MEMOIR, CORRESPONDENCE, AND MISCELLANIES, FROM THE PAPERS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Edited by Thomas Jefferson Randolph.
LETTER I.—TO RICHARD HENRY LEE, April 22, 1786
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
London, April 22, 1786.
In your letter of October the 29th, you desired me to send you one of the new lamps. I tried at every probable place in Paris, and could not get a tolerable one. I have been glad of it since I came here, as I find them much better made here. I now deliver one, with this letter, into the hands of Mr. Fulwar Skipwith, a merchant from Virginia, settled here, who promises to send it to you, with one for Mr. C. Thomson. Of this be pleased to accept, from me. It is now found, that they may be used with almost any oil.
I expect to leave this place in about three days. Our public letters, joint and separate, will inform you what has been done, and what could not be done here. With respect to a commercial treaty with this country, be assured, that this government not only has it not in contemplation at present to make any, but that they do not conceive that any circumstances will arise, which shall render it expedient for them to have any political connection with us. They think we shall be glad of their commerce on their own terms. There is no party in our favor here, either in power or out of power. Even the opposition concur with the ministry and the nation in this. I can scarcely consider as a party, the Marquis of Lansdowne, and a half dozen characters about him, such as Dr. Price, &c. who are impressed with the utility of a friendly connection with us. The former does not venture this sentiment in parliament, and the latter are not in situations to be heard. The Marquis of Lansdowne spoke to me affectionately of your brother, Doctor Lee, and desired his respects to him, which I beg leave to communicate through you. Were he to come into the ministry (of which there is not the most distant prospect), he must adopt the King's system, or go out again, as he did before, for daring to depart from it. When we see, that through all the changes of ministry, which have taken place during the present reign, there has never been a change of system with respect to America, we cannot reasonably doubt, that this is the system of the King himself. His obstinacy of character we know; his hostility we have known, and it is embittered by ill success. If ever this nation, during his life, enter into arrangements with us, it must be in consequence of events, of which they do not at present see a possibility. The object of the present ministry is to buoy up the nation with flattering calculations of their present prosperity, and to make them believe they are better without us than with us. This they seriously believe; for what is it men cannot be made to believe? I dined the other day in a company of the ministerial party. A General Clark, a Scotchman and ministerialist, sat next to me. He introduced the subject of American affairs, and in the course of the conversation told me, that were America to petition parliament to be again received on their former footing, the petition would be very generally rejected. He was serious in this, and I think it was the sentiment of the company, and is the sentiment perhaps of the nation. In this they are wise, but for a foolish reason. They think they lost more by suffering us to participate of their commercial privileges, at home and abroad, than they lose by our political severance. The true reason, however, why such an application should be rejected, is, that in a very short time we should oblige them to add another hundred millions to their debt, in unsuccessful attempts to retain the subjection offered to them. They are at present in a frenzy, and will not be recovered from it, till they shall have leaped the precipice they are now so boldly advancing to. Writing from England, I write you nothing but English news. The continent, at present, furnishes nothing interesting. I shall hope the favor of your letters, at times. The proceedings and views of Congress and of the Assemblies, the opinions and dispositions of our people in general, which, in governments like ours, must be the foundation of measures, will always be interesting to me, as will whatever respects your own health and happiness; being with great esteem,
Dear Sir, your most obedient
and most humble servant,
LETTER II.—TO CHARLES THOMSON, April 22, 1786
TO CHARLES THOMSON.
London, April 22, 1786.
In one of your former letters, you expressed a wish to have one of the newly invented lamps. I find them made here much better than at Paris, and take the liberty of asking your acceptance of one, which will accompany this letter. It is now found, that any tolerable oil may be used in them. The spermaceti oil is best, of the cheap kinds.
I could write you volumes on the improvements which I find made, and making here, in the arts. One deserves particular notice, because it is simple, great, and likely to have extensive consequences. It is the application of steam, as an agent for working grist-mills. I have visited the one lately made here. It was at that time turning eight pair of stones. It consumes one hundred bushels of coal a day. It is proposed to put up thirty pair of stones. I do not know whether the quantity of fuel is to be increased. I hear you are applying the same agent in America to navigate boats, and I have little doubt, but that it will be applied generally to machines, so as to supersede the use of water ponds, and of course to lay open all the streams for navigation. We know, that steam is one of the most powerful engines we can employ; and in America fuel is abundant. I find no new publication here worth sending to you. I shall set out for Paris within three or four days. Our public letters will inform you of our public proceedings here.
I am, with sincere esteem, Dear Sir,
your friend and servant,
LETTER III.—TO JOHN JAY, April 23, 1786
TO JOHN JAY.
London, April 23, 1786.
In my letter of March the 12th, I had the honor of explaining to you the motives which had brought me to this place. A joint letter from Mr. Adams and myself, sent by the last packet, informed you of the result of our conferences with the Tripoline minister. The conferences with the minister of Portugal have, been drawn to a greater length than I expected. However, every thing is now agreed, and the treaty will be ready for signature the day after to-morrow. I shall set out for Paris the same day. With this country nothing is done: and that nothing is intended to be done, on their part, admits not the smallest doubt. The nation is against any change of measures: the ministers are against it; some from principle, others from subserviency: and the King, more than all men, is against it. If we take a retrospect to the beginning of the present reign, we observe, that amidst all the changes of ministry, no change of measures with respect to America ever took place; excepting only at the moment of the peace; and the minister of that moment was immediately removed. Judging of the future by the past, I do not expect a change of disposition during the present reign, which bids fair to be a long one, as the King is healthy and temperate. That he is persevering, we know. If he ever changes his plan, it will be in consequence of events, which, at present, neither himself nor his ministers place among those which are probable. Even the opposition dare not open their lips in favor of a connection with us, so unpopular would be the topic. It is not, that they think our commerce unimportant to them. I find that the merchants here set sufficient value on it. But they are sure of keeping it on their own terms. No better proof can be shown of the security in which the ministers think themselves on this head, than that they have not thought it worth while to give us a conference on the subject, though, on my arrival, we exhibited to them our commission, observed to them that it would expire on the 12th of the next month, and that I had come over on purpose to see if any arrangements could be made before that time. Of two months which then remained, six weeks have elapsed without one scrip of a pen, or one word from a minister, except a vague proposition at an accidental meeting. We availed ourselves even of that, to make another essay to extort some sort of declaration from the court. But their silence is invincible. But of all this, as well as of the proceedings in the negotiation with Portugal, information will be given you by a joint letter from Mr. Adams and myself. The moment is certainly arrived, when, the plan of this court being out of all doubt, Congress and the States may decide what their own measures should be.
The Marquis of Lansdowne spoke of you in very friendly terms, and desired me to present his respects to you, in the first letter I should write. He is thoroughly sensible of the folly of the present measures of this country, as are a few other characters about him. Dr. Price is among these, and is particularly disturbed at the present prospect. He acknowledges, however, that all change is desperate: which weighs the more, as he is intimate with Mr. Pitt. This small band of friends, favorable as it is, does not pretend to say one word in public on our subject.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the highest esteem and respect,
Sir, your most obedient
and most humble servant,
LETTER IV.—TO JOHN JAY, April 23, 1786
TO JOHN JAY.
London, April 23, 1786.
