5. The members of Congress are differently paid by different States. Some are on fixed allowances, from four to eight dollars a day. Others have their expenses paid, and a surplus for their time. This surplus is of two, three, or four dollars a day.
6. I do not believe there has ever been a moment, when a single whig, in any one State, would not have shuddered at the very idea of a separation of their State from the confederacy. The tories would, at all times, have been glad to see the confederacy dissolved, even by particles at a time, in hopes of their attaching themselves again to Great Britain.
7. The 11th article of Confederation admits Canada to accede to the Confederation, at its own will, but adds, 'no other colony shall be admitted to the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine States.' When the plan of April, 1784, for establishing new States, was on the carpet, the committee who framed the report of that plan, had inserted this clause, 'provided nine States agree to such admission, according to the reservation of the 11th of the articles of Confederation.' It was objected, 1. That the words of the Confederation, 'no other colony,' could refer only to the residuary possessions of Great Britain, as the two Floridas, Nova Scotia, &c. not being already parts of the Union; that the law for 'admitting' a new member into the Union, could not be applied to a territory which was already in the Union, as making part of a State which was a member of it. 2. That it would be improper to allow 'nine' States to receive a new member, because the same reasons which rendered that number proper now, would render a greater one proper, when the number composing the Union should be increased. They therefore struck out this paragraph, and inserted a proviso, that, 'the consent of so many States, in Congress, shall be first obtained, as may, at the time, be competent;' thus leaving the question, whether the 11th article applies to the admission of new States, to be decided when that admission shall be asked. See the Journal of Congress of April 20, 1784. Another doubt was started in this debate; viz. whether the agreement of the nine Stales, required by the Confederation, was to be made by their legislatures, or by their delegates in Congress. The expression adopted, viz. 'so many States, in Congress, is first obtained,' show what was their sense of this matter. If it be agreed, that the 11th article of the Confederation is not to be applied to the admission of these new States, then it is contended that their admission comes within the 13th article, which forbids 'any alteration, unless agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.' The independence of the new States of Kentucky and Franklin, will soon bring on the ultimate decision of all these questions.
8. Particular instances, whereby the General Assembly of Virginia have shown, that they considered the ordinance called their constitution, as every other ordinance, or act of the legislature, subject to be altered by the legislature for the time being.
1. The convention which formed that constitution, declared themselves to be the House of Delegates, during the term for which they were originally elected, and, in the autumn of the year, met the Senate, elected under the new constitution, and did legislative business with them. At this time, there were malefactors in the public jail, and there was, as yet, no court established for their trial. They passed a law, appointing certain members by name, who were then members of the Executive Council, to be a court for the trial of these malefactors, though the constitution had said, in express words, that no person should exercise the powers of more than one of the three departments, legislative, executive, and judiciary, at the same time. This proves, that the very men who had made that constitution, understood that it would be alterable by the General Assembly. This court was only for that occasion. When the next General Assembly met, after the election of the ensuing year, there was a new set of malefactors in the jail, and no court to try them. This Assembly passed a similar law to the former, appointing certain members of the Executive Council to be an occasional court for this particular case. Not having the journals of Assembly by me, I am unable to say whether this measure was repealed afterwards. However, they are instances of executive and judiciary powers exercised by the same persons, under the authority of a law, made in contradiction to the constitution.
2. There was a process depending in the ordinary courts of justice, between two individuals of the name of Robinson and Fauntleroy, who were relations, of different descriptions, to one Robinson, a British subject, lately dead. Each party claimed a right to inherit the lands of the decedent, according to the laws. Their right should, by the constitution, have been decided by the judiciary courts; and it was actually depending before them. One of the parties petitioned the Assembly, (I think it was in the year 1782,) who passed a law deciding the right in his favor. In the following year, a Frenchman, master of a vessel, entered into port without complying with the laws established in such cases, whereby he incurred the forfeitures of the law to any person who would sue for them. An individual instituted a legal process to recover these forfeitures, according to the law of the land. The Frenchman petitioned the Assembly, who passed a law deciding the question of forfeiture in his favor. These acts are occasional repeals of that part of the constitution, which forbids the same persons to exercise legislative and judiciary powers, at the same time.
3. The Assembly is in the habitual exercise, during their sessions, of directing the Executive what to do. There are few pages of their journals, which do not furnish proofs of this, and, consequently, instances of the legislative and executive powers exercised by the same persons, at the same time. These things prove, that it has been the uninterrupted opinion of every Assembly, from that which passed the ordinance called the constitution, down to the present day, that their, acts may control that ordinance, and, of course, that the State of Virginia has no fixed constitution at all.
ARTICLE BY JEFFERSON: 'Etats Unis,' FOR THE Encyclopedie Methodique
[The succeeding observations were made by Mr. Jefferson on an article entitled 'Etats Unis,' prepared for the Encyclopedie Methodique, and submitted to him before its publication.]
Page 8. The malefactors sent to America were not sufficient in number to merit enumeration, as one class out of three, which peopled America. It was at a late period of their history, that this practice began. I have no book by me, which enables me to point out the date of its commencement. But I do not think the whole number sent would amount to two thousand, and being principally men, eaten up with disease, they married seldom and propagated little. I do not suppose that themselves and their descendants are, at present, four thousand, which is little more than one thousandth part of the whole inhabitants.
Indented servants formed a considerable supply. These were poor Europeans, who went to America to settle themselves. If they could pay their passage, it was well. If not, they must find means of paying it. They were at liberty, therefore, to make an agreement with any person they chose, to serve him such a length of time as they agreed on, upon condition that he would repay, to the master of the vessel, the expenses of their passage. If, being foreigners, unable to speak the language, they did not know how to make a bargain for themselves, the captain of the vessel contracted for them, with such persons as he could. This contract was by deed indented, which occasioned them to be called indented servants. Sometimes they were called redemptioners, because, by their agreement with the master of the vessel, they could redeem themselves from his power by paying their passage; which they frequently effected, by hiring themselves on their arrival, as is before mentioned. In some States, I know that these people had a right of marrying themselves, without their master's leave, and I did suppose they had that right every where. I did not know, that, in any of the States, they demanded so much as a week for every day's absence, without leave. I suspect this must have been at a very early period, while the governments were in the hands of the first emigrants, who, being mostly laborers, were narrow-minded and severe. I know that in Virginia, the laws allowed their servitude to be protracted only two days for every one they were absent without leave. So mild was this kind of servitude, that it was very frequent for foreigners, who carried to America money enough, not only to pay their passage, but to buy themselves a farm, to indent themselves to a master for three years, for a certain sum of money, with a view to learn the husbandry of the country. I will here make a general observation. So desirous are the poor of Europe to get to America, where they may better their condition, that, being unable to pay their passage, they will agree to serve two or three years on their arrival there, rather than not go. During the time of that service, they are better fed, better clothed, and have lighter labor, than while in Europe. Continuing to work for hire, a few years longer, they buy a farm, marry, and enjoy all the sweets of a domestic society of their own. The American governments are censured for permitting this species of servitude, which lays the foundation of the happiness of these people. But what should these governments do? Pay the passage of all those who choose to go into their country? They are not able; nor, were they able, do they think the purchase worth the price. Should they exclude these people from their shores? Those who know their situations in Europe and America, would not say, that this is the alternative which humanity dictates. It is said these people are deceived by those who carry them over. But this is done in Europe. How can the American governments prevent it? Should they punish the deceiver? It seems more incumbent on the European government, where the act is done, and where a public injury is sustained from it. However, it is only in Europe that this deception is heard of. The individuals are generally satisfied in America, with their adventure, and very few of them wish not to have made it. I must add, that the Congress have nothing to do with this matter. It belongs to the legislatures of the several States.
Page 26. 'Une puissance, en effet,' &c. The account of the settlement of the colonies, which precedes this paragraph, shows that that settlement was not made by public authority, or at the public expense of England; but by the exertions, and at the expense, of individuals. Hence it happened, that their constitutions were not formed systematically, but according to the circumstances which happened to exist in each. Hence, too, the principles of the political connection between the old and new countries were never settled. That it would have been advantageous to have settled them, is certain; and, particularly, to have provided a body which should decide, in the last resort, all cases wherein both parties were interested. But it is not certain that that right would have been given, or ought to have been given, to the Parliament; much less, that it resulted to the Parliament, without having been given to it expressly. Why was it necessary, that there should have been a body to decide in the last resort? Because, it would have been for the good of both parties. But this reason shows, it ought not to have been the Parliament, since that would have exercised it for the good of one party only.
Page 105. As to the change of the 8th article of Confederation, for quotaing requisitions of money on the States.
