But it is indispensable for me to have all the books in their places when we begin to number them, and it would be a great convenience to have all you can do without now, to put them into the places they should occupy. Ancient history is numbered. Modern history comes next. The bearer carries a basket to receive what he can bring of those you are done with. I salute you with friendship and respect.
Your favor of Feb. 21. was received in due time. I thought it a duty to spare you the trouble of reading an useless answer, and have therefore delayed acknoleging it until now. Not having revised the library for many years, I expected that books would be missing without being able to conjecture how many, and that in that case a deduction should be made for the deficient volumes. I have gone through a rigorous review of them, and find indeed some missing, which were in the Catalogue, on which the estimate and price has been made; but that considerably more both in number and value had been omitted by oversight in copying that catalogue from the original one which was done two years ago. I have not thought it right to withdraw these from the library, so that the whole delivered exceeds on the principles of the estimate, the sum appropriated, and of course there is no ground for any deduction. The books being now all ready for delivery, and their removal actually commenced, I may with propriety now receive the payment. Entirely unacquainted as I am with the forms established at the treasury, for the security of the public I must only say what I wish, and so far as it may be inconsistent with the necessary forms, you will have the goodness to correct me and inform me what is necessary. If my convenience can be so far consulted, I would request payments to be made
|To William Short of Philadelphia of||10,500||In bills of such of the specified denominations & places of paiment as they shall chuse|
|To John Barnes of Georgetown of||4,870|
|To myself||8,580||To be inclosed to me by mail.|
In 82. notes of 100. D. each and 19. of 20. D. each, payable in Richmond, for which last sum I inclose my receipt, and I forward to Mr. Short and Mr. Barnes orders on the Treasurer for the sums to be paid them for which they will give acquittals. Should these papers be deficient in form, I will, at a moments warning send on any others in whatever form shall be necessary. Should it be requisite that the whole should be payable at one and the same place, then Washington would be the most convenient for the whole. As I wait only the completion of the delivery of all the books to set out on a journey of considerable absence and urgency, it would be a great favor to me if the sum which I ask to be remitted to myself, could be sent by as early a mail as the convenience of the Treasury will admit. I pray you to accept my friendly and respectful salutations.
I have duly received your favor of March 20th, and am truly thankful for the favorable sentiments expressed in it towards myself. If, in the course of my life, it has been in any degree useful to the cause of humanity, the fact itself bears its full reward. The particular subject of the pamphlet you enclosed me was one of early and tender consideration with me, and had I continued in the councils of my own State, it should never have been out of sight. The only practicable plan I could ever devise is stated under the 14th quaere of the Notes on Virginia, and it is still the one most sound in my judgment. Unhappily it is a case for which both parties require long and difficult preparation. The mind of the master is to be apprized by reflection, and strengthened by the energies of conscience, against the obstacles of self interest to an acquiescence in the rights of others; that of the slave is to be prepared by instruction and habit for self government, and for the honest pursuits of industry and social duty. Both of these courses of preparation require time, and the former must precede the latter. Some progress is sensibly made in it; yet not so much as I had hoped and expected. But it will yield in time to temperate and steady pursuit, to the enlargement of the human mind, and its advancement in science. We are not in a world ungoverned by the laws and the power of a superior agent. Our efforts are in his hand, and directed by it; and he will give them their effect in his own time. Where the disease is most deeply seated, there it will be slowest in eradication. In the northern States it was merely superficial, and easily corrected. In the southern it is incorporated with the whole system, and requires time, patience, and perseverance in the curative process. That it may finally be effected, and its progress hastened, will be the last and fondest prayer of him who now salutes you with respect and consideration.