In another letter of this day, I stated to you what had passed with public characters since my arrival here. Conversations with private individuals, I thought it best not to mingle with the contents of that letter. Yet, as some have taken place, which relate to matters within our instructions, and with persons whose opinions deserve to have some weight, I will take the liberty of stating them. In a conversation with an ancient and respectable merchant of this place, such a view of the true state of the commercial connections of America and Great Britain was presented to him, as induced him to acknowledge they had been mistaken in their opinions, and to ask, that Mr. Adams and myself would permit the chairman of the committee of American merchants to call on us. He observed, that the same person happened to be also chairman of the committee of the whole body of British merchants; and that such was the respect paid to his person and office, that we might consider what came from him, as coming from the committees themselves. He called on us at an appointed hour. He was a Mr. Duncan Campbell, formerly much concerned in the American trade. We entered on the subject of the non-execution of the late treaty of peace, alleged on both sides. We observed, that the refusal to deliver the western posts, and the withdrawing American property, contrary to express stipulation, having preceded what they considered as breaches on our part, were to be considered as the causes of our proceedings. The obstructions thrown by our legislatures in the way of the recovery of their debts, were insisted on by him. We observed to him, that the great amount of the debt from America to Great Britain, and the little circulating coin in the formeer country, rendered an immediate payment impossible; that time was necessary; that we had been authorized to enter into explanatory arrangements on this subject; that we had made overtures for the purpose, which had not been attended to, and that the States had, therefore, been obliged to modify the article for themselves. He acknowledged the impossibility of immediate payment, the propriety of an explanatory convention, and said, that they were disposed to allow a reasonable time. We mentioned the term of five years, including the present; but that judgments might be allowed immediately, only dividing the execution into equal and annual parts, so that the last should be levied by the close of the year 1790. This seemed to be quite agreeable to him, and to be as short a term as would be insisted on by them. Proceeding to the sum to be demanded, we agreed that the principal, with the interest incurring before and after the war, should be paid; but as to that incurring during the war, we differed from him. He urged its justice with respect to themselves, who had laid out of the use of their money during that period. This was his only topic. We opposed to it all those which circumstances, both public and private, gave rise to. He appeared to feel their weight, but said the renunciation of this interest was a bitter pill, and such a one as the merchants here could not swallow. He wished, that no declaration should be made as to this article: but we observed, that if we entered into explanatory declarations of the points unfavorable to us, we should expect, as a consideration for this, corresponding declarations on the parts in our favor. In fact, we supposed his view was to leave this part of the interest to stand on the general expressions of the treaty, that they might avail themselves, in individual cases, of the favorable dispositions of debtors or of juries. We proceeded to the necessity of arrangements of our future commerce, were it only as a means of enabling our country to pay its debts. We suggested, that they had been contracted while certain modes of remittance had existed here, which had been an inducement to us to contract these debts. He said he was not authorized to speak on the subject of the future commerce. He appeared really and feelingly anxious, that arrangements should be stipulated as to the payment of the old debts, said he would proceed in that moment to Lord Caermarthen's, and discuss the subject with him, and that we might expect to hear from him. He took leave, and we have never since heard from him or any other person on the subject. Congress will judge how far these conversations should influence their future proceedings, or those of the States.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
LETTER V.—TO JAMES MADISON, April 25, 1786
TO JAMES MADISON.
London, April 25, 1786.
Some of the objects of the joint commission, with which we were honored by Congress, called me to this place about six weeks ago. To-morrow I set out on my return to Paris. With this nation nothing is done; and it is now decided, that they intend to do nothing with us.
I wrote you, in a former letter, on the subject of a Mr. Paradise, who owns an estate in Virginia in right of his wife, and who has a considerable sum due to him in our loan office. Since I came here, I have had opportunities of knowing his extreme personal worth, and his losses by the late war. He is, from principle, a pure republican, while his father was as warm a tory. His attachment to the American cause, and his candid warmth, brought him sometimes into altercations on the subject with his father, and some persons interested in their variance, artfully brought up this subject of conversation whenever they met. It produced a neglect in the father. He had already settled on him a sum of money in the funds: but would do no more, and probably would have undone that, if he could. When remittances from Virginia were forbidden, the profits of the Virginia estate were carried into our loan office. Paradise was then obliged to begin to eat his capital in England: from that, to part with conveniences, and to run in debt. His situation is now distressing; and would be completely relieved, could he receive what is due to him from our State. He is coming over to settle there. His wife and family will follow him. I never ask unjust preferences for any body. But if, by any just means, he can be helped to his money, I own I should be much gratified. The goodness of his heart, his kindness to Americans before, during, and since the war, the purity of his political and moral character, interest me in the events impending over him, and which will infallibly be ruinous, if he fails to receive his money. I ask of you, on his behalf, that in pursuing the path of right, you will become active for him, instead of being merely quiescent, as you might be, were his merit and his misfortunes unknown to you.
I have put into the hands of Mr. Fulwar Skipwith for you, a packet containing some catalogues, which he will forward. I am, with very sincere esteem, Dear Sir,
your friend and servant,
LETTER VI.—TO THE COUNT DE VERGENNES, May 3, 1786
TO THE COUNT DE VERGENNES.
Paris, May 3, 1786.
After begging leave to present my respects to your Excellency, on my return to this place, I take the liberty of offering to your attention some papers, which I found on my arrival here, written by sundry merchants of L'Orient and others, some of whom are citizens of the United States, and all of them concerned in the trade between the two countries. This has been carried on by an exchange of the manufactures and produce of this country, for the produce of that, and principally for tobacco, which, though, on its arrival here, confined to a single purchaser, has been received equally from all sellers. In confidence of a continuance of this practice, the merchants of both countries were carrying on their commerce of exchange. A late contract by the Farm has, in a great measure, fixed in a single mercantile house the supplies of tobacco wanted for this country. This arrangement found the established merchants with some tobacco on hand, some on the seas coming to them, and more still due. By the papers now enclosed, it seems, that there are six thousand four hundred and eight hogsheads in the single port of L'Orient. Whether government may interfere, as to articles furnished by the merchants after they had notice of the contract before mentioned, must depend on principles of policy. But those of justice seem to urge, that, for commodities furnished before such notice, they should be so far protected, as that they may wind up, without loss, the transactions in which the new arrangement found them actually engaged. Your Excellency is the best judge, how far it may be consistent with the rules of government, to interfere for their relief, and with you, therefore, I beg leave entirely to rest their interests.
Information lately received, relative to the Barbary States, has suggested, that it might be expedient, and perhaps necessary for us, to pave the way to arrangements with them, by a previous application to the Ottoman Porte. Your Excellency's intimate acquaintance with this subject would render your advice to us equally valuable and desirable. If you would be pleased to permit me to wait on you, any day or hour which shall be most convenient to yourself, I should be much gratified by a little conversation with you on this subject.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your Excellency's most obedient
and most humble servant,
LETTER VII.—TO JOHN PAGE, May 4, 1786
TO JOHN PAGE.
Paris, May 4, 1786.
Your two favors of March the 15th and August the 23, 1785, by Monsieur de la Croix, came to hand on the 15th of November. His return gives me an opportunity of sending you a copy of the Nautical Almanacs for 1786, 7, 8, 9. There is no late and interesting publication here, or I would send it by the same conveyance. With these almanacs, I pack a copy of some Notes I wrote for Monsieur de Marbois, in the year 1781, of which I had a few printed here. They were written in haste, and for his private inspection. A few friends having asked copies, I found it cheaper to print than to write them. They will offer nothing new to you, not even as an oblation of my friendship for you, which is as old almost as we are ourselves. Mazzei brought me your favor of April the 27th. I thank you much for your communications. Nothing can be more grateful at such a distance. It is unfortunate, that most people think the occurrences passing daily under their eyes, are either known to all the world, or not worth being known. They therefore do not give them place in their letters. I hope you will be so good as to continue your friendly information. The proceedings of our public bodies, the progress of the public mind on interesting questions, the casualties which happen among our private friends, and whatever is interesting to yourself and family, will always be anxiously received by me. There is one circumstance in the work you were concerned in, which has not yet come to my knowledge; to wit, How far westward from Fort Pitt, does the western boundary of Pennsylvania pass, and where does it strike the Ohio? The proposition you mention from Mr. Anderson, on the purchase of tobacco, I would have made use of, but that I have engaged the abuses of the tobacco trade on a more general scale. I confess their redress is by no means certain; but till I see all hope of removing the evil by the roots desperate, I cannot propose to prune its branches.
I returned but three or four days ago, from a two months' trip to England. I traversed that country much, and own, both town and country fell short of my expectations. Comparing it with this, I found a much greater proportion of barrens, a soil, in other parts, not naturally so good as this, not better cultivated, but better manured, and therefore more productive. This proceeds from the practice of long leases there, and short ones here. The laboring people here, are poorer than in England. They pay about one half their produce in rent; the English, in general, about a third. The gardening, in that country, is the article in which it surpasses all the earth. I mean their pleasure gardening. This, indeed, went far beyond my ideas. The city of London, though handsomer than Paris, is not so handsome as Philadelphia. Their architecture is in the most wretched style I ever saw, not meaning to except America, where it is bad, nor even Virginia, where it is worse than in any other part of America which I have seen. The mechanical arts in London are carried to a wonderful perfection. But of these I need not speak, because, of them my countrymen have unfortunately too many samples before their eyes. I consider the extravagance which has seized them, as a more baneful evil than toryism was during the war. It is the more so, as the example is set by the best and most amiable characters among us. Would a missionary appear, who would make frugality the basis of his religious system, and go through the land, preaching it up as the only road to salvation, I would join his school, though not generally disposed to seek my religion out of the dictates of my own reason, and feelings of my own heart. These things have been more deeply impressed on my mind, by what I have heard and seen in England. That nation hate us, their ministers hate us, and their King, more than all other men. They have the impudence to avow this, though they acknowledge our trade important to them. But they think, we cannot prevent our countrymen from bringing that into their laps. A conviction of this determines them to make no terms of commerce with us. They say, they will pocket our carrying trade as well as their own. Our overtures of commercial arrangements have been treated with a derision, which shows their firm persuasion, that we shall never unite to suppress their commerce, or even to impede it. I think their hostility towards us is much more deeply rooted at present, than during the war. In the arts, the most striking thing I saw there, new, was the application of the principle of the steam-engine to grist-mills. I saw eight pair of stones which are worked by steam, and there are to be set up thirty pair in the same house. A hundred bushels of coal, a day, are consumed at present. I do not know in what proportion the consumption will be increased by the additional gear.
