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FROM RICHARD PRICE TO B. FRANKLIN.
Society for abolishing the Slave Trade. — Spirit of Liberty beginning to prevail in Europe as a Consequence of the American War.
Hackney, 26 September, 1787.
My Dear Friend,
I am very happy when I think of the encouragement which you have given me to address you under this appellation. Your friendship I reckon indeed one of the distinctions of my life. I frequently receive great pleasure from the accounts of you, which Dr. Rush and Mr. Vaughan send me. But I receive much greater pleasure from seeing your own hand.
I have lately been favored with two letters, which have given me this pleasure, the last of which acquaints me, that my name has been added to the number of the corresponding members of the Pennsylvania Society for Abolishing Negro Slavery, of which you are president, and also brought me a pamphlet containing the constitution and the laws of Pennsylvania, which relate to the object of the Society. I hope you and the Society will accept my thanks, and believe that I am truly sensible of the honor done me. As for any services I can do, they are indeed but small; for I find, that, far from possessing, in the decline of life, your vigor of body and mind, every kind of business is becoming more and more an incumbrance to me. At the same time, the calls of business increase upon me, as you will learn in some measure from the Report at the end of the Discourse, which you will receive with this letter.
A similar institution to yours, for abolishing negro slavery, is just formed in London, and I have been desired to make one of the acting committee, but I have begged to be excused. I have sent you some of their papers. I need not say how earnestly I wish success to such institutions. Something, perhaps, will be done with this view by the convention of delegates.* This convention, consisting of many of the first men, in respect of wisdom and influence, in the United States, must be a most august and venerable assembly. May God guide their deliberations. The happiness of the world depends, in some degree, on the result. I am waiting with patience for an account of it .
In this part of the world there is a spirit rising, which must in time produce great effects. I refer principally to what is now passing in Holland, Brabant, and France. This spirit originated in America; and, should it appear, that it has there terminated in a state of society more favorable to peace, virtue, science, and liberty, and consequently to human happiness and dignity, than has ever yet been known, infinite good will be done. Indeed, a general fermentation seems to be taking place through Europe. In consequence of the attention created by the American war, and the dissemination of writings explaining the nature and end of civil government, the minds of men are becoming more enlightened; and the silly despots of the world are likely to be forced to respect human rights, and to take care not to govern too much, lest they should not govern at all.
You are acquainted with Mr. Paradise. He has sailed with his family for Virginia, where he is the proprietor of a good estate. His accomplishments as a scholar, and bis excellent principles as a citizen, must make him useful there, and I hope also happy.*
* Alluding to the convention for forming the Constitution of the United States.
Vol. X. 41
During the course of last spring and summer, I frequently feared that my health was declining. In order to recover it, I have spent near two months in seabathing and dissipation at East Bourne in Sussex; and I hope that I have gained some recruit of spirits for another winter. Be so good as to deliver my kind respects to Mr. Vaughan, when you see him. I am much in his debt for two agreeable letters, and I hope soon to write to him. He is, I doubt not, useful where he is; but, as we have Mrs. Vaughan with us, we are in hopes he will not be long absent .
Last night the Gazette told us, that Turkey has declared war against Russia. It has also told us, that the King of Prussia, having entered Holland with his army and taken possession of Utrecht and many other towns, has reinstated the Stadtholder in all his honors and powers; but, at the same time, our preparations for war by pressing sailors, filling up regiments, and creating admirals, show that our ministers expect, that the French will interpose, and that they are determined to join the King of Prussia in supporting the Stadtholder against his constituents. With all the best wishes, I am most affectionately yours.
* This Mr. Paradise was the particular friend of Sir William Jones, and the same that visited Paris with him, as heretofore mentioned. See Vol. VIII. p. 366.
TO ALEXANDER SMALl.
American Taxation. — New Form of Prayer. — American Loyalists.
Philadelphia, 28 September, 1787.
I received your kind letter of June 6th, 1786, and I answered it, though long after the receipt. I do not perceive by your second favor of July, 1787, that my answer had then come to hand, but hope it may since that time.
I have not lost any of the principles of public economy you once knew me possessed of; but, to get the bad customs of a country changed, and new ones, though better, introduced, it is necessary first to remove the prejudices of the people, enlighten their ignorance, and convince them that their interest will be promoted by the proposed changes; and this is not the work of a day. Our legislators are all land-holders; and they are not yet persuaded, that all taxes are finally paid by the land. Besides, our country is so sparsely settled, the habitations, particularly in the back countries, being perhaps five or six miles distant from each other, that the time and labor of the collector in going from house to house, and being obliged to call often before he can recover the tax, amounts to more than the tax is worth, and therefore we have been forced into the mode of indirect taxes, that is, duties on importation of goods, and excises.
I have made no attempt to introduce the Form of Prayer here, which you and good Mrs. Baldwin do me the honor to approve. The things of this world take up too much of my time, of which indeed I have too little left, to undertake any thing like a reformation in matters of religion. When we can sow good seed, we should however do it, and wait, when we can do no better, with patience nature's time, for their sprouting. Some lie many years in the ground, and at length certain favorable seasons or circumstances bring them forth with vigorous shoots and plentiful productions.
Had I been at home as you wish, soon after the peace, I might possibly have mitigated some of the severities against the royalists, believing, as I do, that fear and error, rather than malice, occasioned their desertion of their country's cause, and the adoption of the King's. The public resentment against them is now so far abated, that none who ask leave to return are refused, and many of them now live among us much at their ease. As to the restoration of confiscated estates, it is an operation that none of our politicians have as yet ventured to propose. They are a sort of people, that love to fortify themselves in their projects by precedent. Perhaps they wait to see your government restore the forfeited estates in Scotland to the Scotch, those in Ireland to the Irish, and those in England to the Welch.
I am glad that the distressed exiles, who remain with you, have received, or are likely to receive, some compensation for their losses, for I commiserate their situation. It was clearly incumbent on the King to indemnify those he had seduced by his proclamations; but it seems not so clearly consistent with the wisdom of Parliament to resolve doing it for him. If some mad King should think fit, in a freak, to make war upon his subjects of Scotland, or upon those of England, by the help of Scotland and Ireland, as the Stuarts did, may he not encourage followers by the precedent of these parliamentary gratuities, and thus set his subjects to cutting one another's throats, first with the