By a report of the secretary of Congress, dated January the 4th, 1786, eight States had then acceded to the proposition; to wit, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Congress, on the 18th of April, 1783, recommended to the States to invest them with a power, for twenty-five years, to levy an impost of five per cent, on all articles imported from abroad. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, had complied with this, before the 4th of January, 1786. Maryland had passed an act for the same purpose; but, by a mistake in referring to the date of the recommendation of Congress, the act failed of its effect. This was therefore to be rectified. Since the 4th of January, the public papers tell us, that Rhode Island has complied fully with this recommendation. It remains still for New York and Georgia to do it. The exportations of America, which are tolerably well known, are the best measure for estimating the importations. These are probably worth about twenty millions of dollars annually. Of course, this impost will pay the interest of a debt to that amount. If confined to the foreign debt, it will pay the whole interest of that, and sink half a million of the capital annually. The expenses of collecting this impost, will probably be six per cent, on its amount, this being the usual expense of collection in the United States. This will be sixty thousand dollars.
On the 30th of April, 1784, Congress recommended to the States, to invest them with a power, for fifteen years, to exclude from their ports the vessels of all nations, not having a treaty of commerce with them; and to pass, as to all nations, an act on the principles of the British navigation act. Not that they were disposed to carry these powers into execution, with such as would meet them in fair and equal arrangements of commerce; but that they might be able to do it against those who should not. On the 4th of January, 1786, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, had done it: It remained for New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia to do the same.
in the mean time, the general idea has advanced before the demands of Congress, and several States have passed acts, for vesting Congress with the whole regulation of their commerce, reserving the revenue arising from these regulations, to the disposal of the State in which it is levied. The States which, according to the public papers, have passed such acts, are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia: but the Assembly of Virginia, apprehensive that this disjointed method of proceeding may fail in its effect, or be much retarded, passed a resolution on the 21st of January, 1786, appointing commissioners to meet others from the other States, whom they invite into the same measure, to digest the form of an act for investing Congress with, such powers over their commerce, as shall be thought expedient, which act is to be reported to their several Assemblies for their adoption. This was the state of the several propositions relative to the impost and regulation of commerce at the date of our latest advices from America.
Page 125. The General Assembly of Virginia, at their session in 1785, passed an act, declaring that the district called Kentucky shall be a separate and independent State on these conditions. 1. That the people of that district shall consent to it. 2. That Congress shall consent to it, and shall receive them into the federal Union. 3. That they shall take on themselves a proportionable part of the public debt of Virginia. 4. That they shall confirm all titles to lands within their district made by the State of Virginia before their separation.
Page 139. It was in 1783, and not in 1781, that Congress quitted Philadelphia.
Page 140, 'Le Congres qui se trouvoit a la portee des rebelles fut effraye.' I was not present on this occasion, but, I have had relations of the transaction from several who were. The conduct of Congress was marked with indignation and firmness. They received no propositions from the mutineers. They came to the resolutions which may be seen in the journals of June the 21st, 1783, then adjourned regularly and went through the body of the mutineers to their respective lodgings. The measures taken by Dickinson, the President of Pennsylvania, for punishing this insult, not being satisfactory to Congress, they assembled nine days after at Princeton, in Jersey. The people of Pennsylvania sent petitions, declaring their indignation at what had passed, their devotion to the federal head, and their dispositions to protect it, and praying them to return; the legislature as soon as assembled did the same thing; the Executive, whose irresolution had been so exceptionable, made apologies. But Congress were now removed; and to the opinion that this example was proper, other causes were now added sufficient to prevent their return to Philadelphia.
Page 155, I. 2. Omit 'La dette actuelle,' &c.
And also, 'Les details,' &c. &c. to the end of the paragraph, 'celles des Etats Unis' page 156. The reason is, that these passages seem to suppose that the several sums emitted by Congress at different times, amounting nominally to two hundred millions of dollars, had been actually worth that at the time of emission, and of course, that the soldiers and others had received that sum from Congress. But nothing is further from the truth. The soldier, victualler, or other persons who received forty dollars for a service at the close of the year 1779, received, in fact, no more than he who received one dollar for the same service in the year 1775, or 1776; because in those years the paper money was at par with silver; whereas, by the close of 1779, forty paper dollars were worth but one of silver, and would buy no more of the necessaries of life. To know what the monies emitted by Congress were worth to the people at the time they received them, we will state the date and amount of every several emission, the depreciation of paper money at the time, and the real worth of the emission in silver or gold.
[* The sum actually voted was 50,000,400, but part of it was for exchange of old bills, without saying how much. It is presumed that these exchanges absorbed 25,552,780, because the remainder 24,447,620, with all the other emissions preceding September 2nd, 1779, will amount to 159,948,880, the sum which Congress declared to be then in circulation.]
Thus it appears that the two hundred millions of dollars, emitted by Congress, were worth to those who received them, but about thirty-six millions of silver dollars. If we estimate at the same value the like sum of two hundred millions, supposed to have been emitted by the States, and reckon the Federal debt, foreign and domestic, at about forty-three millions, and the State debts at about twenty-five millions, it will form an amount of one hundred and forty millions of dollars, or seven hundred and thirty-five millions of livres Tournois, the total sum which the war has cost the inhabitants of the United States. It continued eight years, from the battle of Lexington to the cessation of hostilities in America. The annual expense then was about seventeen millions and five hundred thousand dollars, while that of our enemies was a greater number of guineas.
It will be asked, how will the two masses of Continental and of State money have cost the people of the United States seventy-two millions of dollars, when they are to be redeemed now with about six millions? I answer, that the difference, being sixty-six millions, has been lost on the paper bills separately by the successive holders of them. Every one through whose hands a bill passed lost on that bill what it lost in value, during the time it was in his hands. This was a real tax on him; and in this way, the people of the United States actually contributed those sixty-six millions of dollars during the war, and by a mode of taxation the most oppressive of all, because the most unequal of all.
Page 166; bottom line. Leave out 'Et c'est une autre economie,' &c. The reason of this is, that in 1784, purchases of lands were to be made of the Indians, which were accordingly made. But in 1785 they did not propose to make any purchase. The money desired in 1785, five thousand dollars, was probably to pay agents residing among the Indians, or balances of the purchases of 1784. These purchases will not be made every year; but only at distant intervals, as our settlements are extended: and it may be regarded as certain, that not a foot of land will ever be taken from the Indians without their own consent. The sacredness of their rights is felt by all thinking persons in America, as much as in Europe.
Page 170. Virginia was quotaed the highest of any State in the Union. But during the war several States appear to have paid more, because they were free from the enemy, whilst Virginia was cruelly ravaged. The requisition of 1784 was so quotaed on the several States, as to bring up their arrearages; so that, when they should have paid the sums then demanded, all would be on an equal footing. It is necessary to give a further explanation of this requisition. The requisitions of one million and two hundred thousand dollars, of eight millions, and two millions, had been made during the war, as an experiment to see whether in that situation the States could furnish the necessary supplies. It was found they could not. The money was thereupon obtained by loans in Europe: and Congress meant by their requisition of 1784, to abandon the requisitions of one million and two hundred thousand dollars, and of two millions, and also one half of the eight millions. But as all the States almost had made some payments in part of that requisition, they were obliged to retain such a proportion of it as would enable them to call for equal contributions from all the others.
Page 170. I cannot say how it has happened, that the debt of Connecticut is greater than that of Virginia. The latter is the richest in productions, and, perhaps, made greater exertions to pay for her supplies in the course of the war.
Page 172. 'Les Americains levant apres une banqueroute, &c. The objections made to the United States being here condensed together in a short compass, perhaps it would not be improper to condense the answers in as small a compass in some such form as follows. That is, after the words 'aucun espoir,' add, 'But to these charges it may be justly answered, that those are no bankrupts who acknowledge the sacredness of their debts in their just and real amount, who are able within a reasonable time to pay them, and who are actually proceeding in that payment; that they furnish, in fact, the supplies necessary for the support of their government; that their officers and soldiers are satisfied, as the interest of their debt is paid regularly, and the principal is in a course of payment; that the question, whether they fought ill should be asked of those who met them at Bunker's Hill, Bennington, Stillwater, King's Mountain, the Cowpens, Guilford, and the Eutaw. And that the charges of ingratitude, madness, infidelity, and corruption, are easily made by those to whom falsehoods cost nothing; but that no instances in support of them have been produced or can be produced.'
Page 182. 'Les officiers et les soldats ont ete payes,' &c. The balances due to the officers and soldiers have been ascertained, and a certificate of the sum given to each; on these the interest is regularly paid; and every occasion is seized of paying the principal by receiving these certificates as money whenever public property is sold, till a more regular and effectual method can be taken for paying the whole.