Be so good as to present my respects to Mrs. Page and your family, to W. Lewis, F. Willis, and their families, and to accept yourself assurances of the sincere regard, with which I am, Dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant,
LETTER VIII.—TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL
TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL.
Paris, May 5, 1786.
A visit of two months to England has been the cause of your not hearing from me during that period. Your letters of February the 3rd, to Mr. Adams and myself, and of February the 4th, to me, had come to hand before my departure. While I was in London, Mr. Adams received the letters giving information of Mr. Lambe's arrival at Algiers. In London, we had conferences with a Tripoline ambassador, now at that court, named Abdrahaman. He asked us thirty thousand guineas for a peace with his court, and as much for Tunis, for which he said he could answer. What we were authorized to offer, being to this, but as a drop to a bucket, our conferences were repeated, only for the purpose of obtaining information. If the demands of Algiers and Morocco should be proportioned to this, according to their superior power, it is easy to foresee that the United States will not buy a peace with money. What principally led me to England was, the information that the Chevalier del Pinto, Portuguese minister at that court, had received full powers to treat with us. I accordingly went there, and, in the course of six weeks, we arranged a commercial treaty between our two countries. His powers were only to negotiate, not to sign. And as I could not wait, Mr. Adams and myself signed, and the Chevalier del Pinto expected daily the arrival of powers to do the same. The footing on which each has placed the other, is that of the most favored nation. We wished much to have had some privileges in their American possessions: but this was not to be effected. The right to import flour into Portugal, though not conceded by the treaty, we are not without hopes of obtaining.
My journey furnished us occasion to renew our overtures to the court of London; which it was the more important to do, as our powers to that court were to expire on the 12th of this month. These overtures were not attended to, and our commission expiring, we made our final report to Congress; and I suppose this the last offer of friendship, which will ever be made on our part. The treaty of peace being unexecuted on either part, in important points, each will now take their own measures for obtaining execution. I think the King, ministers, and nation are more bitterly hostile to us at present, than at any period of the late war. A like disposition on our part, has been rising for some time. In what events these things will end, we cannot foresee. Our countrymen are eager in their passions and enterprise, and not disposed to calculate their interests against these. Our enemies (for such they are, in fact) have for twelve years past, followed but one uniform rule, that of doing exactly the contrary of what reason points out. Having early, during our contest, observed this in the British conduct, I governed myself by it, in all prognostications of their measures; and I can say, with truth, it never failed me but in the circumstance of their making peace with us. I have no letters from America of later date than the new year. Mr. Adams had, to the beginning of February. I am in hopes our letters will give a new spur to the proposition, for investing Congress with the regulation of our commerce.
This will be handed you by a Baron Waltersdorf, a Danish gentleman, whom, if you did not already know, I should take the liberty of recommending to you. You were so kind as to write me, that you would forward me a particular map, which has not come to hand.
I beg you to be assured of the respect and esteem, with which I have the honor to be, Dear Sir,
your most obedient
and most humble servant,
LETTER IX.—TO MR. DUMAS, May 6, 1789
TO MR. DUMAS.
Paris, May 6, 1789.
Having been absent in England, for some time past, your favors of February the 27th, March the 28th, and April the 11th, have not been acknowledged so soon as they should have been. I am obliged to you, for assisting to make me known to the Rhingrave de Salm and the Marquis de la Coste, whose reputations render an acquaintance with them desirable. I have not yet seen either: but expect that honor from the Rhingrave very soon. Your letters to Mr. Jay and Mr. Van Berkel, received in my absence, will be forwarded by a gentleman who leaves this place for New York, within a few days. I sent the treaty with Prussia by a gentleman who sailed from Havre, the 11th of November. The arrival of that vessel in America is not yet known here. Though the time is not long enough to produce despair, it is sufficiently so to give inquietude lest it should be lost. This would be a cause of much concern to me: I beg the favor of you to mention this circumstance to the Baron de Thulemeyer, as an apology for his not hearing from us. The last advices from America bring us nothing interesting. A principal object of my journey to London was, to enter into commercial arrangements with Portugal. This has been done almost in the precise terms of those of Prussia. The English are still our enemies. The spirit existing there, and rising in America, has a very lowering aspect. To what events it may give birth, I cannot foresee. We are young, and can survive them; but their rotten machine must crush under the trial. The animosities of sovereigns are temporary, and may be allayed: but those which seize the whole body of a people, and of a people, too, who dictate their own measures, produce calamities of long duration. I shall not wonder to see the scenes of ancient Rome and Carthage renewed in our day; and if not pursued to the same issue, it may be, because the republic of modern powers will not permit the extinction of any one of its members. Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy: and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it. But the temper and folly of our enemies may not leave this in our choice. I am happy in our prospect of friendship with the most estimable powers of Europe, and particularly with those of the confederacy, of which yours is. That your present crisis may have a happy issue, is the prayer and wish of him, who has the honor to be, with great respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,
LETTER X.—TO WILLIAM DRAYTON, May 6, 1786
TO WILLIAM DRAYTON.
Paris, May 6, 1786.
Your favor of November the 23rd came duly to hand. A call to England, soon after its receipt, has prevented my acknowledging it so soon as I should have done. I am very sensible of the honor done me by the South Carolina society for promoting and improving agriculture and other rural concerns, when they were pleased to elect me to be of their body: and I beg leave, through you, Sir, to convey to them my grateful thanks for this favor. They will find in me, indeed, but a very unprofitable servant. At present, particularly, my situation is unfavorable to the desire I feel, of promoting their views. However, I shall certainly avail myself of every occasion, which shall occur of doing so. Perhaps I may render some service, by forwarding to the society such new objects of culture, as may be likely to succeed in the soil and climate of South Carolina. In an infant country, as ours is, these experiments are important. We are probably far from possessing, as yet, all the articles of culture for which nature has fitted our country. To find out these, will require abundance of unsuccessful experiments. But if in a multitude of these, we make one useful acquisition, it repays our trouble. Perhaps it is the peculiar duty of associated bodies, to undertake these experiments. Under this sense of the views of the society, and with so little opportunity of being otherwise useful to them, I shall be attentive to procure for them the seeds of such plants, as they will be so good as to point out to me, or as shall occur to myself as worthy their notice. I send at present, by Mr. McQueen, some seeds of a grass, found very useful in the southern parts of Europe, and particularly, and almost solely, cultivated in Malta. It is called by the names of Sulla, and Spanish St. Foin, and is the Hedysarum coronarium of Linnaeus. It is usually sown early in autumn. I shall receive a supply of fresher seed this fall, which I will also do myself the honor of forwarding to you. I expect, in the same season, from the south of France, some acorns of the cork oak, which I propose for your society, as I am persuaded they will succeed with you. I observed it to grow in England, without shelter; not well indeed; but so as to give hopes that it would do well with you. I shall consider myself as always honored by the commands of the society, whenever they shall find it convenient to make use of me, and beg you to be assured, personally, of the sentiments of respect and esteem, with which I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
LETTER XI.—TO W. T. FRANKLIN, May 7, 1786
TO W. T. FRANKLIN.
Paris, May 7, 1786.
