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Paris, August 3, 1796. As censure is but awkwardly softened by apology, I shall offer you no apology for this letter. The eventful crisis to which your double politics have conducted the affairs of your country, requires an investigation uncramped by ceremony.
There was a time when the fame of America, moral and political, stood fair and high in the world. The lustre of her revolution extended itself to every individual, and to be a citizen of America, gave a title to respect in Europe. Neither meanness nor ingratitude had been mingled in the composition of her character. Her resistance to the attempted tyranny of England left her unsuspected of the one, and her open acknowledgment of the aid she received from France precluded all suspicion of the other. The politics of Washington had not then appeared.
At the time I left America (April 1787) the continental Convention, that formed the federal constitution, was on the point of meeting. Since that time new schemes of politics and new distinctions of parties, have arisen. The term Anti-federalist has been applied to all those who combated the defects of that constitution, or opposed the measures of your administration. It was only to the absolute necessity of establishing some federal authority, extending equally over all the States, that an instrument so inconsistent as the present federal constitution is, obtained
a suffrage. I would have voted for it myself, had I been in America, or even for a worse rather than have had none, provided it contained the means of remedying its defects by the same appeal to the people, by which it was to be established. It is always better policy to leave removeable errors to expose themselves, than to hazard too much in contending against them theoretically.
I have introduced these observations, not only to mark the general difference between Anti-federalist and Anticonstitutionalist, but to preclude the effect, and even the application, of the former of these terms to myself. I declare myself opposed to several matters in the constitution, particularly to the manner in which what is called the executive is formed, and to the long duration of the senate ; and if I live to return to America, I will use all my endeavours to have them altered. I also declare myself opposed to almost the whole of your administration ; for I know it to have been deceitful, if not perfidious, as I shall shew in the course of this letter. But as to the point of consolidating the States into a federal Government, it so happens, that the proposition for that purpose came originally from myself. I proposed it in a letter to Chancellor Livingston in the spring of the year 1782, whilst that gentleman was Minister for foreign affairs. The five per cent duty recommended by congress had then fallen through, having been adopted by some of the States, altered by others, rejected by Rhode Island, and repealed by Virginia, after it had been consented to. The proposal in the letter I allude to, was to get over the whole difficulty at once, by annexing a continental legislative body to Congress ; for in order to have any law of the Union uniform, the case could only be, that either Congress, as it then stood, must frame the law, and the States severally adopt it without alteration, or, the States must erect a continental legislature for the purpose. Chancellor Livingston, Robert Morris, Governor Morris, and myself, had a meeting at the house of Robert Morris on the subject of that letter. There was no diversity of opinion on the proposition for a continental legislature: the only difficulty was on the manner of bringing the proposition forward. For my own part, as I considered it as a remedy in reserve, that could be applied at any time when the States suw themselves wrong enough to be put right,(which did not appear to be the case at that time) I did not see the propriety of urging it precipitately, and declined being the publisher of it myself. After this ac
count of a fact, the leaders of your party will scarcely have the hardiness to apply to me the term of Anti-federalist. But I can go to a date and to a fact beyond this, for the proposition for electiog a continental convention. To form the Continental Government, is one of the subjects treated of in the pamphlet Common Sense.
Having thus cleared away a little of the rubbish that might otherwise have lain in my way, I return to the point of time at which the present federal constitution and your administration began. It was very well said by an anonymous writer in Philadelphia, about a year before that period, that“ thirteen staves and never a hoop will not make a barrel, and as any kind of hooping the barrel, however defectively executed, would be better than none, it was scarcely possible but that considerable advantages must arise from the federal hooping of the States. It was with pleasure that every sincere friend to America beheld as the natural effect of union, her rising prosperity, and it was with grief they saw that prosperity mixed, even in the blossom, with the germ of corruption. Monopolies of every kind marked your administration almost in the moment of its commencement. The lands obtained by the revolution were lavished upon partizans; the interest of the disbanded soldier was sold to the speculator : injustice was acted under the pretence of faith; and the chief of the army became the patron of the fraud. From such a beginning what else could be expected, than what has happened? A mean and servile submission to the insults of one Nation; treachery and ingratitude to another.
Some vices make their approach with such a splendid appearance, that we scarcely know to what class of moral distinctions they belong. They are rather virtues corrupted than vices originally. But meanness and ingratitude have nothing equivocal in their character. There is not a trait in them that renders them doubtful. They are so originally sice, that they are generated in the dung of other vices, and crawl into existence with the filth upon their backs. Tbe fugitives have found protection in you, and the levee-room is their place of rendezvous.
As the federal constitution is a copy, though not quite so base as the original, of the form of the British Government, an imitation of its vices was naturally to be expected. So intimate is the connection between form and practice, that to adopt the one is to invite the other. Imitation is na