Page 191. 'Quoique la loi dont nous parlons, ne s'observe plus en Angleterre.' 'An alien born may purchase lands or other estates, but not for his own use; for the King is thereupon entitled to them.' 'Yet an alien may acquire a property in goods, money, and other personal estate, or may hire a house for his habitation. For this is necessary for the advancement of trade.' 'Also, an alien may bring an action concerning personal property, and may make a will and dispose of his personal estate.' When I mention these rights of an alien, I must be understood of alien friends only, or such whose countries are in peace with ours; for alien enemies have no rights, no privileges, unless by the King's special favor during the time of war.'Blackstone, B.1. c.10. page 372. 'An alien friend may have personal actions, but not real; an alien enemy shall have neither real, personal, nor mixed actions. The reason why an alien friend is allowed to maintain a personal action is, because he would otherwise be incapacitated to merchandise, which may be as much to our prejudice as his.' Cunningham's Law Diet, title, Aliens. The above is the clear law of England, practised from the earliest ages to this day, and never denied. The passage quoted by M. de Meusnier from Black-stone, c.26. is from his chapter 'Of title to things personal by occupancy.' The word 'personal' shows that nothing in this chapter relates to lands which are real estate; and therefore, this passage does not contradict the one before quoted from the same author (1.B. c.10.), which says, that the lands of an alien belong to the King. The words, 'of title by occupancy,' show, that it does not relate to debts, which being a moral existence only, cannot be the subject of occupancy. Blackstone, in this passage (B.2. c.26.), speaks only of personal goods of an alien, which another may find and seize as prime occupant.
Page 193. 'Le remboursement presentera des difficultes des sommes considerables,' &c. There is no difficulty nor doubt on this subject. Every one is sensible how this is to be ultimately settled. Neither the British creditor, nor the State, will be permitted to lose by these payments. The debtor will be credited for what he paid, according to what it was really worth at the time he paid it, and he must pay the balance. Nor does he lose by this; for if a man who owed one thousand dollars to a British merchant, paid eight hundred paper dollars into the treasury, when the depreciation was at eight for one, it is clear he paid but one hundred real dollars, and must now pay nine hundred. It is probable he received those eight hundred dollars for one hundred bushels of wheat, which were never worth more than one hundred silver dollars. He is credited, therefore, the full worth of his wheat. The equivoque is in the use of the word 'dollar.'
Page 226. 'Qu'on abolisse les privileges du clerge.' This privilege, originally allowed to the clergy, is now extended to every man, and even to women. It is a right of exemption from capital punishment for the first offence in most cases. It is then a pardon by the law. In other cases, the Executive gives the pardon. But when laws are made as mild as they should be, both those pardons are absurd. The principle of Beccaria is sound. Let the legislators be merciful, but the executors of the law inexorable. As the term 'privileges du clerge' may be misunderstood by foreigners, perhaps it will be better to strike it out here and substitute the word 'pardon.'
Page 239. 'Les commissaires veulent,' &c. Manslaughter is the killing a man with design, but in a sudden gust of passion, and where the killer has not had time to cool. The first offence is not punished capitally, but the second is. This is the law of England and of all the American States; and is not a new proposition. Those laws have supposed that a man, whose passions have so much dominion over him, as to lead him to repeated acts of murder, is unsafe to society: that it is better he should be put to death by the law, than others more innocent than himself on the movements of his impetuous passions.
Ibid. 'Mal-aise d'indiquer la nuance precise,' &c. In forming a scale of crimes and punishments, two considerations have principal weight. 1. The atrocity of the crime. 2. The peculiar circumstances of a country, which furnish greater temptations to commit it, or greater facilities for escaping detection, The punishment must be heavier to counterbalance this. Were the first the only consideration, all nations would form the same scale. But as the circumstances of a country have influence on the punishment, and no two countries exist precisely under the same circumstances, no two countries will form the same scale of crimes and punishments. For example; in America the inhabitants let their horses go at large in the uninclosed lands which are so extensive as to maintain them altogether. It is easy, therefore, to steal them and easy to escape. Therefore the laws are obliged to oppose these temptations with a heavier degree of punishment. For this reason the stealing of a horse in America is punished more severely, than stealing the same value in any other form. In Europe where horses are confined so securely, that it is impossible to steal them, that species of theft need not be punished more severely than any other. In some countries of Europe, stealing fruit from trees in punished capitally. The reason is, that it being impossible to lock fruit trees up in coffers, as we do our money, it is impossible to oppose physical bars to this species of theft. Moral ones are therefore opposed by the laws. This to an unreflecting American appears the most enormous of all the abuses of power; because he has been used to see fruits hanging in such quantities, that if not taken by men they would rot: he has been used to consider them therefore as of no value, and as not furnishing materials for the commission of a crime. This must serve as an apology for the arrangement of crimes and punishments in the scale under our consideration. A different one would be formed here; and still different ones in Italy, Turkey, China, &c.
Page 240. 'Les officiers Americains,' &c. to page 264, 'qui le meritoient.' I would propose to new-model this section in the following manner, 1. Give a succinct history of the origin and establishment of the Cincinnati. 2. Examine whether in its present form it threatens any dangers to the State. 3. Propose the most practicable method of preventing them.
Having been in America during the period in which this institution was formed, and being then in a situation which gave me opportunities of seeing it in all its stages, I may venture to give M. de Meusnier materials for the first branch of the preceding distribution of the subject. The second and third he will best execute himself. I should write its history in the following form. When on the close of that war which established the independence of America, its army was about to be disbanded, the officers, who, during the course of it, had gone through the most trying scenes together, who by mutual aids and good offices had become dear to one another, felt with great oppression of mind the approach of that moment which was to separate them, never perhaps to meet again. They were from different States, and from distant parts of the same State. Hazard alone could therefore give them but rare and partial occasions of seeing each other. They were of course to abandon altogether the hope of ever meeting again, or to devise some occasion which might bring them together. And why not come together on purpose at stated times? Would not the trouble of such a journey be greatly overpaid by the pleasure of seeing each other again, by the sweetest of all consolations, the talking over the scenes of difficulty and of endearment they had gone through? This too would enable them to know who of them should succeed in the world, who should be unsuccessful, and to open the purses of all to every laboring brother. This idea was too soothing not to be cherished in conversation. It was improved into that of a regular association, with an organized administration, with periodical meetings, general and particular, fixed contributions for those who should be in distress, and a badge by which not only those who had not had occasion to become personally known should be able to recognise one another, but which should be worn by their descendants, to perpetuate among them the friendships which had bound their ancestors together.
General Washington was, at that moment, oppressed with the operation of disbanding an army which was not paid, and the difficulty of this operation was increased, by some two or three States having expressed sentiments, which did not indicate a sufficient attention to their payment. He was sometimes present, when his officers were fashioning, in their conversations, their newly proposed society. He saw the innocence of its origin, and foresaw no effects less innocent. He was, at that time, writing his valedictory letter to the States, which has been so deservedly applauded by the world. Far from thinking it a moment to multiply the causes of irritation, by thwarting a proposition which had absolutely no other basis but that of benevolence and friendship, he was rather satisfied to find himself aided in his difficulties by this new incident, which occupied, and, at the same time, soothed the minds of the officers. He thought, too, that this institution would be one instrument the more, for strengthening the federal bond, and for promoting federal ideas. The institution was formed. They incorporated into it the officers of the French army and navy, by whose sides they had fought, and with whose aid they had finally prevailed, extending it to such grades, as they were told might be permitted to enter into it. They sent an officer to France, to make the proposition to them, and to procure the badges which they had devised for their order. The moment of disbanding the army having come, before they could have a full meeting to appoint their President, the General was prayed to act in that office till their first general meeting, which was to be held at Philadelphia, in the month of May following.
The laws of the society were published. Men who read them in their closers, unwarmed by those sentiments of friendship which had produced them, inattentive to those pains which an approaching separation had excited in the minds of the instituters, politicians, who see in every thing only the dangers with which it threatens civil society, in fine, the laboring people, who, shielded by equal laws, had never seen any difference between man and man, but had read of terrible oppressions, which people of their description experience in other countries, from those who are distinguished by titles and badges, began to be alarmed at this new institution. A remarkable silence, however, was observed. Their solicitudes were long confined within the circles of private conversation. At length, however, a Mr. Burke, Chief Justice of South Carolina, broke that silence. He wrote against the new institution, foreboding its dangers, very imperfectly indeed, because he had nothing but his imagination to aid him. An American could do no more; for to detail the real evils of aristocracy, they must be seen in Europe. Burke's fears were thought exaggerations in America; while in Europe, it is known that even Mirabeau has but faintly sketched the curses of hereditary aristocracy, as they are experienced here, and as they would have followed in America, had this institution remained. The epigraph of Burke's pamphlet, was 'Blow ye the trumpet in Zion.' Its effect corresponded with its epigraph. This institution became, first, the subject of general conversation. Next, it was made the subject of deliberation in the legislative Assemblies of some of the States. The Governor of South Carolina censured it, in an address to the Assembly of that State. The Assemblies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania condemned its principles. No circumstance, indeed, brought the consideration of it expressly before Congress; yet it had sunk deep into their minds. An offer having been made to them, on the part of the Polish order of Divine Providence, to receive some of their distinguished citizens into that order, they made that an occasion to declare, that these distinctions were contrary to the principles of their Confederation.