On my return from a two months' visit to England, I found here your favor of January the 18th. This contains the latest intelligence I have from America. Your effects not being then arrived, gives me anxiety for them, as I think they went in a vessel, which sailed from Havre the 11th of November. In this vessel, went also the two Mr. Fitzhughs of Virginia, with the Prussian treaty, our papers relative to the Barbary States, with the despatches for Congress, and letters which I had been writing to other persons in America for six weeks preceding their departure. I am obliged to you for the information as to Dr. Franklin's health, in which I feel a great interest. I concur in opinion with you, that in the present factious division of your State, an angel from heaven could do no good. I have been sorry, therefore, from the beginning, to see such time as Dr. Franklin's wasted on so hopeless a business. You have formed a just opinion of Monroe. He is a man whose soul might be turned wrong side outwards, without discovering a blemish to the world. I wish with all my heart, Congress may call you into the diplomatic line, as that seems to have attracted your own desires. It is not one in which you can do any thing more, than pass the present hour agreeably, without any prospect to future provision. Perhaps the arrangements with Portugal, by adding to the number of those appointments, may give Congress an opportunity of doing justice to your own, and to Dr. Franklin's services. If my wishes could aid you, you have them sincerely. My late return to this place scarcely enables me to give you any of its news. I have not yet called on M. La Veillard, or seen any of your acquaintances. The marriage of the ambassador of Sweden with Miss Necker, you have heard of. Houdon is about taking a wife also. His bust of the General has arrived, and meets the approbation of those who know the original. Europe enjoys a perfect calm, at present. Perhaps it may be disturbed by the death of the King of Prussia, which is constantly expected. As yet, we have no information from the Barbary States, which may enable us to prognosticate the success of our endeavors to effect a peace in that quarter. Present me respectfully and affectionately to Dr. Franklin, and accept assurances of the esteem, with which I am, Dear Sir, your friend and servant,
LETTER XII.—TO ELBRIDGE GERRY, May 7, 1786
TO ELBRIDGE GERRY.
Paris, May 7, 1786.
My last to you was of the 11th of October. Soon after that, your favor of the 12th of September came to hand. My acknowledgment of this is made later than it should have been, by my trip to England. Your long silence I ascribe to a more pleasing cause, that of devoting your spare time to one more capable of filling it with happiness, and to whom, as well as to yourself, I wish all those precious blessings which this change of condition is calculated to give you.
My public letters to Mr. Jay will have apprized you of my journey to England, and of its motives; and the joint letters of Mr. Adams and myself, of its effects. With respect to Portugal, it produced arrangements; with respect to England and Barbary, only information. I am quite at a loss what you will do with England. To leave her in possession of our posts, seems inadmissible; and yet to take them, brings on a state of things, for which we seem not to be in readiness. Perhaps a total suppression of her trade, or an exclusion of her vessels from the carriage of our produce, may have some effect; but I believe not very great. Their passions are too deeply and too universally engaged in opposition to us. The ministry have found means to persuade the nation, that they are richer than they were while we participated of their commercial privileges. We should try to turn our trade into other channels. I am in hopes this country will endeavor to give it more encouragement. But what will you do with the piratical States? Buy a peace at their enormous price; force one; or abandon the carriage into the Mediterranean to other powers? All these measures are disagreeable. The decision rests with you. The Emperor is now pressing a treaty with us. In a commercial view, I doubt whether it is desirable: but in a political one, I believe it is. He is now undoubtedly the second power in Europe, and on the death of the King of Prussia, he becomes the first character. An alliance with him will give us respectability in Europe, which we have occasion for. Besides, he will be at the head of the second grand confederacy of Europe, and may at any time serve us with the powers constituting that. I am pressed on so many hands to recommend Dumas to the patronage of Congress, that I cannot avoid it. Every body speaks well of him, and his zeal in our cause. Any thing done for him will gratify this court, and the patriotic party in Holland, as well as some distinguished individuals. I am induced, from my own feelings, to recommend Colonel Humphreys to your care. He is sensible, prudent, and honest, and may be very firmly relied on, in any office which requires these talents. I pray you to accept assurance of the sincere esteem and respect, with which I am,
Dear Sir, your most obedient
and most humble servant,
LETTER XIII.—TO JAMES ROSS, May 8, 1786
TO JAMES ROSS.
Paris, May 8, 1786.
I have duly received your favor of October the 22nd, and am much gratified by the communications therein made. It has given me details, which do not enter into the views of my ordinary correspondents, and which are very entertaining. I experience great satisfaction at seeing my country proceed to facilitate the intercommunications of its several parts, by opening rivers, canals, and roads. How much more rational is this disposal of public money, than that of waging war.
Before the receipt of your letter, Morris's contract for sixty thousand hogsheads of tobacco was concluded with the Farmers General. I have been for some time occupied in endeavoring to destroy the root of the evils, which the tobacco trade encounters in this country, by making the ministers sensible, that merchants will not bring a commodity to a market, where but one person is allowed to buy it; and that so long as that single purchaser is obliged to go to foreign markets for it, he must pay for it in coin, and not in commodities. These truths have made their way to the minds of the ministry, insomuch, as to have delayed the execution of the new lease of the Farms, six months. It is renewed, however, for three years, but so as not to render impossible a reformation of this great evil. They are sensible of the evil, but it is so interwoven with their fiscal system, that they find it hazardous to disentangle. The temporary distress, too, of the revenue, they are not prepared to meet. My hopes, therefore, are weak, though not quite desperate. When they become so, it will remain to look about for the best palliative this monopoly can bear. My present idea is, that it will be found in a prohibition to the Farmers General, to purchase tobacco any where but in France. You will perceive by this, that my object is to strengthen the connection between this country and my own in all useful points. I am of opinion, that twenty-three thousand hogsheads of tobacco, the annual consumption of this country, do not exceed the amount of those commodities, which it is more advantageous to us to buy here than in England, or elsewhere; and such a commerce would powerfully reinforce the motives for a friendship from this country towards ours. This friendship we ought to cultivate closely, considering the present dispositions of England towards us.
I am lately returned from a visit to that country. The spirit of hostility to us has always existed in the mind of the King, but it has now extended itself through the whole mass of the people, and the majority in the public councils. In a country, where the voice of the people influences so much the measures of administration, and where it coincides with the private temper of the King, there is no pronouncing on future events. It is true, they have nothing to gain, and much to lose, by a war with us. But interest is not the strongest passion in the human breast. There are difficult points, too, still unsettled between us. They have not withdrawn their armies out of our country, nor given satisfaction for the property they brought off. On our part, we have not paid our debts, and it will take time to pay them. In conferences with some distinguished mercantile characters, I found them sensible of the impossibility of our paying these debts at once, and that an endeavor to force universal and immediate payment, would render debts desperate, which are good in themselves. I think we should not have differed in the term necessary. We differed essentially in the article of interest. For while the principal, and interest preceding and subsequent to the war, seem justly due from us, that which accrued during the war does not. Interest is a compensation for the use of money. Their money, in our hands, was in the form of lands and negroes. Tobacco, the produce of these lands and negroes (or, as I may call it, the interest for them), being almost impossible of conveyance to the markets of consumption, because taken by themselves in its way there, sold during the war at five or six shillings the hundred. This did not pay taxes, and for tools, and other plantation charges. A man who should have attempted to remit to his creditor tobacco, for either principal or interest, must have remitted it three times before one cargo would have arrived safe: and this from the depredations of their own nation, and often of the creditor himself; for some of the merchants entered deeply into the privateering business. The individuals who did not, say they have lost this interest: the debtor replies, that he has not gained it, and that it is a case where, a loss having been incurred, every one tries to shift it from himself. The known bias of the human mind from motives of interest should lessen the confidence of each party in the justice of their reasoning: but it is difficult to say, which of them should make the sacrifice, both of reason and interest. Our conferences were intended as preparatory to some arrangement. It is uncertain how far we should have been able to accommodate our opinions. But the absolute aversion of the government to enter into any arrangement prevented the object from being pursued. Each country is left to do justice to itself and to the other, according to its own ideas as to what is past; and to scramble for the future as well as they can: to regulate their commerce by duties and prohibitions, and perhaps by cannons and mortars; in which event, we must abandon the ocean, where we are weak, leaving to neutral nations the carriage of our commodities; and measure with them on land, where they alone can lose. Farewell, then, all our useful improvements of canals and roads, reformations of laws, and other rational employments. I really doubt, whether there is temper enough, on either side, to prevent this issue of our present hatred. Europe is, at this moment, without the appearance of a cloud. The death of the King of Prussia, daily expected, may raise one. My paper admonishes me, that, after asking a continuance of your favors, it is time for me to conclude with assurances of the esteem with which I am,
Dear Sir, your friend and servant,
LETTER XIV.—TO T. PLEASANTS, May 8,1786
TO T. PLEASANTS.
Paris, May 8,1786.
