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I am truly sorry for the losses you have met with in your attempts to make profit by commerce in this country. Jonathan Williams was in England and Ireland many months before I left France. He has since been in different parts of America, collecting his debts, and now happens to be here. I have talked with him about your affairs. He tells me, that your adventure to Carolina sold well, and that the produce was returned in indigo, which, if it had arrived, would have rendered good profit; and, though his correspondent had taken the prudent precaution to insure in Charleston, the place being taken soon after, and the insurers ruined, nothing of value could be recovered, and that he is a loser of a hundred guineas by the share he took in that unfortunate adventure. I was mistaken when I informed you, that his brother had given him your certificates. It was only authenticated copies of them. These he has now given me. But I have written to John to give the originals to Mr. Charles Vaughan, now in Boston, and to settle your account with that gentleman, paying to him any bills that may be in hand, which I make no doubt he will do.
Such certificates are low in value at present, but we hope and believe they will succeed, when our new projected constitution of government is established. I lent to the old Congress three thousand pounds in the value of hard money, and took their certificates promising interest at six per cent, but I have received no interest for several years, and if I were now to sell the principal, I could not get more than a sixth part. You must not ascribe this to want of honesty in our government, but to want of ability; the war having exhausted all the faculties of the country. The public funds even of Great Britain sunk by the war the three per cents from ninety-five to fifty-four. We had powerful armies of enemies in our country, ravaging, plundering, and destroying our towns, and obstructing our agriculture, while their fleets ruined our commerce; and this for eight years together. I question, whether the public credit, even of your rich country, would have supported itself under similar treatment. But we are recovering fast, and, if peace continues, which God grant, we shall soon be in flourishing circumstances.
I did not think I could have written so much. I have done it, however, a little at a time. I can now only add, that I remain, with unalterable esteem and affection, my dear friend, yours most sincerely,
TO M. LE VEILLARD.
Dr. Franklin's Memoirs of his own Life. —JVctc Constitution of the United States. — Restrictions on Trade. — Paper Money.
Philadelphia, 17 February, 1788.
My Dear Friend,
I received your kind letter of June 23d, by Mr. Saugrain, and it is the last of yours that is come to my hands. As you have so much leisure, and love writing, I cannot think you have been so long silent; you, who are so good as to love me, and who know how much pleasure your letters always afford me. I therefore rather suspect you may probably have written something too freely concerning public affairs, and that your letters may be arrested in your postoffice, and yourself lodged in the Bastille. You see I imagine any thing, however extravagant, rather than suppose, as your letters too often do, that my friends forget me.
I find Mr. Saugrain to answer well the good character you give of him, and shall with pleasure render him any services in my power. He is now gone down the Ohio, to reconnoitre that country.
I should have proceeded in the history you mention,* if I could well have avoided accepting the chair of President for this third and last year; to which I was again elected by the unanimous voice of the Council and General Assembly in November. If I live to see this year expire, I may enjoy some leisure, which I promise you to employ in the work you do me the honor to urge so earnestly.
I sent you with my last a copy of the new Constitution proposed for the United States by the late General Convention. I sent one also to our excellent friend the Duke de la Rochefoucauld. I attended the business of the Convention faithfully for four months. Enclosed you have the last speech I made in it.t Six States have already adopted the Constitution, and there is now little doubt of its being accepted by a sufficient number to carry it into execution, if not immediately by the whole. It has, however, met with great opposition in some States, for we are at present a nation of politicians. And, though there is a general dread of giving too much power to our governors, I think we are more in danger from too little obedience in the governed.
We shall, as you suppose, have imposts on trade, and custom-houses, not because other nations have them, but because we cannot at present do without them. We want to discharge our public debt occasioned by the late war. Direct taxes are not so easily levied on the scantily settled inhabitants of our wideextended country; and what is paid in the price of
* The Memoirs of his own Life, to the continuance of which all his friends, who knew the importance of such a history, wished him anxiously to apply. — W. T. P.
t See Vol. V. p. 155.
Vol. x. 43 cc
merchandise is less felt by the consumer, and less the cause of complaint. When we are out of debt we may leave our trade free, for our ordinary charges of government will not be great.
Where there is a free government, and the people make their own laws by their representatives, I see no injustice in their obliging one another to take their own paper money. It is no more so than compelling a man by law to take his own note. But it is unjust to pay strangers with such money against their will. The making of paper money with such a sanction is however a folly, since, although you may by law oblige a citizen to take it for his goods, you cannot fix his prices; and his liberty of rating them as he pleases, which is the same thing as setting what value he pleases on your money, defeats your sanction.
I have been concerned to hear of the troubles in the internal government of the country I love ;* and hope some good may come out of them; and that they may end without mischief.
In your letter to my grandson, you asked some questions that had an appearance as if you meditated a visit to us. Nothing in this world would give me greater pleasure, than to receive and embrace here the whole family; but it is too great a happiness to be expected. This family all join with me in best wishes of every felicity to you and yours; and I remain with unalterable and great esteem and affection, my dear friend, yours most sincerely,
TO THE EDITORS OF THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE.
On the Abuse of the Press. MESSRS. HALL AND SELLERS, I lately heard a remark, that on examination of the Pennsylvania Gazette for fifty years, from its commencement, it appeared, that, during that long period, scarce one libellous piece had ever appeared in it. This generally chaste conduct of your paper is much to its reputation ; for it has long been the opinion of sober, judicious people, that nothing is more likely to endanger the liberty of the press, than the abuse of that liberty, by employing it in personal accusation, detraction, and calumny. The excesses some of our papers have been guilty of in this particular, have set this State in a bad light abroad, as appears by the following letter, which I wish you to publish, not merely to show your own disapprobation of the practice, but as a caution to others of the profession throughout the United States. For I have seen a European newspaper, in which the editor, who had been charged with frequently calumniating the Americans, justifies himself by saying, “that he had published nothing disgraceful to us, which he had not taken from our own printed papers.” I am, &c.
“ New York, March 30, 1788. “DEAR FRIEND, “My gout has again left me, after five months' painful confinement. It afforded me, however, the leisure to read, or hear read, all the packets of your newspapers, which you so kindly sent for my amusement.
“Mrs. W. has partaken of it; she likes to read the advertisements; but she remarks some kind of incon