The uneasiness excited by this institution had very early caught the notice of General Washington. Still recollecting all the purity of the motives which gave it birth, he became sensible that it might produce political evils, which the warmth of those motives had masked. Add to this, that it was disapproved by the mass of citizens of the Union. This, alone, was reason strong enough, in a country where the will of the majority is the law, and ought to be the law. He saw that the objects of the institution were too light to be opposed to considerations as serious as these; and that it was become necessary to annihilate it absolutely. On this, therefore, he was decided. The first annual meeting at Philadelphia was now at hand; he went to that, determined to exert all his influence for its suppression. He proposed it to his fellow officers, and urged it with all his powers. It met an opposition which was observed to cloud his face with an anxiety, that the most distressful scenes of the war had scarcely ever produced. It was canvassed for several days, and, at length, it was no more a doubt, what would be its ultimate fate. The order was on the point of receiving its annihilation, by the vote of a great majority of its members. In this moment, their envoy arrived from France, charged with letters from the French officers, accepting with cordiality the proposed badges of union, with solicitations from others to be received into the order, and with notice that their respectable Sovereign had been pleased to recognise it, and to permit his officers to wear its badges. The prospect was now changed. The question assumed a new form. After the offer made by them, and accepted by their friends, in what words could they clothe a proposition to retract it, which would not cover themselves with the reproaches of levity and ingratitude? which would not appear an insult to those whom they loved? Federal principles, popular discontent, were considerations, whose weight was known and felt by themselves. But would foreigners know and feel them equally? Would they so far acknowledge their cogency, as to permit, without any indignation, the eagle and ribbon to be torn from their breasts, by the very hands which had placed them there? The idea revolted the whole society. They found it necessary, then, to preserve so much of their institution as might continue to support this foreign branch, while they should prune off every other, which would give offence to their fellow citizens: thus sacrificing, on each hand, to their friends and to their country.
The society was to retain its existence, its name, its meetings, and its charitable funds: but these last were to be deposited with their respective legislatures. The order was to be no longer hereditary; a reformation, which had been pressed even from this side the Atlantic; it was to be communicated to no new members; the general meetings, instead of annual, were to be triennial only. The eagle and ribbon, indeed, were retained, because they were worn, and they wished them to be worn, by their friends who were in a country where they would not be objects of offence; but themselves never wore them. They laid them up in their bureaus, with the medals of American Independence, with those of the trophies they had taken, and the battles they had won. But through all the United States, no officer is seen to offend the public eye with the display of this badge. These changes have tranquillized the American States. Their citizens feel too much interest in the reputation of their officers, and value too much whatever may serve to recall to the memory of their allies, the moments wherein they formed but one people, not to do justice to the circumstance which prevented a total annihilation of the order. Though they are obliged by a prudent foresight, to keep out every thing from among themselves, which might pretend to divide them into orders, and to degrade one description of men below another, yet they hear with pleasure, that their allies, whom circumstances have already placed under these distinctions, are willing to consider it as one, to have aided them in the establishment of their liberties, and to wear a badge which may recall them to their remembrance; and it would be an extreme affliction to them, if the domestic reformation which has been found necessary, if the censures of individual writers, or if any other circumstance, should discourage the wearing of their badge, or lessen its reputation.
This short but true, history of the order of the Cincinnati, taken from the mouths of persons on the spot, who were privy to its origin and progress, and who know its present state, is the best apology which can be made for an institution, which appeared to be, and was really, so heterogeneous to the governments in which it was erected.
It should be further considered, that, in America, no other distinction between man and man had ever been known, but that of persons in office, exercising powers by authority of the laws, and private individuals. Among these last, the poorest laborer stood on equal ground with the wealthiest millionary, and generally, on a more favored one, whenever their rights seemed to jar. It has been seen that a shoemaker, or other artisan, removed by the voice of his country from his work-bench, into a chair of office, has instantly commanded all the respect and obedience, which the laws ascribe to his office. But of distinctions by birth or badge, they had no more idea than they had of the mode of existence in the moon or planets. They had heard only that there were such, and knew that they must be wrong. A due horror of the evils which flow from these distinctions, could be excited in Europe only, where the dignity of man is lost in arbitrary distinctions, where the human species is classed into several stages of degradation, where the many are crouched under the weight of the few, and where the order established can present to the contemplation of a thinking being, no other picture, than that of God Almighty and his angels, trampling under foot the host of the damned. No wonder, then, that the institution of the Cincinnati should be innocently conceived by one order of American citizens, should raise in the other orders, only a slow, temperate, and rational opposition, and should be viewed in Europe as a detestable parricide.
The second and third branches of this subject, nobody can better execute than M. de Meusnier. Perhaps it may be curious to him to see how they strike an American mind at present. He shall, therefore, have the ideas of one, who was an enemy to the institution from the first moment of its conception, but who was always sensible, that the officers neither foresaw nor intended the injury they were doing to their country.
As to the question, then, whether any evil can proceed from the institution, as it stands at present, I am of opinion there may. 1. From the meetings. These will keep the officers formed into a body; will continue a distinction between the civil and military, which, it would be for the good of the whole to obliterate, as soon as possible; and military assemblies will not only keep alive the jealousies and fears of the civil government, but give ground for these fears and jealousies. For when men meet together, they will make business, if they have none; they will collate their grievances, some real, some imaginary, all highly painted; they will communicate to each other the sparks of discontent; and these may engender a flame, which will consume their particular, as well as the general happiness. 2. The charitable part of the institution is still more likely to do mischief, as it perpetuates the dangers apprehended in the preceding clause. For here is a fund provided, of permanent existence. To whom will it belong? To the descendants of American officers, of a certain description. These descendants, then, will form a body, having a sufficient interest to keep up an attention to their description, to continue meetings, and perhaps, in some moment, when the political eye shall be slumbering, or the firmness of their fellow citizens relaxed, to replace the insignia of the order, and revive all its pretensions. What good can the officers propose, which may weigh against these possible evils? The securing their descendants against want? Why afraid to trust them to the same fertile soil, and the same genial climate, which will secure from want the descendants of their other fellow citizens? Are they afraid they will be reduced to labor the earth for their sustenance? They will be rendered thereby both more honest and happy. An industrious farmer occupies a more dignified place in the scale of beings, whether moral or political, than a lazy lounger, valuing himself on his family, too proud to work, and drawing out a miserable existence, by eating on that surplus of other men's labor, which is the sacred fund of the helpless poor. A pitiful annuity will only prevent them from exerting that industry and those talents, which would soon lead them to better fortune.
How are these evils to be prevented? 1. At their first general meeting, let them distribute the funds on hand to the existing objects of their destination, and discontinue all further contributions. 2. Let them declare, at the same time, that their meetings, general and particular, shall thenceforth cease. 3. Let them melt up their eagles, and add the mass to the distributable fund, that their descendants may have no temptation to hang them in their button-holes.
These reflections are not proposed as worthy the notice of M. de Meusnier. He will be so good as to treat the subject in his own way, and no body has a better. I will only pray him to avail us of his forcible manner, to evince that there is evil to be apprehended, even from the ashes of this institution, and to exhort the society in America to make their reformation complete; bearing in mind, that we must keep the passions of men on our side, even when we are persuading them to do what they ought to do.
Page 268. 'Et en effet la population,' &c. Page 270. 'Plus de confiance.'
To this, we answer, that no such census of the numbers was ever given out by Congress, nor ever presented to them: and further, that Congress never have, at any time, declared by their vote, the number of inhabitants in their respective States. On the 22nd of June, 1775, they first resolved to emit paper money. The sum resolved on was two millions of dollars. They declared, then, that the twelve confederate colonies (for Georgia had not yet joined them) should be pledged for the redemption of these bills. To ascertain in what proportion each State should be bound, the members from each were desired to say, as nearly as they could, what was the number of the inhabitants of their respective States. They were very much unprepared for such a declaration. They guessed, however, as well as they could. The following are the numbers, as they conjectured them, and the consequent apportionment of the two millions of dollars.
Georgia, having not yet acceded to the measures of the other States, was not quotaed; but her numbers were generally estimated at about thirty thousand, and so would have made the whole, two million four hundred and forty-eight thousand persons, of every condition. But it is to be observed, that though Congress made this census the basis of their apportionment, yet they did not even give it a place on their journals; much less, publish it to the world with their sanction. The way it got abroad was this. As the members declared from their seats the number of inhabitants which they conjectured to be in their State, the secretary of Congress wrote them on a piece of paper, calculated the portion of two millions of dollars, to be paid by each, and entered the sum only in the journals. The members, however, for their own satisfaction, and the information of their States, took copies of this enumeration, and sent them to their States. From thence, they got into the public papers: and when the English news-writers found it answer their purpose to compare this with the enumeration of 1783, as their principle is 'to lie boldly, that they may not be suspected of lying,' they made it amount to three millions one hundred and thirty-seven thousand eight hundred and nine, and ascribed its publication to Congress itself.
in April, 1785, Congress being to call on the States to raise a million and a half of dollars annually, for twenty-five years, it was necessary to apportion this among them. The States had never furnished them with their exact numbers. It was agreed, too, that in this apportionment, five slaves should be counted as three freemen only. The preparation of this business was in the hands of a committee; they applied to the members for the best information they could give them, of the numbers of their States. Some of the States had taken pains to discover their numbers. Others had done nothing in that way, and, of course, were now where they were in 1775, when their members were first called on to declare their numbers. Under these circumstances, and on the principle of counting three fifths only of the slaves, the committee apportioned the money among the States, and reported their work to Congress. In this, they had assessed South Carolina as having one hundred and seventy thousand inhabitants. The delegates for that State, however, prevailed on Congress to assess them on the footing of one hundred and fifty thousand only, in consideration of the state of total devastation, in which the enemy had left their country. The difference was then laid on the other States, and the following was the result.