At the time of the receipt of your favor of October the 24th, the contract between the Farmers General and Mr. Morris, for tobacco, was concluded, and in a course of execution. There was no room, therefore, to offer the proposals which accompanied your letter. I was, moreover, engaged in endeavors to have the monopoly, in the purchase of this article, in this country, suppressed. My hopes on that subject are not desperate, but neither are they flattering. I consider it as the most effectual means of procuring the full value of our produce, of diverting our demands for manufactures from Great Britain to this country, to a certain amount, and of thus producing some equilibrium in our commerce, which at present lies all in the British scale. It would cement an union with our friends, and lessen the torrent of wealth which we are pouring into the laps of our enemies. For my part, I think that the trade with Great Britain is a ruinous one to ourselves; and that nothing would be an inducement to tolerate it, but a free commerce with their West Indies: and that this being denied to us, we should put a stop to the losing branch. The question is, whether they are right in their prognostications, that we have neither resolution nor union enough for this. Every thing I hear from my own country, fills me with despair as to their recovery from their vassalage to Great Britain. Fashion and folly are plunging them deeper and deeper into distress: and the legislators of the country becoming debtors also, there seems no hope of applying the only possible remedy, that of an immediate judgment and execution. We should try, whether the prodigal might not be restrained from taking on credit the gewgaw held out to him in one hand, by seeing the keys of a prison in the other. Be pleased to present my respects to Mrs. Pleasants, and to be assured of the esteem with which I am,
Dear Sir, your friend and servant,
LETTER XV.—TO COLONEL MONROE, May 10,1786
TO COLONEL MONROE.
Paris, May 10,1786.
My last to you was of January the 27th. Since that, I have received yours of January the 19th. Information from other quarters gives me reason to suspect you have in negotiation a very important change in your situation. You will carry into its execution all my wishes for your happiness. I hope it will not detach you from a settlement in your own country. I had even entertained hopes of your settling in my neighborhood: but these were determined by your desiring a plan of a house for Richmond. However reluctantly I relinquish this prospect, I shall not the less readily obey your commands, by sending you a plan. Having been much engaged since my return from England, in answering the letters and despatching other business which had accumulated during my absence, and being still much engaged, perhaps I may not be able to send the plan by this conveyance. If I do not send it now, I will surely by the next conveyance after this. Your Encyclopedie, containing eighteen livraisons, went off last night for Havre, from whence it will go in a vessel bound to New York. It will be under the care of M. la Croix, a passenger, who, if he does not find you in New York, will carry it to Virginia, and send it to Richmond. Another copy, in a separate box, goes for Currie. I pay here all charges to New York. What may occur afterwards, I desire him to ask either of you or Currie, as either will pay for the other; or to draw on me for them.
My letters to Mr. Jay will have informed you of the objects which carried me to England: and that the principal one, the treaty with Portugal, has been accomplished. Though we were unable to procure any special advantages in that, yet we thought it of consequence to insure our trade against those particular checks and discouragements, which it has heretofore met with there. The information as to the Barbary States, which we obtained from Abdrahaman the Tripoline ambassador, was also given to Mr. Jay. If it be right, and the scale of proportion between those nations, which we had settled, be also right, eight times the sum required by Tripoli will be necessary to accomplish a peace with the whole; that is to say, about two hundred and forty thousand guineas. The continuance of this peace will depend on their idea of our power to enforce it, and on the life of the particular Dey, or other head of the government, with whom it is contracted. Congress will, no doubt, weigh these circumstances against the expense and probable success of compelling a peace by arms. Count d'Estaing having communicated to me verbally some information as to an experiment formerly made by this country, I shall get him to put it into writing, and I will forward it to Congress, as it may aid them in their choice of measures. However, which plan is most eligible can only be known to yourselves, who are on the spot, and have under your view all the difficulties of both. There is a third measure, that of abandoning the Mediterranean carriage to other nations.
With respect to England, no arrangements can be taken. The merchants were certainly disposed to have consented to accommodation, as to the article of debts. I was not certain, when I left England, that they would relinquish the interest during the war. A letter received since, from the first character among the American merchants in Scotland, satisfies me they would have relinquished it, to insure the capital and residue of interest. Would to heaven, all the States, therefore, would settle a uniform plan. To open the courts to them, so that they might obtain judgments; to divide the executions into so many equal annual instalments, as that the last might be paid in the year 1790; to have the payments in actual money; and to include the capital, and interest preceding and subsequent to the war, would give satisfaction to the world, and to the merchants in general. Since it is left for each nation to pursue their own measures, in the execution of the late treaty, may not Congress, with propriety, recommend a mode of executing that article respecting the debts, and send it to each State to be passed into law? Whether England gives up the posts or not, these debts must be paid, or our character stained with infamy among all nations, and through all time. As to the satisfaction for slaves carried off, it is a bagatelle, which, if not made good before the last instalment becomes due, may be secured out of that.
I formerly communicated the overtures for a treaty, which had been made by the imperial ambassador. The instructions from Congress being in their favor, and Mr. Adams's opinion also, I encouraged them. He expected his full powers when I went to England. Yet I did not think, nor did Mr. Adams, that this was of importance enough to weigh against the objects of that journey. He received them soon after my departure, and communicated it to me on my return, asking a copy of our propositions. I gave him one, but observed, our commission had then but a few days to run. He desired I should propose to Congress the giving new powers to go on with this, and said, that, in the mean time, he would arrange with us the plan. In a commercial view, no great good is to be gained by this. But in a political one, it may be expedient. As the treaty would, of course, be in the terms of those of Prussia and Portugal, it will give us but little additional embarrassment, in any commercial regulations we may wish to establish. The exceptions from these, which the other treaties will require, may take in the treaty with the Emperor. I should be glad to communicate some answer, as soon as Congress shall have made up their minds on it. My information to Congress, on the subject of our commercial articles with this country, has only come down to January the 27th. Whether I shall say any thing on it, in my letter to Mr. Jay by this conveyance, depends on its not being too early for an appointment I expect hourly from the Count de Vergennes, to meet him on this and other subjects. My last information was, that the lease was too far advanced to withdraw from it the article of tobacco, but that a clause is inserted in it, empowering the King to discontinue it at any time. A discontinuance is, therefore, the only remaining object, and as even this cannot be effected till the expiration of the old lease, which is about the end of the present year, I have wished only to stir the subject, from time to time, so as to keep it alive. This idea led me into a measure proposed by the Marquis de la Fayette, whose return from Berlin found the matter at that point, to which my former report to Congress had conducted it. I communicated to him what I had been engaged on, what were my prospects, and my purpose of keeping the subject just open. He offered his services with that zeal which commands them on every occasion respecting America. He suggested to me the meeting two or three gentlemen, well acquainted with this business. We met. They urged me to propose to the Count de Vergennes, the appointing a committee to take the matter into consideration. I told them, that decency would not permit me to point out to the Count de Vergennes the mode by which he should conduct a negotiation, but that I would press again the necessity of an arrangement, if, whilst that should be operating on his mind, they would suggest the appointment of a committee. The Marquis offered his services for this purpose. The consequence was the appointment of a committee, and the Marquis as a member of it. I communicated to him my papers. He collected other lights wherever he could, and particularly from the gentlemen with whom we had before concerted, and who had a good acquaintance with the subject. The Marquis became our champion in the committee, and two of its members, who were of the corps of Farmers General, entered the lists on the other side. Each gave in memorials. The lease, indeed, was signed while I was gone to England, but the discussions were, and still are continued in the committee: from which we derive two advantages; 1. that of showing, that the object is not to be relinquished; and 2. that of enlightening government, as to its true interest. The Count de Vergennes is absolutely for it; but it is not in his department. Calonne is his friend, and in this instance his principle seems to be, Amica veritas, sed magis amicus Plato. An additional hope is founded in the expectation of a change of the minister of finance. The present one is under the absolute control of the Farmers General. The committee's views have been somewhat different from mine. They despair of a suppression of the Farm, and therefore wish to obtain palliatives, which would coincide with the particular good of this country. I think, that so long as the monopoly in the sale is kept up, it is of no consequence to us, how they modify the pill for their own internal relief: but, on the contrary, the worse it remains, the more necessary it will render a reformation. Any palliative would take from us all those arguments and friends, that would be satisfied with accommodation. The Marquis, though differing in opinion from me on this point, has, however, adhered to my principle of absolute liberty or nothing. In this condition is the matter at this moment. Whether I say any thing on the subject to Mr. Jay, will depend on my interview with the Count de Vergennes. I doubt whether that will furnish any thing worth communicating, and whether it will be in time. I therefore state thus much to you, that you may see the matter is not laid aside.
