Dear Sir,I have received with great pleasure your friendly letter of April 24th. It has come to hand after I had written my letters for the present conveyance, and just in time to add this to them. I learn with great pleasure the progress of the new Constitution. Indeed I have presumed it would gain on the public mind, as I confess it has on my own. At first, though I saw that the great mass and groundwork was good, I disliked many appendages. Reflection and discussion have cleared off most of these. You have satisfied me as to the query I had put to you about the right of direct taxation. My first wish was that nine States would adopt it in order to ensure what was good in it, and that the others might, by holding off, produce the necessary amendments. But the plan of Massachusetts is far preferable, and will, I hope, be followed by those who are yet to decide. There are two amendments only which I am anxious for: I. A bill of rights, which it is so much the interest of all to have, that I conceive it must be yielded. The 1st amendment proposed by Massachusetts will in some degree answer this end, but not so well. It will do too much in some instances, and too little in others. It will cripple the Federal Government in some cases where it ought to be free, and not restrain in some others where restraint would be right. The 2d amendment which appears to me essential is the restoring the principle of necessary rotation, particularly to the Senate and Presidency: but most of all to the last. Re-eligibility makes him an officer for life, and the disasters inseparable from an elective monarchy, render it preferable if we cannot tread back that step, that we should go forward and take refuge in an hereditary one. Of the correction of this article, however, I entertain no present hope, because I find it has scarcely excited an objection in America. And if it does not take place erelong, it assuredly never will. The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. As yet our spirits are free. Our jealousy is only put to sleep by the unlimited confidence we all repose in the person to whom we all look as our president. After him inferior characters may perhaps succeed, and awaken us to the danger which his merit has led us into. For the present, however, the general adoption is to be prayed for, and I wait with great anxiety for the news from Maryland and South Carolina, which have decided before this, and with that Virginia, now in session, may give the ninth vote of approbation. There could then be no doubt of North Carolina, New York, and New Hampshire. But what do you propose to do with Rhode Island as long as there is hope we should give her time ? I cannot conceive but that she will come to rights in the long run. Force, in whatever form, would be a dangerous precedent.
There are rumors that the Austrian army is obliged to retire a little; that the Spanish squadron is gone to South America; that the English have excited a rebellion there; and some others equally unauthenticated. I do not mention them in my letter to Mr. Jay, because they are unauthenticated. The bankruptcies in London have re-commenced with new force. There is no saying where this fire will end, perhaps in the general conflagration of all their paper. If not now, it must erelong. With only twenty millions of coin, and three or four hundred millions of circulating paper, public and private, nothing is necessary but a general panic, produced either by failures, invasion, or any other cause, and the whole visionary fabric vanishes into air, and shows that paper is poverty, that it is only the ghost of money, and not money itself. One hundred years ago, they had twenty odd millions of coin. Since that they have brought in from Holland by borrowing forty millions more, yet they have but twenty millions left, and they talk of being rich, and of having the balance of trade in their favor.
Paul Jones is invited into the Empress' service, with the rank of Rear Admiral, and to have a separate command. I wish it corresponded with the views of Congress to give him that rank from the taking of the Serapis. I look to this officer as our great future dependence on the sea, where alone we should think of ever having a force. He is young enough to see the day when we shall be more populous than the whole British dominions, and able to fight them ship to ship. We should procure him, then, every possible opportunity of acquiring experience.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem, dear Sir, your friend and servant.
On my return from an excursion to Devonshire with my family, where we have been to fly from the putrefaction of a great city in the summer heats, I had the pleasure to find your favors of the 17th and 23d July.
A million of guilders are borrowed on a new loan in Holland; and I went over lately to subscribe the obligations, a punctilio which the brokers were pleased to think indispensable, to gratify the fancies of the money-lenders. But, as I had no fresh authority from congress, nor any particular new instructions, I have been and am still under serious apprehensions of its meeting with obstacles in the way of its ratification. If it is ratified, congress may, if they please, pay the interest, and principal too, out of it, to the French officers. I presume that if M. Grand should refuse your usual drafts for your salary, Messrs. Willink and Van Staphorst will honor them to the amount of yours and Mr. Short's salaries without any other interposition than your letter; but if they should make any difficulty, and if it should be in my power to remove it, you may well suppose I shall not be wanting. To be explicit, I will either advise or order the money to be paid upon your draft, as may be necessary, so that I pray you to make your mind perfectly easy on that score.
Mr. Barclay, I agree with you, took the wisest course when he embarked for America, though it will lay me under difficulties in settling my affairs finally with congress.
The French debt, and all the domestic debt of the United States, might be transferred to Holland, if it were judged necessary or profitable, and the congress or convention would take two or three preparatory steps. All the perplexities, confusions, and distresses in America arise, not from defects in their constitution or confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation. While an annual interest of twenty, thirty, and even fifty per cent. can be made, and a hope of augmenting capitals in a proportion of five hundred per cent. is opened by speculations in the stocks, commerce will not thrive. Such a state of things would annihilate the commerce, and overturn the government, too, in any nation in Europe.
I will endeavor to send you a copy, with this letter, of the second volume of the "Defence." If Frouillé, the bookseller, has a mind to translate it, he may; but it may not strike others as it does Americans. Three editions of the first volume have been printed in America. The second volume contains three long courses of experiments in political philosophy. Every trial was intended and contrived to determine the question whether Mr. Turgot's system would do. The result you may read. It has cost me a good deal of trouble and expense to search into Italian ruins and rubbish, but enough of pure gold and marble has been found to reward the pains. I shall be suspected of writing romances to expose Mr. Turgot's system; but I assure you it is all genuine history. The vast subject of confederations remains; but I have neither head, hands, heart, eyes, books, nor time to engage in it; besides, it ought not to be so hasty a performance as the two volumes already ventured before the public.
With perfect esteem, your sincere friend,