Still, however, Congress refused to give the enumeration the sanction of a place on their journals, because it was not formed on such evidence, as a strict attention to accuracy and truth required. They used it from necessity, because they could get no better rule, and they entered on their journals only the apportionment of money. The members, however, as before, took copies of the enumeration, which was the ground work of the apportionment, sent them to their States, and thus, this second enumeration got into the public papers, and was, by the English, ascribed to Congress, as their declaration of their present numbers. To get at the real numbers which this enumeration supposes, we must add twenty thousand to the number, on which South Carolina was quotaed; we must consider, that seven hundred thousand slaves are counted but as four hundred and twenty thousand persons, and add, on that account, two hundred and eighty thousand. This will give us a total of two millions six hundred and thirty-nine thousand three hundred inhabitants, of every condition, in the thirteen States; being two hundred and twenty-one thousand three hundred more, than the enumeration of 1775, instead of seven hundred and ninety-eight thousand five hundred and nine less, which the English papers asserted to be the diminution of numbers, in the United States, according to the confession of Congress themselves.
Page 272.'Comportera, peut etre, une population de 30,000,000.' The territory of the United States contains about a million of square miles, English. There is, in them, a greater proportion of fertile lands, than in the British dominions in Europe. Suppose the territory of the United States, then, to attain an equal degree of population, with the British European dominions; they will have an hundred millions of inhabitants. Let us extend our views to what may be the population of the two continents of North and South America, supposing them divided at the narrowest part of the isthmus of Panama. Between this line and that of 50 deg. of north latitude, the northern continent contains about five millions of square miles, and south of this line of division, the southern continent contains about seven millions of square miles. I do not pass the 50th degree of northern latitude in my reckoning, because we must draw a line somewhere, and considering the soil and climate beyond that, I would only avail my calculation of it, as a make-weight, to make good what the colder regions, within that line, may be supposed to fall short in their future population. Here are twelve millions of square miles, then, which, at the rate of population before assumed, will nourish twelve hundred millions of inhabitants, a number greater than the present population of the whole globe is supposed to amount to. If those who propose medals for the resolution of questions, about which nobody makes any question, those who have invited discussion on the pretended problem, Whether the discovery of America was for the good of mankind? if they, I say, would have viewed it only as doubling the numbers of mankind, and, of course, the quantum of existence and happiness, they might have saved the money and the reputation which their proposition has cost them. The present population of the inhabited parts of the United States is of about ten to the square mile; and experience has shown us, that wherever we reach that, the inhabitants become uneasy, as too much compressed, and go off, in great numbers, to search for vacant country. Within forty years, their whole territory will be peopled at that rate. We may fix that, then, as the term, beyond which the people of those States will not be restrained within their present limits; we may fix that population, too, as the limit which they will not exceed, till the whole of those two continents are filled up to that mark; that is to say, till they shall contain one hundred and twenty millions of inhabitants. The soil of the country, on the western side of the Mississippi, its climate, and its vicinity to the United States, point it out as the first which will receive population from that nest. The present occupiers will just have force enough to repress and restrain the emigrations, to a certain degree of consistence. We have seen, lately, a single person go, and decide on a settlement in Kentucky, many hundred miles from any white inhabitant, remove thither with his family and a few neighbors, and though perpetually harassed by the Indians, that settlement in the course of ten years has acquired thirty thousand inhabitants; its numbers are increasing while we are writing, and the State, of which it formerly made a part, has offered it independence.
Page 280, line five. 'Huit des onze Etats,' &c. Say, 'there were ten States present; six voted unanimously for it, three against it, and one was divided: and seven votes being requisite to decide the proposition affirmatively, it was lost. The voice of a single individual of the State which was divided, or of one of those which were of the negative, would have prevented this abominable crime from spreading itself over the new country. Thus we see the fate of millions unborn, hanging on the tongue of one man, and Heaven was silent in that awful moment! But it is to be hoped it will not always be silent, and that the friends to the rights of human nature will, in the end, prevail.
On the 16th of March, 1785, it was moved in Congress, that the same proposition should be referred to a committee, and it was referred by the votes of eight States against three. We do not hear that any thing further is yet done on it.'
Page 286. 'L'autorite du Congres etoit necessaire.' The substance of the passage alluded to, in the journal of Congress, May the 26th, 1784, is, 'That the authority of Congress to make requisitions of troops, during peace, is questioned; that such an authority would be dangerous, combined with the acknowledged one of emitting or of borrowing money; and that a few troops only, being wanted, to guard magazines and garrison the frontier posts, it would be more proper, at present, to recommend than to require.'
Mr. Jefferson presents his compliments to M. de Meusnier, and sends him copies of the thirteenth, twenty-third, and twenty-fourth articles of the treaty between the King of Prussia and the United States.
If M. de Meusnier proposes to mention the facts of cruelty, of which he and Mr Jefferson spoke yesterday, the twenty-fourth article will introduce them properly, because they produced a sense of the necessity of that article. These facts are, 1. The death of upwards of eleven thousand American prisoners, in one prison-ship (the Jersey), and in the space of three years. 2. General Howe's permitting our prisoners, taken at the battle of Germantown, and placed under a guard, in the yard of the State-house of Philadelphia, to be so long without any food furnished them, that many perished with hunger. Where the bodies lay, it was seen that they had eaten all the grass around them, within their reach, after they had lost the power of rising or moving from their place. 3. The second fact was the act of a commanding officer: the first, of several commanding officers, and, for so long a time, as must suppose the approbation of government. But the following was the act of government itself. During the periods that our affairs seemed unfavorable, and theirs successful, that is to say, after the evacuation of New York, and again after the taking of Charleston, in South Carolina, they regularly sent our prisoners, taken on the seas and carried to England, to the East Indies. This is so certain, that in the month of November or December, 1785, Mr. Adams having officially demanded a delivery of the American prisoners sent to the East Indies, Lord Caermarthen answered, officially, 'that orders were immediately issued for their discharge.' M. de Meusnier is at liberty to quote this fact. 4. A fact, to be ascribed not only to the government, but to the parliament, who passed an act for that purpose, in the beginning of the war, was the obliging our prisoners, taken at sea, to join them, and fight against their countrymen. This they effected by starving and whipping them. The insult on Captain Stanhope, which happened at Boston last year, was a consequence of this. Two persons, Dunbar and Lowthorp, whom Stanhope had treated in this manner (having particularly inflicted twenty-four lashes on Dunbar), meeting him at Boston, attempted to beat him. But the people interposed, and saved him. The fact is referred to in that paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, which says, 'He has constrained our fellow citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.' This was the most afflicting to our prisoners, of all the cruelties exercised on them. The others affected the body only, but this the mind; they were haunted by the horror of having, perhaps, themselves shot the ball by which a father or a brother fell. Some of them had constancy enough to hold out against half-allowance of food and repeated whippings. These were generally sent to England, and from thence to the East Indies. One of them escaped from the East Indies, and got back to Paris, where he gave an account of his sufferings to Mr. Adams, who happened to be then at Paris.
M. de Meusnier, where he mentions that the slave-law has been passed in Virginia, without the clause of emancipation, is pleased to mention, that neither Mr. Wythe nor Mr. Jefferson was present, to make the proposition they had meditated; from which, people, who do not give themselves the trouble to reflect or inquire, might conclude, hastily, that their absence was the cause why the proposition was not made; and, of course, that there were not, in the Assembly, persons of virtue and firmness enough to propose the clause for emancipation. This supposition would not be true. There were persons there, who wanted neither the virtue to propose, nor talents to enforce the proposition, had they seen that the disposition of the legislature was ripe for it. These worthy characters would feel themselves wounded, degraded, and discouraged by this idea. Mr. Jefferson would therefore be obliged to M. de Meusnier to mention it in some such manner as this. 'Of the two commissioners, who had concerted the amendatory clause for the gradual emancipation of slaves, Mr. Wythe could not be present, he being a member of the judiciary department, and Mr. Jefferson was absent on the legation to France. But there were not wanting in that Assembly, men of virtue enough to propose, and talents to vindicate this clause. But they saw, that the moment of doing it with success, was not yet arrived, and that an unsuccessful effort, as too often happens, would only rivet still closer the chains of bondage, and retard the moment of delivery to this oppressed description of men. What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man! who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment, and death itself, in vindication of his own liberty, and, the next moment, be deaf to all those motives whose power supported him through his trial, and inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which is fraught with more misery, than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to oppose! But we must await, with patience, the workings of an overruling Providence, and hope that that is preparing the deliverance of these our suffering brethren. When the measure of their tears shall be full, when their groans shall have involved heaven itself in darkness, doubtless, a God of justice will awaken to their distress, and by diffusing light and liberality among their oppressors, or, at length, by his exterminating thunder, manifest his attention to the things of this world, and that they are not left to the guidance of a blind fatality.'