I must beg leave to recommend Colonel Humphreys to your acquaintance and good offices. He is an excellent man, an able one, and in need of some provision. Besides former applications to me in favor of Dumas, the Rhingrave of Salm (the effective minister of the government of Holland, while their two ambassadors here are ostensible), who is conducting secret arrangements for them with this court, presses his interests on us. It is evident the two governments make a point of it. You ask, why they do not provide for him themselves. I am not able to answer the question, but by a conjecture, that Dumas's particular ambition prefers an appointment from us. I know all the difficulty of this application, which Congress has to encounter. I see the reasons against giving him the primary appointment at that court, and the difficulty of his accommodating himself to a subordinate one. Yet I think something must be done in it, to gratify this court, of which we must be always asking favors. In these countries, personal favors weigh more than public interest. The minister who has asked a gratification for Dumas, has embarked his own feelings and reputation in that demand. I do not think it was discreet, by any means. But this reflection might perhaps aggravate a disappointment. I know not really what you can do: but yet hope something will be done. Adieu, my Dear Sir, and believe me to be
LETTER XVI.—TO JOHN ADAMS, May 11, 1786
TO JOHN ADAMS.
Paris, May 11, 1786.
I do myself the honor of enclosing to you, letters which came to hand last night, from Mr. Lambe, Mr. Carmichael, and Mr. Barclay. By these you will perceive, that our peace is not to be purchased at Algiers but at a price far beyond our powers. What that would be, indeed, Mr. Lambe does not say, nor probably does he know. But as he knew our ultimatum, we are to suppose from his letter, that it would be a price infinitely beyond that. A reference to Congress hereon seems to be necessary. Till that can be obtained, Mr. Lambe must be idle at Algiers, Carthagena, or elsewhere. Would he not be better employed in going to Congress? They would be able to draw from him and Mr. Randall, the information necessary to determine what they will do. And if they determine to negotiate, they can re-appoint the same, or appoint a new negotiator, according to the opinion they shall form on their examination. I suggest this to you as my first thoughts; an ultimate opinion should not be formed till we see Mr. Randall, who may be shortly expected. In the mean time, should an opportunity occur, favor me with your ideas hereon that we may be maturing our opinions. I shall send copies of these three letters to Mr. Jay, by the packet which sails from L'Orient the first of the next month.
I have the honor to be, with great esteem, Dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
LETTER XVII.—TO LISTER ASQUITH, May 22, 1786
TO LISTER ASQUITH.
Paris, May 22, 1786.
When I left this place for England, I had no suspicion that any thing more would be necessary on my part for your liberation. Being but lately returned, I could not sooner acknowledge the receipt of your letters of April the 21st and May the 1st. I this day write to M. Desbordes, to pay the charges necessary for your enlargement, to furnish you with a guinea apiece, and to take your draft on Mr. Grand for those sums, and the others which he has furnished you at my request. This being a new case, I am unable to say whether you will be held to repay this money. Congress will decide on that, to whom I shall send a report of the case, and to whom you should apply on your return to America, to know whether you are to repay it or not. During the whole of this long transaction, I have never ceased soliciting your discharge. The evidence furnished by the Farmers to the ministers, impressed them with a belief that you were guilty. However, they obtained a remission of all which the King could remit, which was your condemnation to the galleys, and imprisonment, and the sum in which you were fined. The confiscation belonged to the Farmers, and the expenses of subsistence and of prosecution were theirs also, and so could not be remitted by the King. I wish you to be assured of my sensibility for your sufferings, and of my wishes to have obtained an earlier relief, had it been possible. I shall be glad if you can have an immediate and safe return to your own country, and there find your families well, and make those who may be authorized to decide on your case sensible, that these misfortunes have not been brought on you by any desire of yours, to infringe the laws of the country in which you have suffered. I enclose herewith your log-book and the other papers desired by you, and am, Sir,
your most obedient, humble servant,
LETTER XVIII.—TO JOHN JAY, May 23, 1786
TO JOHN JAY.
Paris, May 23, 1786.
Letters received both from Madrid and Algiers, while I was in London, having suggested that treaties with the States of Barbary would be much facilitated by a previous one with the Ottoman Porte, it was agreed between Mr. Adams and myself, that on my return, I should consult on this subject the Count de Vergennes, whose long residence at Constantinople rendered him the best judge of its expediency. Various circumstances have put it out of my power to consult him, till to-day. I stated to him the difficulties we were likely to meet with at Algiers; and asked his opinion, what would be the probable expense of a diplomatic mission to Constantinople, and what its effect at Algiers. He said that the expense would be very great, for that presents must be made at that court, and every one would be gaping after them: and that it would not procure us a peace at Algiers one penny the cheaper. He observed, that the Barbary States acknowledged a sort of vassalage to the Porte, and availed themselves of that relation, when any thing was to be gained by it; but that whenever it subjected them to a demand from the Porte, they totally disregarded it: that money was the sole agent at Algiers, except so far as fear could be induced also. He cited the present example of Spain, which, though having a treaty with the Porte would probably be obliged to buy a peace at Algiers, at the expense of upwards of six millions of livres. I told him, we had calculated from the demands and information of the Tripoline ambassador, at London, that to make peace with the four Barbary States would cost us between two and three hundred thousand guineas, if bought with money. The sum did not seem to exceed his expectations. I mentioned to him, that considering the uncertainty of a peace, when bought, perhaps Congress might think it more eligible to establish a cruise of frigates in the Mediterranean, and even to blockade Algiers. He supposed it would require ten vessels, great and small. I observed to him that Monsieur de Massiac had formerly done it with five: he said it was true, but that vessels of relief would be necessary. I hinted to him that I thought the English capable of administering aid to the Algerines. He seemed to think it impossible, on account of the scandal it would bring on. I asked him what had occasioned the blockade by Monsieur de Massiac: he said, an infraction of their treaty by the Algerines.
I had a good deal of conversation with him, also, on the situation of affairs between England and the United States: and particularly, on their refusal to deliver up our posts. I observed to him, that the obstructions thrown in the way of the recovery of their debts, were the effect, and not the cause, as they pretended, of their refusal to deliver up the posts; that the merchants interested in these debts, showed a great disposition to make arrangements with us; that the article of time we could certainly have settled, and probably that of the interest during the war: but that, the minister showing no disposition to have these matters arranged, I thought it a sufficient proof that this was not the true cause of their retaining the posts. He concurred as to the justice of our requiring time for the payment of our debts; said nothing which showed a difference of opinion as to the article of interest, and seemed to believe fully, that their object was to divert the channel of the fur-trade, before they delivered up the posts, and expressed a strong sense of the importance of that commerce to us. I told him I really could not foresee what would be the event of this detention; that the situation of the British funds, and the desire of their minister to begin to reduce the national debt, seemed to indicate that they could not wish a war. He thought so, but that neither were we in a condition to go to war. I told him, I was yet uninformed what Congress proposed to do on this subject, but that we should certainly always count on the good offices of France, and I was sure that the offer of them would suffice to induce Great Britain to do us justice. He said that surely we might always count on the friendship of France. I added, that by the treaty of alliance, she was bound to guaranty our limits to us, as they should be established at the moment of peace. He said they were so, 'mais qu'il nous etoit necessaire de les constater.' I told him there was no question what our boundaries were; that the English themselves admitted they were clear beyond all question. I feared, however, to press this any further, lest a reciprocal question should be put to me, and therefore diverted the conversation to another object. This is a sketch only of a conference which was long. I have endeavored to give the substance, and sometimes the expressions, where they were material. I supposed it would be agreeable to Congress to have it communicated to them, in the present undecided state in which these subjects are. I should add, that an explanation of the transaction of Monsieur de Massiac with the Algerines, before hinted at, will be found in the enclosed letter from the Count d'Estaing to me, wherein he gives also his own opinion. The whole is submitted to Congress, as I conceive it my duty to furnish them with whatever information I can gather, which may throw any light on the subjects depending before them. I have the honor to be, with the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
LETTER XIX.—TO MR. CARMICHAEL, June 20, 1786
TO MR. CARMICHAEL.
Paris, June 20, 1786.
