« PreviousContinue »
better known to you, may have thrown into the scale of exceptions a greater number of the rich. Still there, I believe, and here, I am sure, the great mass is republican. Nor do any of the forms in which the public disposition has been pronounced in the last half dozen years, evince the contrary. All of them, when traced to their true source, have only been evidences of the preponderant popularity of a particular great character. That influence once withdrawn, and our countrymen left to the operation of their own unbiassed good sense, I have no doubt we shall see a pretty rapid return of general harmony, and our citizens moving in phalanx in the paths of regular liberty, order, and a sacrosanct adherence to the constitution. Thus I think it will be, if war with France can be avoided. But if that untoward event comes athwart us in our present point of deviation, nobody, I believe, can foresee into what port it will drive us.
I am always glad of an opportunity of inquiring after my most ancient and respected friend Mr. Samuel Adams. His principles, founded on the immovable basis of equal right and reason, have continued pure and unchanged. Permit me to place here my sincere veneration for him, and wishes for his health and happiness; and to assure yourself of the sentiments of esteem and respect with which I am, Dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant.
TO PEREGRINE FITZHUGH, ESQ.
MONTICELLO, April 9, 1797.
DEAR SIR,-Your favor of March 25th came safely to hand with the covered, for which accept my thanks. A nephew of mine, Mr. S., who married a daughter of Mr. Carr, near Georgetown, setting out this day for that place, I have sent him some of the peas you desired, which he will enclose under cover to you, and lodge in the care of Mr. Thompson Mason. This letter goes separately by post, to notify you that you may call for them in time for the present season. I wish it were in
my power to satisfy you with respect to the sentiments expressed by my friend Mr. Madison in the general Convention. But the papers in my possession are under a seal which I have not broken yet, and wish not to break, till I have time to give them a thorough perusal and consideration. Two things may be safely said; 1st. When a man whose life has been marked by its candor, has given a latter opinion contrary to a former one, it is probably the result of further inquiry, reflection and conviction. This is a sound answer, if the contrariety of sentiment as to the treaty-making power were really expressed by him on the former and latter occasion, as was alleged to you. But, 2d. As no man weighs more maturely than Mr. Madison before he takes a side on any question, I do not expect he has changed either his opinion on that subject, or the expressions of it, and therefore I presume the allegation founded in some misconception or misinformation. I have just received a summons to Congress for the 15th of next month. I am sorry for it, as everything pacific could have been done without Congress, and I hope nothing is contemplated which is not pacific. I wish I may be as fortunate in my travelling companions as I was the last trip. I hope you found your father and family well; present him, if you please, the respectful homage of one who knew him when too young probably to have been known by him, and accept yourself assurances of the great esteem of, Dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant.
TO ELBRIDGE GERRY.
PHILADELPHIA, May 13, 1797.
MY DEAR FRIEND,-Your favor of the 4th instant came to hand yesterday. That of the 4th of April, with the one for Monroe, has never been received. The first, of March 27th, did not reach me till April the 21st, when I was within a few days of setting out for this place, and I put off acknowledging it till I should come here. I entirely commend your dispositions towards
Mr. Adams; knowing his worth as intimately and esteeming it as much as any one, and acknowledging the preference of his claims, if any I could have had, to the high office conferred on him. But in truth, I had neither claims nor wishes on the subject, though I know it will be difficult to obtain belief of this. When I retired from this place and the office of Secretary of State, it was in the firmest contemplation of never more returning here. There had indeed been suggestions in the public papers, that I was looking towards a succession to the President's chair, but feeling a consciousness of their falsehood, and observing that the suggestions came from hostile quarters, I considered them as intended merely to excite public odium against me. I never in my life exchanged a word with any person on the subject, till I found my name brought forward generally, in competition with that of Mr. Adams. Those with whom I then communicated, could say, if it were necessary, whether I met the call with desire, or even with a ready acquiescence, and whether from the moment of my first acquiescence, I did not devoutly pray that the very thing might happen which has happened. The second office of the government is honorable and easy, the first is but a splendid misery.