[The following are the articles of the treaty with Prussia, referred to in the preceding observations.]
Article 13. And in the same case, of one of the contracting parties being engaged in war with any other power, to prevent all the difficulties and misunderstandings, that usually arise respecting the merchandise heretofore called contraband, such as arms, ammunition, and military stores of every kind, no such articles, carried in the vessels, or by the subjects or citizens of one of the parties, to the enemies of the other, shall be deemed contraband, so as to induce confiscation or condemnation, and a loss of property to individuals. Nevertheless, it shall be lawful to stop such vessels and articles, and to detain them for such length of time, as the captors may think necessary to prevent the inconvenience or damage that might ensue from their proceeding, paying, however, a reasonable compensation for the loss such arrest shall occasion to the proprietors: and it shall further be allowed to use, in the service of the captors, the whole or any part of the military stores so detained, paying the owners the full value of the same, to be ascertained by the current price at the place of its destination. But in the case supposed, of a vessel stopped for articles heretofore deemed contraband, if the master of the vessel stopped will deliver out the goods supposed to be of contraband nature, he shall be admitted to do it, and the vessel shall not, in that case be carried into any port, nor further detained, but shall be allowed to proceed on her voyage.
Article 23. If war should arise between the two contracting parties, the merchants of either country, then residing in the other, shall be allowed to remain nine months to collect their debts, and settle their affairs, and may depart freely, carrying off all their effects, without molestation or hindrance: and all women and children, scholars of every faculty, cultivators of the earth, artisans, manufacturers, and fishermen, unarmed, and inhabiting unfortified towns, villages, or places, and, in general, all others whose occupations are for the common subsistence and benefit of mankind, shall be allowed to continue their respective employments, and shall not be molested in their persons, nor shall their houses be burned or otherwise destroyed, nor their fields wasted by the armed force of the enemy, into whose power, by the events of war, they may happen to fall: but if any thing is necessary to be taken from them, for the use of such armed force, the same shall be paid for at a reasonable price. And all merchant and trading vessels, employed in exchanging the products of different places, and thereby rendering the necessaries, conveniences, and comforts of human life more easy to be obtained, and more general, shall be allowed to pass free and unmolested. And neither of the contracting parties shall grant or issue any commission to any private armed vessels, empowering them to take or destroy such trading vessels, or interrupt such commerce.
Article 24. And to prevent the destruction of prisoners of war, by sending them into distant and inclement countries, or by crowding them into close and noxious places, the two contracting parties solemnly pledge themselves to each other and the world, that they will not adopt any such practice: that neither will send the prisoners whom they may take from the other, into the East Indies or any other parts of Asia or Africa: but that they shall be placed in some part of their dominions in Europe or America, in wholesome situations; that they shall not be confined in dungeons, prison-ships, nor prisons, nor be put into irons, nor bound, nor otherwise restrained in the use of their limbs. That the officers shall be enlarged, on their paroles, within convenient districts, and have comfortable quarters, and the common men be disposed in cantonments, open and extensive enough for air and exercise, and lodged in barracks as roomy and good, as are provided by the party, in whose power they are, for their own troops; that the officers shall be daily furnished by the party, in whose power they are, with as many rations, and of the same articles and quality, as are allowed by them, either in kind or by commutation, to officers of equal rank in their own army; and all others shall be daily furnished by them, with such rations as they allow to a common soldier in their own service; the value whereof shall be paid by the other party, on a mutual adjustment of accounts for the subsistence of prisoners, at the close of the war: and the said accounts shall not be mingled with, or set off against any others, nor the balances due on them, be withheld as a satisfaction or reprisal for any other article, or for any other cause, real or pretended, whatever. That each party shall be allowed to keep a commissary of prisoners, of their own appointment, with every separate cantonment of prisoners in possession of the other, which commissary shall see the prisoners as often as he pleases, shall be allowed to receive and distribute whatever comforts may be sent to them by their friends, and shall be free to make his reports, in open letters, to those who employ him. But if any officer shall break his parole, or any other prisoner shall escape from the limits of his cantonment, after they shall have been designated to him, such individual officer, or other prisoner, shall forfeit so much of the benefit of this article, as provides for his enlargement on parole or cantonment. And it is declared, that neither the pretence that war dissolves all treaties, nor any other whatever, shall be considered as annulling or suspending this, or the next preceding article, but, on the contrary, that the state of war is precisely that for which they are provided, and during which, they are to be as sacredly observed, as the most acknowledged articles in the law of nature and nations.
LETTER CLII.—TO MR. RITTENHOUSE, January 25,1786
TO MR. RITTENHOUSE.
Paris, January 25,1786.
Your favor of September the 28th came to hand a few days ago. I thank you for the details on the subject of the southern and western lines. There remains thereon, one article, however, which I will still beg you to inform me of; viz. how far is the western boundary beyond the meridian of Pittsburg? This information is necessary, to enable me to trace that boundary in my map. I shall be much gratified, also, with a communication of your observations on the curiosities of the western country. It will not be difficult to induce me to give up the theory of the growth of shells, without their being the nidus of animals. It is only an idea, and not an opinion with me. In the Notes, with which I troubled you, I had observed that there were three opinions as to the origin of these shells. 1. That they have been deposited even in the highest mountains, by an universal deluge. 2. That they, with all the calcareous stones and earths, are animal remains. 3. That they grow or shoot as crystals do. I find that I could swallow the last opinion, sooner than either of the others; but I have not yet swallowed it. Another opinion might have been added, that some throe of nature has forced up parts which had been the bed of the ocean. But have we any better proof of such an effort of nature, than of her shooting a lapidific juice into the form of a shell? No such convulsion has taken place in our time, nor within the annals of history: nor is the distance greater, between the shooting of the lapidific juice into the form of a crystal or a diamond, which we see, and into the form of a shell, which we do not see, than between the forcing volcanic matter a little above the surface, where it is in fusion, which we see, and the forcing the bed of the sea fifteen thousand feet above the ordinary surface of the earth, which we do not see. It is not possible to believe any of these hypotheses; and if we lean towards any of them, it should be only till some other is produced, more analogous to the known operations of nature. In a letter to Mr. Hopkinson, I mentioned to him that the Abbe Rochon, who discovered the double refracting power in some of the natural crystals, had lately made a telescope with the metal called platina, which, while it is as susceptible of as perfect a polish as the metal heretofore used for the specula of telescopes, is insusceptible of rust, as gold and silver are. There is a person here, who has hit on a new method of engraving. He gives you an ink of his composition. Write on copper plates, any thing of which you would wish to take several copies, and, in an hour, the plate will be ready to strike them off; so of plans, engravings, &c. This art will be amusing to individuals, if he should make it known. I send you herewith, the Nautical Almanacs for 1786, 1787, 1788, 1789, 1790, which are as late as they are published. You ask, how you may reimburse the expense of these trifles? I answer, by accepting them; as the procuring you a gratification, is a higher one to me than money. We have had nothing curious published lately. I do not know whether you are fond of chemical reading. There are some things in this science worth reading. I will send them to you, if you wish it. My daughter is well, and joins me in respects to Mrs. Rittenhouse and the young ladies. After asking when we are to have the Lunarium, I will close with assurances of the sincere regard and esteem, with which I am, Dear Sir, your most obedient,
LETTER CLIII.—TO A. STEWART, January 25, 1786
TO A. STEWART.
Paris, January 25, 1786.
I have received your favor of the 17th of October, which, though you mention it as the third you have written me, is the first that has come to hand. I sincerely thank you for the communications it contains. Nothing is so grateful to me, at this distance, as details, both great and small, of what is passing in my own country. Of the latter, we receive little here, because they either escape my correspondents, or are thought unworthy of notice. This, however, is a very mistaken opinion, as every one may observe, by recollecting, that when he has been long absent from his neighborhood, the small news of that is the most pleasing, and occupies his first attention, either when he meets with a person from thence, or returns thither himself. I still hope, therefore, that the letter, in which you have been so good as to give me the minute occurrences in the neighborhood of Monticello, may yet come to hand, and I venture to rely on the many proofs of friendship I have received from you for a continuance of your favors. This will be the more meritorious, as I have nothing to give you in exchange.
The quiet of Europe at this moment furnishes little which can attract your notice. Nor will that quiet be soon disturbed, at least for the current year. Perhaps it hangs on the life of the King of Prussia, and that hangs by a very slender thread. American reputation in Europe is not such as to be flattering to its citizens. Two circumstances are particularly objected to us; the nonpayment of our debts, and the want of energy in our government. These discourage a connection with us. I own it to be my opinion, that good will arise from the destruction of our credit. I see nothing else which can restrain our disposition to luxury, and to the change of those manners, which alone can preserve republican government. As it is impossible to prevent credit, the best way would be to cure its ill effects by giving an instantaneous recovery to the creditor. This would be reducing purchases on credit to purchases for ready money. A man would then see a prison painted on every thing he wished, but had not ready money to pay for.