My last to you was of the 5th of May, by Baron Waltersdorff. Since that I have been honored with yours of April the 13th, and May the 16th and 18th. The present covers letters to Mr. Lambe and Mr. Randall, informing them that the demands of Algiers for the ransom of our prisoners and also for peace, are so infinitely beyond our instructions, that we must refer the matter back to Congress, and therefore praying them to come on immediately. I will beg the favor of you to forward these letters. The whole of this business, therefore, is suspended till we receive further orders, except as to Mr. Barclay's mission. Your bills have been received and honored. The first naming expressly a letter of advice, and none coming, it was refused till the receipt of your letter to me, in which you mentioned that you had drawn two bills. I immediately informed Mr. Grand, who thereupon honored the bill.
I have received no public letters of late date. Through other channels, I have collected some articles of information, which may be acceptable to you.
In a letter of March the 20th, from Dr. Franklin to me, is this passage. 'As to public affairs, the Congress has not been able to assemble more than seven or eight States during the whole winter, so the treaty with Prussia remains still unratified, though there is no doubt of its being done soon, as a full Congress is expected next month. The disposition to furnish Congress with ample powers augments daily, as people become more enlightened. And I do not remember ever to have seen, during my long life, more signs of public felicity than appear at present, throughout these States; the cultivators of the earth, who make the bulk of our nation, have made good crops, which are paid for at high prices, with ready money; the artisans, too, receive high wages; and the value of all real estates is augmented greatly. Merchants and shopkeepers, indeed, complain that there is not business enough. But this is evidently not owing to the fewness of buyers, but to the too great number of sellers; for the consumption of goods was never greater, as appears by the dress, furniture, and manner of living, of all ranks of the people.' His health is good, except as to the stone, which does not grow worse. I thank you for your attention to my request about the books, which Mr. Barclay writes me he has forwarded from Cadiz.
I have the honor to be with great respect, Dear Sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
LETTER XX.—TO MR. LAMBE, June 20,1786
TO MR. LAMBE.
Paris, June 20,1786.
Having communicated to Mr. Adams the information received, at different times, from yourself, from Mr. Randall, and Mr. Carmichael, we find that the sum likely to be demanded by Algiers for the ransom of our prisoners, as well as for peace, is so infinitely beyond our powers, and the expectations of Congress, that it has become our duty to refer the whole matter back to them. Whether they will choose to buy a peace, to force one, or to do nothing, will rest in their pleasure. But that they may have all the information possible to guide them in their deliberations, we think it important that you should return to them. No time will be lost by this, and perhaps time maybe gained. It is, therefore, our joint desire, that you repair immediately to New York, for the purpose of giving to Congress all the information on this subject, which your journey has enabled you to acquire. You will consider this request as coming from Mr. Adams as well as myself, as it is by express authority from him, that I join him in it. I am of opinion, it will be better for you to come to Marseilles and by Paris: because there is a possibility that fresh orders to us, from Congress, might render it useful that we, also, should have received from you all possible information on this subject. And perhaps no time may be lost by this, as it might be long before you would set a passage from Alicant to America.
I am, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
LETTER XXI.—TO MONSIEUR DE REYNEVAL, June 25, 1786
TO MONSIEUR DE REYNEVAL.
Paris, June 25, 1786.
I have received letters from two citizens of the United States, of the names of Geary and Arnold, informing me, that having for some time past exercised commerce in London, and having failed, they were obliged to leave that country; that they came over to Dunkirk, and from thence to Brest, where, one of them having changed his name, the more effectually to elude the search of his creditors, they were both imprisoned by order of the commandant; whether at the suit of their creditors, or because one of them changed his name, they are uninformed. But they are told, that the commandant has sent information of his proceedings to your office. I have some reason to suppose, their creditors are endeavoring to obtain leave to remove them to England, where their imprisonment would be perpetual. Unable to procure information elsewhere, I take the liberty of asking you, whether you know the cause of their imprisonment, and of soliciting your attention to them, so far as that nothing may take place against them by surprise, and out of the ordinary course of the law.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble; servant,
LETTER XXII.—TO THE PREVOT DES MARCHANDS, September 27, 1786
TO THE PREVOT DES MARCHANDS ET ECHEVINS DE PARIS.
Paris, September 27, 1786.
The commonwealth of Virginia, in gratitude for the services of Major General the Marquis de la Fayette, have determined to erect his bust in their Capital. Desirous to place a like monument of his worth, and of their sense of it, in the country to which they are indebted for his birth, they have hoped that the city of Paris will consent to become the depository of this second testimony of their gratitude. Being charged by them with the execution of their wishes, I have the honor to solicit of Messieurs le Prevot des Marchands et Echevins, on behalf of the city, their acceptance of a bust of this gallant officer, and that they will be pleased to place it where, doing most honor to him, it will most gratify the feelings of an allied nation.
It is with true pleasure that I obey the call of that commonwealth, to render just homage to a character so great in its first developements, that they would honor the close of any other. Their country covered by a small army against a great one, their exhausted means supplied by his talents, their enemies finally forced to that spot whither their allies and confederates were collecting to receive them, and a war which had spread its miseries into the four quarters of the earth thus reduced to a single point, where one blow should terminate it, and through the whole, an implicit respect paid to the laws of the land; these are facts which would illustrate any character, and which fully justify the warmth of those feelings, of which I have the honor, on this occasion, to be the organ.
It would have been more pleasing to me to have executed this office in person, to have mingled the tribute of private gratitude with that of my country, and, at the same time, to have had an opportunity of presenting to your honorable body, the homage of that profound respect which I have the honor to bear them. But I am withheld from these grateful duties, by the consequences of a fall, which confine me to my room. Mr. Short, therefore, a citizen of the State of Virginia, and heretofore a member of its Council of State, will have the honor of delivering you this letter, together with the resolution of the General Assembly of Virginia. He will have that, also, of presenting the bust at such time and place, as you will be so good as to signify your pleasure to receive it. Through him, I beg to be allowed the honor of presenting those sentiments of profound respect and veneration, with which I am, Gentlemen, your most obedient and most humble servant,
LETTER XXIII.—TO COLONEL MONROE, July 9, 1786
TO COLONEL MONROE.
Paris, July 9, 1786.
I wrote you last on the 10th of May; since which your favor of May the 11th has come to hand. The political world enjoys great quiet here. The King of Prussia is still living, but like the snuff of a candle, which sometimes seems out, and then blazes up again. Some think that his death will not produce any immediate effect in Europe. His kingdom like a machine, will go on for some time with the winding up he has given it. The King's visit to Cherbourg has made a great sensation in England and here. It proves to the world, that it is a serious object to this country, and that the King commits himself for the accomplishment of it. Indeed, so many cones have been sunk, that no doubt remains of the practicability of it. It will contain, as is said, eighty ships of the line, be one of the best harbors in the world, and by means of two entrances, on different sides, will admit vessels to come in and go out with every wind. The effect of this, in another war with England, defies calculation. Having no news to communicate, I will recur to the subjects of your letter of May the 11th.
With respect to the new States, were the question to stand simply in this form, How may the ultramontane territory be disposed of, so as to produce the greatest and most immediate benefit to the inhabitants of the maritime States of the Union? the plan would be more plausible, of laying it off into two or three States only. Even on this view, however, there would still be something to be said against it, which might render it at least doubtful. But that is a question, which good faith forbids us to receive into discussion. This requires us to state the question in its just form, How may the territories of the Union be disposed of, so as to produce the greatest degree of happiness to their inhabitants? With respect to the maritime States, little or nothing remains to be done. With respect, then, to the ultramontane States, will their inhabitants be happiest, divided into States of thirty thousand square miles, not quite as large as Pennsylvania, or into States of one hundred and sixty thousand square miles each, that is to say, three times as large as Virginia within the Allegany? They will not only be happier in States of moderate size, but it is the only way in which they can exist as a regular society. Considering the American character in general, that of those people particularly, and the energetic nature of our governments, a State of such extent as one hundred and sixty thousand square miles, would soon crumble into little ones. These are the circumstances, which reduce the Indians to such small societies. They would produce an effect on our people, similar to this. They would not be broken into such small pieces, because they are more habituated to subordination, and value more a government of regular law. But you would surely reverse the nature of things, in making small States on the ocean, and large ones beyond the mountains. If we could, in our consciences, say, that great States beyond the mountains will make the people happiest, we must still ask, whether they will be contented to be laid off into large States. They certainly will not: and if they decide to divide themselves, we are not able to restrain them. They will end by separating from our confederacy, and becoming its enemies. We had better then look forward, and see what will be the probable course of things. This will surely be a division of that country into States, of a small, or, at most, of a moderate size. If we lay them off into such, they will acquiesce; and we shall have the advantage of arranging them, so as to produce the best combinations of interest. What Congress have already done in this matter, is an argument the more, in favor of the revolt of those States against a different arrangement, and of their acquiescence under a continuance of that. Upon this plan, we treat them as fellow-citizens; they will have a just share in their own government; they will love us, and pride themselves in an union with us. Upon the other, we treat them as subjects; we govern them, and not they themselves; they will abhor us as masters, and break off from us in defiance. I confess to you, that I can see no other turn that these two plans would take. But I respect your opinion, and your knowledge of the country, too much, to be over-confident in my own.