The newspapers tell us you are arrived in the United States. I congratulate my country on this as a manifestation that you consider its civil advantages as more than equivalent to the physical comforts and social delights of a country which possesses both in the highest degree of any one on earth. You despair of your country, and so do I. A military despotism is now fixed upon it permanently, especially if the son of the tyrant should have virtues and talents. What a treat would it be to me, to be with you, and to learn from you all the intrigues, apostasies and treacheries which have produced this last deaths blow to the hopes of France. For, although not in the will, there was in the imbecility of the Bourbons a foundation of hope that the patriots of France might obtain a moderate representative government. Here you will find rejoicings on this event, and by a strange quid pro quo, not by the party hostile to liberty, but by its zealous friends. In this they see nothing but the scourge reproduced for the back of England they do not permit themselves to see in it the blast of all the hopes of mankind, and that however it may jeopardize England, it gives to her self-defence the lying countenance again of being the sole champion of the rights of man, to which in all other nations she is most adverse. I wrote to you on the 28th of February, by a Mr. Ticknor, then proposing to sail for France, but the conclusion of peace induced him to go first to England. I hope he will keep my letter out of the post offices of France ; for it was not written for the inspection of those now in power. You will now be a witness of our deplorable ignorance in finance and political economy generally. I mentioned in my letter of February that I was endeavoring to get your memoir on that subject printed. I have not yet succeeded. I am just setting out to a distant possession of mine, and shall be absent three weeks. God bless you.
It is long since we have exchanged a letter, and yet what volumes might have been written on the occurrences even of the last three months. In the first place, peace, God bless it ! has returned to put us all again into a course of lawful and laudable pursuits; a new trial of the Bourbons has proved to the world their incompetence to the functions of the station they have occupied; and the recall of the usurper has clothed him with the semblance of a legitimate autocrat. If adversity should have taught him wisdom, of which I have little expectation, he may yet render some service to mankind, by teaching the ancient dynasties that they can be changed for misrule, and by wearing down the maritime power of England to limitable and safe dimensions. But it is not possible he should love us; and of that our commerce had sufficient proof during his power. Our military achievements, indeed, which he is capable of estimating, may, in some degree, moderate the effect of his aversions; and he may perhaps fancy that we are to become the natural enemies of England, as England herself has so steadily endeavored to make us, and as some of our own over-zealous patriots would be willing to proclaim; and, in this view, he may admit a cold toleration of some intercourse and commerce between the two nations. He has certainly had time to see the folly of turning the industry of France from the cultures for which nature has so highly endowed her, to those of sugar, cotton, tobacco, and others, which the same creative power has given to other climates ; and, on the whole, if he can conquer the passions of his tyrannical soul, if he has understanding enough to pursue from motives of interest, what no moral motives lead him to, the tranquil happiness and prosperity of his country, rather than a ravenous thirst for human blood, his return may become of more advantage than injury to us. And if, again, some great man could arise in England, who could see and correct the follies of his nation in their conduct as to us, and by exercising justice and comity towards ours, bring both into a state of temperate and useful friendship, it is possible we might thus attain the place we ought to occupy between these two nations, without being degraded to the condition of mere partisans of either.
A little time will now inform us, whether France, within its proper limits, is big enough for its ruler, on the one hand, and whether, on the other, the allied powers are either wicked or foolish enough to attempt the forcing on the French a ruler and government which they refuse ? Whether they will risk their own thrones to re-establish that of the Bourbons ? If this is attempted, and the European world again committed to war, will the jealousy of England at the commerce which neutrality will give us, induce her again to add us to the number of her enemies, rather than see us prosper in the pursuit of peace and industry ? And have our commercial citizens merited from their country its encountering another war to protect their gambling enterprises ? That the persons of our citizens shall be safe in freely traversing the ocean, that the transportation of our own produce, in our own vessels, to the markets of our choice, and the return to us of the articles we want for our own use, shall be unmolested, I hold to be fundamental, and the gauntlet that must be for ever hurled at him who questions it. But whether we shall engage in every war of Europe, to protect the mere agency of our merchants and ship-owners in carrying on the commerce of other nations, even were these merchants and ship-owners to take the side of their country in the contest, instead of that of the enemy, is a question of deep and serious consideration, with which, however, you and I shall have nothing to do ; so we will leave it to those whom it will concern.
I thank you for making known to me Mr. Ticknor and Mr. Gray. They are fine young men, indeed, and if Massachusetts can raise a few more such, it is probable she would be better counseled as to social rights and social duties. Mr. Ticknor is, particularly, the best bibliograph I have met with, and very kindly and opportunely offered me the means of reprocuring some part of the literary treasures which I have ceded to Congress, to replace the devastations of British vandalism at Washington. I cannot live without books. But fewer will suffice, where amusement, and not use, is the only future object. I am about sending him a catalogue, to which less than his critical knowledge of books would hardly be adequate.
Present my high respects to Mrs. Adams, and accept yourself the assurance of my affectionate attachment.