I fear from an expression in your letter, that the people of Kentucky think of separating, not only from Virginia (in which they are right), but also from the confederacy. I own, I should think this a most calamitous event, and such a one as every good citizen should set himself against. Our present federal limits are not too large for good government, nor will the increase of votes in Congress produce any ill effect. On the contrary, it will drown the little divisions at present existing there. Our confederacy must be viewed as the nest from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled. We should take care, too, not to think it for the interest of that great continent to press too soon on the Spaniards. Those countries cannot be in better hands. My fear is, that they are too feeble to hold them till our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece. The navigation of the Mississippi we must have. This is all we are, as yet, ready to receive. I have made acquaintance with a very sensible, candid gentleman here, who was in South America during the revolt which took place there while our Revolution was going on. He says, that those disturbances (of which we scarcely heard any thing) cost, on both sides, an hundred thousand lives.
I have made a particular acquaintance here with Monsieur de Buffon, and have a great desire to give him the best idea I can of our elk. Perhaps your situation may enable you to aid me in this. You could not oblige me more, than by sending me the horns, skeleton, and skin of an elk, were it possible to procure them. The most desirable form of receiving them would be to have the skin slit from the under jaw along the belly to the tail, and down the thighs to the knee, to take the animal out, leaving the legs and hoofs, the bones of the head, and the horns attached to the skin. By sewing-up the belly, &c. and stuffing the skin, it would present the form of the animal. However, as an opportunity of doing this is scarcely to be expected, I shall be glad to receive them detached, packed in a box and sent to Richmond, to the care of Dr. Currie. Every thing of this kind is precious here. And to prevent my adding to your trouble, I must close my letter with assurances of the esteem and attachment, with which I am, Dear Sir,
your friend and servant,
LETTER CLIV.—TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE TREASURY, January 26, 1786
TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE TREASURY.
Paris, January 26, 1786.
I have been duly honored by the receipt of your letter of December the 6th, and am to thank you for the communications it contained on the state of our funds and expectations here. Your idea, that these communications, occasionally, may be useful to the United States, is certainly just, as I am frequently obliged to explain our prospects of paying interest, &c. which I should better do with fuller information. If you would be so good as to instruct Mr. Grand, always to furnish me with a duplicate of those cash accounts which he furnishes to you, from time to time, and if you would be so good as to direct your secretary to send me copies of such letters, as you transmit to Mr. Grand, advising him of the remittances he may expect, from time to time. I should, thereby, be always informed of the sum of money on hand here, and the probable expectations of supply. Dr. Franklin, during his residence here, having been authorized to borrow large sums of money, the disposal of that money seemed naturally to rest with him. It was Mr. Grand's practice, therefore, never to pay money, but on his warrant. On his departure, Mr. Grand sent all money drafts to me, to authorize their payment. I informed him, that this was in nowise within my province; that I was unqualified to direct him in it, and that were I to presume to meddle, it would be no additional sanction to him. He refused, however, to pay a shilling without my order. I have been obliged, therefore, to a nugatory interference, merely to prevent the affairs of the United States from standing still. I need not represent to you the impropriety of my continuing to direct Mr. Grand, longer than till we can receive your orders, the mischief which might ensue from the uncertainty in which this would place you, as to the extent to which you might venture to draw on your funds here, and the little necessity there is for my interference. Whenever you order a sum of money into Mr. Grand's hands, nothing will be more natural than your instructing him how to apply it, so as that he shall observe your instructions alone. Among these, you would doubtless judge it necessary to give him one standing instruction, to answer my drafts for such sums, as my office authorizes me to call for. These would be salary, couriers, postage, and such other articles as circumstances will require, which cannot be previously defined. These will never be so considerable as to endanger the honor of your drafts. I shall certainly exercise in them the greatest caution, and stand responsible to Congress.
Mr. Grand conceives that he has suffered in your opinion, by an application of two hundred thousand livres, during the last year, differently from what the office of finance had instructed him. This was a consequence of his being thought subject to direction here, and it is but justice to relieve him from blame on that account, and to show that it ought to fall, if any where, on Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, and myself. The case was thus. The monies here were exhausted, Mr. Grand was in advance about fifty thousand livres, and the diplomatic establishments in France, Spain, and Holland, subsisting on his bounties, which they were subject to see stopped every moment, and feared a protest on every bill. Other current expenses, too, were depending on advances from him, and though these were small in their amount, they sometimes involved great consequences. In this situation, he received four hundred thousand livres, to be paid to this government for one year's interest. We thought the honor of the United States would suffer less by suspending half the payment to this government, replacing Mr. Grand's advances, and providing a fund for current expenses. We advised him so to do. I still think it was for the best, and I believe my colleagues have continued to see the matter in the same point of view. We may have been biassed by feelings excited by our own distressing situation. But certainly, as to Mr. Grand, no blame belongs to him. We explained this matter in a letter to Congress, at the time, and justice requires this explanation to you, as I conjecture that the former one has not come to your knowledge.
The two hundred thousand livres retained, as before mentioned, have been applied to the purposes described, to the payment of a year's interest to the French officers (which is about forty-two thousand livres), and other current expenses, which, doubtless, Mr. Grand has explained to you. About a week ago, there remained in his hands but about twelve thousand livres. In this situation, the demands of the French officers for a second year's interest were presented. But Mr. Grand observed there were neither money nor orders for them. The payment of these gentlemen, the last year, had the happiest effect imaginable; it procured so many advocates for the credit and honor of the United States, who were heard, in all companies. It corrected the idea that we were unwilling to pay our debts. I fear that our present failure towards them will give new birth to new imputations, and a relapse of credit. Under this fear I have written to Mr. Adams, to know whether he can have this money supplied from the funds in Holland; though I have little hope from that quarter, because he had before informed me, that those funds would be exhausted by the spring of the present year, and I doubt, too, whether he would venture to order these payments, without authority from you. I have thought it my duty to state these matters to you.
I have had the honor of enclosing to Mr. Jay, Commodore Jones's receipts for one hundred and eighty-one thousand and thirty-nine livres, one sol and ten deniers, prize-money, which (after deducting his own proportion) he is to remit to you, for the officers and soldiers who were under his command. I take the liberty of suggesting, whether the expense and risk of double remittances might not be saved, by ordering it into the hands of Mr. Grand immediately, for the purposes of the treasury in Europe, while you could make provision at home for the officers and soldiers, whose demands will come in so slowly, as to leave you the use of a great proportion of this money for a considerable time, and some of it for ever. We could then, immediately, quiet the French officers.
I have the honor to be, with the most perfect respect and esteem, Gentlemen,
your most obedient
and most humble servant,
LETTER CLV.—TO MESSRS. BUCHANAN AND HAY, January 26, 1786
TO MESSRS. BUCHANAN AND HAY.
Paris, January 26, 1786.
I had the honor of writing to you on the receipt of your orders to procure draughts for the public buildings, and again on the 13th of August. In the execution of these orders, two methods of proceeding presented themselves to my mind. The one was, to leave to some architect to draw an external according to his fancy, in which way, experience shows, that about once in a thousand times a pleasing form is hit upon; the other was, to take some model already devised, and approved by the general suffrage of the world. I had no hesitation in deciding that the latter was best, nor after the decision, was there any doubt what model to take, There is at Nismes, in the south of France, a building, called the Maison Quarree, erected in the time of the Caesars, and which is allowed, without contradiction, to be the most perfect and precious remain of antiquity in existence. Its superiority over any thing at Rome, in Greece, at Balbec, or Palmyra, is allowed on all hands; and this single object has placed Nismes in the general tour of travellers. Having not yet had leisure to visit it, I could only judge of it from drawings, and from the relation of numbers who had been to see it. I determined, therefore, to adopt this model, and to have all its proportions justly observed. As it was impossible for a foreign artist to know what number and sizes of apartments would suit the different corps of our government, nor how they should be connected with one another, I undertook to form that arrangement, and this being done, I committed them to an architect (Monsieur Clerissauk), who had studied this art twenty years in Rome, who had particularly studied and measured the Maison Quarree of Nismes, and had published a book containing most excellent plans, descriptions, and observations on it. He was too well acquainted with the merit of that building, to find himself restrained by my injunctions not to depart from his model. In one instance, only, he persuaded me to admit of this. That was, to make the portico two columns deep only, instead of three, as the original is. His reason was, that this latter depth would too much darken the apartments. Economy might be added, as a second reason. I consented to it, to satisfy him, and the plans are so drawn. I knew that it would still be easy to execute the building with a depth of three columns, and it is what I would certainly recommend. We know that the Maison Quarree has pleased, universally, for near two thousand years. By leaving out a column, the proportions will be changed, and perhaps the effect may be injured more than is expected. What is good, is often spoiled by trying to make it better.