You express apprehensions that stratagems will be used, to produce a misunderstanding between the President and myself. Though not a word having this tendency has ever been hazarded to me by any one, yet I consider as a certainty that nothing will be left untried to alienate him from me. These machinations will proceed from the Hamiltonians by whom he is surrounded, and who are only a little less hostile to him than to me. It cannot but damp the pleasure of cordiality, when we suspect that it is suspected. I cannot help thinking, that it is impossible for Mr. Adams to believe that the state of my mind is what it really is; that he may think I view him as an obstacle in my way. I have no supernatural power to impress truth on the mind of another, nor he any to discover that the estimate which he may form, on a just view of the human mind as generally constituted, may not be just in its application to a special constitution. This may be
a source of private uneasiness to us; I honestly confess that it is so to me at this time. But neither of us is capable of letting it have effect on our public duties. Those who may endeavor to separate us, are probably excited by the fear that I might have influence on the executive councils; but when they shall know that I consider my office as constitutionally confined to legislative functions, and that I could not take any part whatever in executive consultations, even were it proposed, their fears may perhaps subside, and their object be found not worth a machination.
I do sincerely wish with you, that we could take our stand on a ground perfectly neutral and independent towards all nations. It has been my constant object through my public life; and with respect to the English and French, particularly, I have too often expressed to the former my wishes, and made to them propositions verbally and in writing, officially and privately, to official and private characters, for them to doubt of my views, if they would be content with equality. Of this they are in possession of several written and formal proofs, in my own hand writing. But they have wished a monopoly of commerce and influence with us; and they have in fact obtained it. When we take notice that theirs is the workshop to which we go for all we want; that with them centre either immediately or ultimately all the labors of our hands and lands; that to them belongs either openly or secretly the great mass of our navigation; that even the factorage of their affairs here, is kept to themselves by factitious citizenships; that these foreign and false citizens now constitute the great body of what are called our merchants, fill our sea ports, are planted in every little town and district of the interior country, sway everything in the former places by their own votes, and those of their dependants, in the latter, by their insinuations and the influence of their ledgers; that they are advancing fast to a monopoly of our banks and public funds, and thereby placing our public finances under their control; that they have in their alliance the most influential characters in and out of office; when they have shown that by all these bearings on the different branches of the government, they can force it to
proceed in whatever direction they dictate, and bend the interests` of this country entirely to the will of another; when all this, I say, is attended to, it is impossible for us to say we stand on independent ground, impossible for a free mind not to see and to groan under the bondage in which it is bound. If anything after this could excite surprise, it would be that they have been able so far to throw dust in the eyes of our own citizens, as to fix on those who wish merely to recover self-government the charge of subserving one foreign influence, because they resist submission to another. But they possess our printing presses, a powerful engine in their government of us. At this very moment, they would have drawn us into a war on the side of England, had it not been for the failure of her bank. Such was their open and loud cry, and that of their gazettes till this event. After plunging us in all the broils of the European nations, there would remain but one act to close our tragedy, that is, to break up our Union; and even this they have ventured seriously and solemnly to propose and maintain by arguments in a Connecticut paper. I have been happy, however, in believing, from the stifling of this effort, that that dose was found too strong, and excited as much repugnance there as it did horror in other parts of our country, and that whatever follies we may be led into as to foreign nations, we shall never give up our Union, the last anchor of our hope, and that alone which is to prevent this heavenly country from becoming an arena of gladiators. Much as I abhor war, and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind, and anxiously as I wish to keep out of the broils of Europe, I would yet go with my brethren into these, rather than separate from them. But I hope we may still keep clear of them, notwithstanding our present thraldom, and that time may be given us to reflect on the awful crisis we have passed through, and to find some means of shielding ourselves in future from foreign influence, political, commercial, or in whatever other form it may be attempted. I can scarcely withhold myself from joining in the wish of Silas Deane, that there were an ocean of fire between us and the old world.