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TO M. LE VEILLARD.
Philadelphia, 15 April, 1787.
I am entirely of your opinion, that our independence is not quite complete, till we have discharged our public debt. This State is not behindhand in its proportion; and those, which are in arrear, are actually employed in contriving means to discharge their respective balances; but they are not all equally diligent in the business, nor equally successful. The whole will, however, be paid, I am persuaded, in a few years.
The English have not yet delivered up the posts on our frontier, agreeably to treaty. The pretence is, that our merchants here have not paid their debts. I was a little provoked when I first heard this, and I wrote some remarks upon it, which I send you.* They have been written near a year, but I have not yet published them, being unwilling to encourage any of our people, who may be able to pay, in their neglect of that duty. The paper is therefore only for your amusement, and that of our excellent friend the Duke de la Rochefoucauld.
As to my malady, concerning which you so kindly inquire, I have never had the least doubt of its being the stone; and I am sensible that it has increased; but on the whole it does not give me more pain than when at Passy. People who live long, who will drink of the cup of life to the very bottom, must expect to meet with some of the usual dregs; and when I reflect on the number of terrible maladies human nature is subject to, I think myself favored in having to my share only the stone and gout.
You were right in conjecturing, that I wrote the re
» See The Retort Courteous, Vol. II. p. 498.
marks on the "Thoughts concerning Executive Justice." * I have no copy of those remarks at hand, and forget how the saying was introduced, that it is better a thousand guilty persons should escape, than one innocent suffer. Your criticisms thereon appear to be just, and I imagine you may have misapprehended my intention in mentioning it. I always thought, with you, that the prejudice in Europe, which supposes a family dishonored by the punishment of one of its members, was very absurd; it being on the contrary my opinion, that a rogue hanged out of a family does it more
honor than ten that live in it .
TO THE DUKE DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD.
Reply to his Congratulations. — United States. — Constitutions of the States. — Introduces Thomas Paine.
Philadelphia, 15 April, 1787.
I have been happy in receiving three very kind letters from my greatly respected and esteemed friend, since my being in America. They are dated November 30th, 1785, February 8th, 1786, and January 14th, 1787. In mine of this date to M. le Veillard, I have made the best apology I could for my being so bad a correspondent. I will not trouble you with a repetition of it, as I know you often see him. I will only confess my fault, and trust to your candor and goodness for my pardon.
Your friendly congratulations on my arrival and reception here were very obliging. The latter was, as you have heard, extremely flattering. The two parties
in the Assembly and Council, the constitutionists and anti-constitutionists, joined in requesting my service as counsellor, and afterwards in electing me as President . Of seventy-four members in Council and Assembly, who voted by ballot, there was in my first election but one negative, besides my own; and in the second, after a year's service, only my own. And I experience, from all the principal people in the government, every attention and assistance that can be desired towards making the task as little burdensome to me as possible. So I am going on very comfortably hitherto with my second year, and I do not at present see any likelihood of a change; but future events are always uncertain, being governed by Providence or subject to chances; and popular favor is very precarious, being sometimes lost as well as gained by good actions; so I do not depend on a continuance of my present happiness, and therefore shall not be surprised, if, before my time of service expires, something should happen to diminish it.
These States in general enjoy peace and plenty. There have been some disorders in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island governments; those in the former are quelled for the present; those of the latter, being contentions for and against paper money, will probably continue some time. Maryland too is divided on the same subject, the Assembly being for it, and the Senate against it. Each is now employed in endeavouring to gain the people to its party against the next elections, and it is probable the Assembly may prevail. Paper money in moderate quantities has been found beneficial; when more than the occasions of commerce require, it depreciated and was mischievous; and the populace are apt to demand more than is necessary. In this State we have some, and it is useful, and I do not hear any clamor for more.
There seems to be but little thought at present in the particular States, of mending their particular constitutions; but the grand Federal Constitution * is generally blamed as not having given sufficient powers to Congress, the federal head. A convention is therefore appointed to revise that constitution, and propose a better. You will see by the enclosed paper, that your friend is to be one in that business, though he doubts his malady may not permit his giving constant attendance. I am glad to see, that you are named as one of a General Assembly to be convened in France. I flatter myself, that great good may accrue to that dear nation from the deliberations of such an assembly. I pray God to give it his blessing.
I sympathize with you and the family most sincerely, in the great loss sustained by the decease of that excellent woman.t It must be indeed a heavy one. My best wishes attend those that remain, and that the happiness of your sweet domestic society may long continue without such another interruption.
I send herewith a volume of the Transactions of our Philosophical Society for you, another for M. de Condorcet, and a third for the Academy. The war had interrupted our attempts to improve ourselves in scientific matters, but we now begin to resume them.
The bearer of this is Mr. Paine, the author of a famous piece, entitled Common Sense, published here with great effect on the minds of the people at the beginning of the Revolution. He is an ingenious, honest man; and as such I beg leave to recommend him to your civilities. He carries with him the model of a bridge of a new construction, his own invention, concerning which I intended to have recommended him to M. Peyronnet, but I hear he is no more. You can easily procure Mr. Paine a sight of the models and drawings of the collection appertaining to the Pouts et Chaussees; they must afford him useful lights on the subject. We want a bridge over our river Schuylkill, and have no artist here regularly bred to that kind of architecture.
• The Old Confederation.
t The Duchess d'Enville, mother of the Duke de la Rochefoucauld. — W. T. F.
My grandsons are very sensible of the honor of your remembrance, and desire me to present their respects. With the most sincere and perfect esteem and attachment, I am ever, my dear friend, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE CHASTELLUX.
His Journal of Travels.—Assembly of Notables.
Philadelphia, 17 April, 1787.
Your most pleasing letter, accompanied by the invaluable present of your Journal,* and translation of Colonel Humphreys's poem, came to hand but lately, though dated in June last. I believe they have been in the West Indies. They have given me a great deal of pleasure in the perusal, as every thing of yours always did. The portrait you have made of our country and people is what in painting is called a handsome likeness, for which we are much obliged to you. We shall be the better for it, if we endeavour to merit what you kindly say in our favor, and to correct what you justly censure. I am told the Journal is translated into English, and printed in one of the States, I know not which, not having seen the translation.
The newspapers tell us, that you are about to have an Assembly of Notables, to consult on improvements of your government. It is somewhat singular, that we
* Journal of Travels in America.