I received a few days ago your favor of May 5th, stating a question on a law of the State of Georgia which suspends judgments for a limited time, and asking my opinion whether it may be valid under the inhibition of our constitution to pass laws impairing the obligations of contracts. It is more than forty years since I have quitted the practice of the law, and been engaged in vocations which furnished little occasion of preserving a familiarity with that science. I am far, therefore, from being qualified to decide on the problems it presents, and certainly not disposed to obtrude in a case where gentlemen have been consulted of the first qualifications, and of actual and daily familiarity with the subject, especially too in a question on the law of another State. We have in this State a law resembling in some degree that you quote, suspending executions until a year after the treaty of peace; but no question under it has been raised before the courts. It is also, I believe, expected that when this shall expire, in consideration of the absolute impossibility of procuring coin to satisfy judgments, a law will be passed, similar to that passed in England, on suspending the cash payments of their bank, that provided that on refusal by a party to receive notes of the Bank of England in any case either of past or future contracts, the judgment should be suspended during the continuance of that act, bearing, however, legal interest. They seemed to consider that it was not this law which changed the conditions of the contract, but the circumstances which had arisen, and had rendered its literal execution impossible; by the disappearance of the metallic medium stipulated by the contract, that the parties not concurring in a reasonable and just accommodation, it became the duty of the legislature to arbitrate between them; and that less restrained than the Duke of Venice by the letter of decree, they were free to adjudge to Shylock a reasonable equivalent. And I believe that in our States this umpirage of the legislatures has been generally interposed in cases where a literal execution of contract has, by a change of circumstances, become impossible, or, if enforced, would produce a disproportion between the subject of the contract and its price, which the parties did not contemplate at the time of the contract.
The second question, whether the judges are invested with exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality of a law, has been heretofore a subject of consideration with me in the exercise of official duties. Certainly there is not a word in the constitution which has given that power to them more than to the executive or legislative branches. Questions of property, of character and of crime being ascribed to the judges, through a definite course of legal proceeding, laws involving such questions belong, of course, to them; and as they decide on them ultimately and without appeal, they of course decide for themselves. The constitutional validity of the law or laws again prescribing executive action, and to be administered by that branch ultimately and without appeal, the executive must decide for themselves also, whether, under the constitution, they are valid or not. So also as to laws governing the proceedings of the legislature, that body must judge for itself the constitutionality of the law, and equally without appeal or control from its co-ordinate branches. And, in general, that branch which is to act ultimately, and without appeal, on any law, is the rightful expositor of the validity of the law, uncontrolled by the opinions of the other co-ordinate authorities. It may be said that contradictory decisions may arise in such case, and produce inconvenience. This is possible, and is a necessary failing in all human proceedings. Yet the prudence of the public functionaries, and authority of public opinion, will generally produce accommodation. Such an instance of difference occurred between the judges of England (in the time of Lord Holt) and the House of Commons, but the prudence of those bodies prevented inconvenience from it. So in the cases of Duane and of William Smith of South Carolina, whose characters of citizenship stood precisely on the same ground, the judges in a question of meum and tuum which came before them, decided that Duane was not a citizen; and in a question of membership, the House of Representatives, under the same words of the same provision, adjudged William Smith to be a citizen. Yet no inconvenience has ensued from these contradictory decisions. This is what I believe myself to be sound. But there is another opinion entertained by some men of such judgment and information as to lessen my confidence in my own. That is, that the legislature alone is the exclusive expounder of the sense of the constitution, in every part of it whatever. And they allege in its support, that this branch has authority to impeach and punish a member of either of the others acting contrary to its declaration of the sense of the constitution. It may indeed be answered, that an act may still be valid although the party is punished for it, right or wrong. However, this opinion which ascribes exclusive exposition to the legislature, merits respect for its safety, there being in the body of the nation a control over them, which, if expressed by rejection on the subsequent exercise of their elective franchise, enlists public opinion against their exposition, and encourages a judge or executive on a future occasion to adhere to their former opinion. Between these two doctrines, every one has a right to choose, and I know of no third meriting any respect.
I have thus, Sir, frankly, without the honor of your acquaintance, confided to you my opinion; trusting assuredly that no use will be made of it which shall commit me to the contentions of the newspapers. From that field of disquietude my age asks exemption, and permission to enjoy the privileged tranquility of a private and unmeddling citizen. In this confidence accept the assurances of my respect and consideration.