The present is the first opportunity which has occurred of sending the plans. You will, accordingly, receive herewith the ground plan, the elevation of the front, and the elevation of the side. The architect having been much busied, and knowing that this was all which would be necessary in the beginning, has not yet finished the sections of the building. They must go by some future occasion, as well as the models of the front and side, which are making in plaster of Paris. These were absolutely necessary for the guide of workmen, not very expert in their art. It will add considerably to the expense, and I would not have incurred it, but that I was sensible of its necessity. The price of the model will be fifteen guineas. 1 shall know, in a few days, the cost of the drawings, which probably will be the triple of the model: however, this is but conjecture. I will make it as small as possible, pay it, and render you an account in my next letter. You will find, on examination, that the body of this building covers an area but two fifths of that which is proposed and begun; of course, it will take but about one half the bricks; and, of course, this circumstance will enlist all the workmen, and people of the art, against the plan. Again, the building begun is to have four porticoes; this but one. It is true that this will be deeper than those were probably proposed, but even if it be made three columns deep, it will not take half the number of columns. The beauty of this is insured by experience, and by the suffrage of the whole world: the beauty of that is problematical, as is every drawing, however well it looks on paper, till it be actually executed: and though I suppose there is more room in the plan begun, than in that now sent, yet there is enough in this for all the three branches of government, and more than enough is not wanted. This contains sixteen rooms; to wit, four on the first floor, for the General Court, Delegates, lobby, and conference. Eight on the second floor, for the Executive, the Senate, and six rooms for committees and juries: and over four of these smaller rooms of the second floor, are four mezzininos or entresols, serving as offices for the clerks of the Executive, the Senate, the Delegates, and the Court in actual session. It will be an objection, that the work is begun on the other plan. But the whole of this need not be taken to pieces, and of what shall be taken to pieces, the bricks will do for inner work. Mortar never becomes so hard and adhesive to the bricks, in a few months, but that it may be easily chipped off. And upon the whole, the plan now sent will save a great proportion of the expense.
Hitherto, I have spoken of the capital only. The plans for the prison, also, accompany this. They will explain themselves. I send, also, the plan of the prison proposed at Lyons, which was sent me by the architect, and to which we are indebted for the fundamental idea of ours. You will see, that of a great thing a very small one is made. Perhaps you may find it convenient to build, at first, only two sides, forming an L; but of this, you are the best judges. It has been suggested to me, that fine gravel, mixed in the mortar, prevents the prisoners from cutting themselves out, as that will destroy their tools. In my letter of August the 13th, I mentioned that I could send workmen from hence. As I am in hopes of receiving your orders precisely, in answer to that letter, I shall defer actually engaging any, till I receive them. In like manner, I shall defer having plans drawn for a Governor's house, &c, till further orders; only assuring you, that the receiving and executing these orders, will always give me a very great pleasure, and the more, should I find that what I have done meets your approbation.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem, Gentlemen,
your most obedient
and most humble servant,
LETTER CLVI.—TO JOHN ADAMS, February 7, 1786
TO JOHN ADAMS.
Paris, February 7, 1786.
I am honored with yours of January the 19th. Mine of January the 12th, had not, I suppose, at that time got to your hands, as the receipt of it is unacknowledged. I shall be anxious till I receive your answer to it.
I was perfectly satisfied before I received your letter, that your opinion had been misunderstood or misrepresented in the case of the Chevalier de Mezieres. Your letter, however, will enable me to say so with authority. It is proper it should be known, that you had not given the opinion imputed to you, though, as to the main question, it is become useless; Monsieur de Reyneval having assured me, that what I had written on that subject had perfectly satisfied the Count de Vergennes and himself, that this case could never come under the treaty. To evince, still further, the impropriety of taking up subjects gravely, on such imperfect information as this court had, I have this moment received a copy of an act of the Georgia Assembly, placing the subjects of France, as to real estates, on the footing of natural citizens, and expressly recognising the treaty. Would you think any thing could be added, after this, to put this question still further out of doors? A gentleman of Georgia assured me, General Oglethorpe did not own a foot of land in the State. I do not know whether there has been any American determination on the question, whether American citizens and British subjects, born before the Revolution, can be aliens to one another. I know there is an opinion of Lord Coke's, in Colvin's case, that if England and Scotland should, in a course of descent, pass to separate Kings, those born under the same sovereign during the union, would remain natural subjects and not aliens. Common sense urges some considerations against this. Natural subjects owe allegiance; but we owe none. Aliens are the subjects of a foreign power; we are subjects of a foreign power. The King, by the treaty, acknowledges our independence; how then can we remain natural subjects? The King's power is, by the constitution, competent to the making peace, war, and treaties. He had, therefore, authority to relinquish our allegiance by treaty. But if an act of parliament had been necessary, the parliament passed an act to confirm the treaty. So that it appears to me, that in this question, fictions of law alone are opposed to sound sense.
I am in hopes Congress will send a minister to Lisbon. I know no country, with which we are likely to cultivate a more useful commerce. I have pressed this in my private letters.
It is difficult to learn any thing certain here, about the French and English treaty. Yet, in general, little is expected to be done between them. I am glad to hear that the Delegates of Virginia had made the vote relative to English commerce, though they afterwards repealed it. I hope they will come to again. When my last letters came away, they were engaged in passing the revisal of their laws, with some small alterations. The bearer of this, Mr. Lyons, is a sensible, worthy young physician, son of one of our judges, and on his return to Virginia. Remember me with affection to Mrs. and Miss Adams, Colonels Smith and Humphreys, and be assured of the esteem with which I am, Dear Sir,
your friend and servant,
LETTER CLVII.—TO JAMES MADISON, February 8, 1786
TO JAMES MADISON.
Paris, February 8, 1786.
My last letters were of the 1st and 20th of September, and the 28th of October. Yours, unacknowledged, are of August the 20th, October the 3rd, and November the 15th. I take this, the first safe opportunity, of enclosing to you the bills of lading for your books, and two others for your namesake of Williamsburg, and for the attorney, which I will pray you to forward. I thank you for the communication of the remonstrance against the assessment. Mazzei, who is now in Holland, promised me to have it published in the Leyden gazette. It will do us great honor. I wish it may be as much approved by our Assembly, as by the wisest part of Europe. I have heard, with great pleasure, that our Assembly have come to the resolution, of giving the regulation of their commerce to the federal head. I will venture to assert, that there is not one of its opposers, who, placed on this ground, would not see the wisdom of this measure. The politics of Europe render it indispensably necessary, that, with respect to every thing external, we be one nation only, firmly hooped together. Interior government is what each State should keep to itself. If it were seen in Europe, that all our States could be brought to concur in what the Virginia Assembly has done, it would produce a total revolution in their opinion of us, and respect for us. And it should ever be held in mind, that insult and war are the consequences of a want of respectability in the national character. As long as the States exercise, separately, those acts of power which respect foreign nations, so long will there continue to be irregularities committed by some one or other of them, which will constantly keep us on an ill footing with foreign nations.
I thank you for your information as to my Notes. The copies I have remaining shall be sent over, to be given to some of my friends and to select subjects in the College. I have been unfortunate here with this trifle. I gave out a few copies only, and to confidential persons, writing in every copy a restraint against its publication. Among others, I gave a copy to a Mr. Williams: he died. I immediately took every precaution I could to recover this copy. But, by some means or other, a bookseller had got hold of it. He employed a hireling translator, and is about publishing it in the most injurious form possible. I am now at a loss what to do as to England. Every thing, good or bad, is thought worth publishing there; and I apprehend a translation back from the French, and a publication there. I rather believe it will be most eligible to let the original come out in that country: but am not yet decided.
I have purchased little for you in the book way since I sent the catalogue of my former purchases. I wish, first, to have your answer to that, and your information, what parts of these purchases went out of your plan. You can easily say, Buy more of this kind, less of that, &c. My wish is to conform myself to yours. I can get for you the original Paris edition of the Encyclopedie, in thirty-five volumes, folio, for six hundred and twenty livres; a good edition, in thirty-nine volumes, 4to, for three hundred and eighty livres; and a good one, in thirty-nine volumes, 8vo, for two hundred and eighty livres. The new one will be superior in far the greater number of articles; but not in all. And the possession of the ancient one has, moreover, the advantage of supplying present use. I have bought one for myself, but wait your orders as to you. I remember your purchase of a watch in Philadelphia. If it should not have proved good, you can probably sell it. In that case, I can get for you here, one made as perfect as human art can make it, for about twenty-four louis. I have had such a one made, by the best and most faithful hand in Paris. It has a second hand, but no repeating, no day of the month, nor other useless thing to impede and injure the movements which are necessary. For twelve louis more, you can have in the same cover, but on the back, and absolutely unconnected with the movements of the watch, a pedometer, which shall render you an exact account of the distances you walk. Your pleasure hereon shall be awaited.