I thank you sincerely for your communication, that my not having sooner given notice of the Arrets relative to fish, gave discontent to some persons. These are the most friendly offices you can do me, because they enable me to justify myself, if I am right, or correct myself, if wrong. If those who thought I might have been remiss, would have written to me on the subject, I should have admired them for their candor, and thanked them for it: for I have no jealousies nor resentments at things of this kind, where I have no reason to believe they have been excited by a hostile spirit; and I suspect no such spirit in a single member of Congress. You know there were two Arrets; the first of August the 30th, 1784, the second of the 18th and 25th of September, 1785. As to the first, it would be a sufficient justification of myself, to say, that it was in the time of my predecessor, nine months before I came into office, and that there was no more reason for my giving information of it, when I did come into office, than of all the other transactions, which preceded that period. But this would seem to lay a blame on Dr. Franklin for not communicating it, which I am confident he did not deserve. This government affects a secrecy in all its transactions whatsoever, though they be of a nature not to admit a perfect secrecy. Their Arrets respecting the islands go to those islands, and are unpublished and unknown in France, except in the bureau where they are formed. That of August, 1784, would probably be communicated to the merchants of the seaport towns also. But Paris having no commercial connections with them, if any thing makes its way from a seaport town to Paris, it must be by accident. We have, indeed, agents in these seaports; but they value their offices so little, that they do not trouble themselves to inform us of what is passing there. As a proof that these things do not transpire here, nor are easily got at, recollect that Mr. Adams, Dr. Franklin, and myself were all here on the spot together, from August, 1784, to June, 1785, that is to say, ten months, and yet not one of us knew of the Arret of August, 1784. September the 18th and 25th, 1785, the second was passed. And here alone I became responsible. I think it was about six weeks before I got notice of it, that is, in November. On the 20th of that month, writing to Count de Vergennes on another subject, I took occasion to remonstrate to him on that. But from early in November, when the Fitzhughs went to America. I had never a confidential opportunity of writing to Mr. Jay from hence, directly, for several months. In a letter of December the 14th, to Mr. Jay, I mentioned to him the want of an opportunity to write to him confidentially, which obliged me at that moment to write by post via London, and on such things only, as both post-offices were welcome to see. On the 2nd of January, Mr. Bingham setting out for London, I wrote to Mr. Jay, sending him a copy of my letter to Count de Vergennes, and stating something, which had passed in conversation on the same subject. I prayed Mr. Bingham to take charge of the letter, and either to send it by a safe hand, or carry it himself, as circumstances should render most advisable. I believe he kept it, to carry himself. He did not sail from London till about the 12th of March, nor arrive in America till the middle of May. Thus you see, that causes had prevented a letter, which I had written on the 20th of November, from getting to America till the month of May. No wonder, then, if notice of this Arret came first to you by the way of the West Indies: and, in general, I am confident, that you will receive notice of the regulations of this country, respecting their islands, by the way of those islands, before you will from hence. Nor can this be remedied, but by a system of bribery, which would end in the corruption of your own ministers, and produce no good adequate to the expense. Be so good as to communicate these circumstances to the persons who you think may have supposed me guilty of remissness on this occasion.
I will turn to a subject more pleasing to both, and give you my sincere congratulations on your marriage. Your own dispositions, and the inherent comforts of that state, will insure you a great addition of happiness. Long may you live to enjoy it, and enjoy it in full measure. The interest I feel in every one connected with you, will justify my presenting my earliest respects to the lady, and of tendering her the homage of my friendship. I shall be happy at all times to be useful to either of you, and to receive your commands. I enclose you the bill of lading of your Encyclopedie. With respect to the remittance for it, of which you make mention, I beg you not to think of it. I know, by experience, that on proceeding to make a settlement in life, a man has need of all his resources; and I should be unhappy, were you to lessen them by an attention to this trifle. Let it lie till you have nothing else to do with your money. Adieu, my Dear Sir, and be assured of the esteem with which I am your friend and servant,
LETTER XXIV.—TO JOHN ADAMS, July 11, 1786
TO JOHN ADAMS.
Paris, July 11, 1786.
Our instructions relative to the Barbary States having required us to proceed by way of negotiation to obtain their peace, it became our duty to do this to the best of our power. Whatever might be our private opinions, they were to be suppressed, and the line marked out to us was to be followed. It has been so, honestly and zealously. It was, therefore, never material for us to consult together on the best plan of conduct towards these States. I acknowledge I very, early thought it would be best to effect a peace through the medium of war. Though it is a question with which we have nothing to do, yet as you propose some discussion of it, I shall trouble you with my reasons. Of the four positions laid down in your letter of the 3rd instant, I agree to the three first, which are, in substance, that the good offices of our friends cannot procure us a peace, without paying its price, that they cannot materially lessen that price; and that paying it, we can have the peace in spite of the intrigues of our enemies. As to the fourth, that the longer the negotiation is delayed, the larger will be the demand; this will depend on the intermediate captures: if they are many and rich, the price may be raised; if few and poor, it will be lessened. However, if it is decided, that we shall buy a peace, I know no reason for delaying the operation, but should rather think it ought to be hastened: but I should prefer the obtaining it by war.
1. Justice is in favor of this opinion. 2. Honor favors it. 3. It will procure us respect in Europe; and respect is a safeguard to interest. 4. It will arm the federal head with the safest of all the instruments of coercion over its delinquent members, and prevent it from using what would be less safe. I think, that so far you go with me. But in the next steps we shall differ. 5. I think it least expensive. 6. Equally effectual. I ask a fleet of one hundred and fifty guns, the one half of which shall be in constant cruise. This fleet, built, manned, and victualled for six months, will cost four hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling. Its annual expense will be three hundred pounds sterling a gun, including every thing: this will be forty-five thousand pounds sterling a year. I take British experience for the basis of my calculation: though we know, from our own experience, that we can do in this way for pounds lawful, what costs them pounds sterling. Were we to charge all this to the Algerine war, it would amount to little more than we must pay if we buy peace. But as it is proper and necessary, that we should establish a small marine force (even were we to buy a peace from the Algerines), and as that force, laid up in our dock-yard, would cost us half as much annually as if kept in order for service, we have a right to say, that only twenty-two thousand and five hundred pounds sterling, per annum, should be charged to the Algerine war. 6. It will be as effectual. To all the mismanagements of Spain and Portugal, urged to show that war against those people is ineffectual, I urge a single fact to prove the contrary, where there is any management. About forty years ago, the Algerines having broke their treaty with France, this court sent Monsieur de Massiac, with one large and two small frigates: he blockaded the harbor of Algiers three months, and they subscribed to the terms he proposed. If it be admitted, however, that war, on the fairest prospects, is still exposed to uncertainties, I weigh against this the greater uncertainty of the duration of a peace bought with money, from such a people, from a Dey eighty years old, and by a nation who, on the hypothesis of buying peace, is to have no power on the sea to enforce an observance of it.
So far I have gone on the supposition, that the whole weight of this war would rest on us. But, 1. Naples will join us. The character of their naval minister (Acton), his known sentiments with respect to the peace Spain is officiously trying to make for them, and his dispositions against the Algerines, give the best grounds to believe it. 2. Every principle of reason assures,us, that Portugal will join us. I state this as taking for granted, what all seem to believe, that they will not be at peace with Algiers. I suppose, then, that a convention might be formed between Portugal, Naples, and the United States, by which the burthen of the war might be quotaed on them, according to their respective wealth; and the term of it should be, when Algiers should subscribe to a peace with all three on equal terms. This might be left open for other nations to accede to, and many, if not most of the powers of Europe (except France, England, Holland, and Spain, if her peace be made), would sooner or later enter into the confederacy, for the sake of having their peace with the piratical States guarantied by the whole. I suppose, that, in this case, our proportion of force would not be the half of what I first calculated on.