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I had delivered the letter you enclosed to the Marquis de Lafayette, and, as the court was then at Fontainebleau, and I could not follow it by reason of my illness, I requested him to sound the Marquis de Castries on the subject of the loss of your ship. He did so; and the result of the conversation was, that, if you thought fit to prosecute the matter, you should present a memorial, upon which he might regularly take the affair into consideration. You mentioned your coming to Paris before finishing your other business, in case I should think there was a probability of obtaining compensation, either from the property of the captain, or the generosity of the Prince. I have not yet been able to learn any thing of the captain's circumstances; and, as clear proof of his delinquency must precede an application to the King, and perhaps the protest of Captain Belt will hardly be thought sufficient testimony, and other evidences corroborating cannot be obtained but with great expense and loss of time, and as the chicanery practised in the courts here to procure delay is immense and endless; on these considerations I cannot advise your coming hither for the purpose of such a prosecution to the prejudice of your other affairs; though I shall be happy to see you, when it may be convenient to you, and, when you are here, we will take the advice of some judicious persons, and if it appear possible for me to serve your cause, I shall do it with great pleasure.
M. de Rochambeau was not in town, but I forwarded Mr. Carroll's letter to him. I have written, as you desired, to Brest, and, as soon as I receive an answer, I will communicate it to you. I am not enough acquainted with the French laws or customs to inform you what claims the widow of M. le Vache may have on his property. I only think I have heard, that marriages by a Protestant minister are not deemed valid. I will make inquiry.
Since writing the above, I am informed that, if celebrated in a Protestant country according to the laws of that country, they are deemed valid here; as are also the marriages of Protestants here, if in the chapel of a Protestant ambassador.
I shall be glad to hear, that you have succeeded in recovering the public money, and that you continue to enjoy your health, being, with sincere and great esteem, dear Sir, &c.
TO DAVID HARTLEY.
Change in Administration. — Hereditary Officers of
Passy, 7 January, 1784.
My Dear Friend, I have this moment received your favor of the 25th past, acquainting me with the change in administration, I am not sure that in reforming the constitution, which is sometimes talked of, it would not be better to make your great officers of state hereditary, than to suffer the inconvenience of such frequent and total changes. Much faction and cabal would be prevented by having a hereditary First Lord of the Treasury, a hereditary Lord Chancellor, Privy Seal, President of Council, Secretary of State, First Lord of the Admiralty, &,c. &c. It will not be said, that, the duties of these offices being important, we cannot trust to nature for the chance of requisite talents, since we have a hereditary set of judges in the last resort, the House of Peers; a hereditary King; and, in a certain German University, a hereditary professor of Mathematics.
We have not yet heard of the arrival of our express in America, who carried the Definitive Treaty. He sailed the 26th of September. As soon as the ratification arrives, I shall immediately send you word of it. With great esteem I am ever, my dear friend, yours most affectionately,
FROM CHARLES THOMSON TO B. FRANKLIN.
Treaty of Peace ratified by Congress.
Annapolis, 15 January, 1784.
Yesterday nine States being for the first time since October last represented, Congress immediately took up and ratified the Definitive Treaty, with the unanimous consent not only of all the States represented, but of every individual member of Congress; and, that it might reach you with the greatest despatch, they immediately sent off" Colonel Harmar with the ratification by the way of New York, there being no vessel sailing from this bay. They also send a duplicate to be forwarded by Mr. Morris, and this day, from an earnest desire that it may, if possible, arrive in due time, they have determined to send Colonel Franks with a triplicate, to take the chance of a vessel from some of the eastern ports.
I have the satisfaction to inform you, that a disposition begins to prevail in the States to comply with the requisitions of Congress, and to grant funds for the regular payment of the interest and discharge of the principal of the debts contracted during the war. I make no doubt but the creditors in Europe are anxious and uneasy at the backwardness of the States. But whoever consults the history of nations will find, that taxation is among the late acts of government; that in governments, which have been long established, it is not without great difficulty that permanent funds are introduced, and even in the oldest governments new taxes often occasion great uneasiness. Considering, therefore, that in the United States every thing is new and unusual, instead of being surprised at the backwardness of the people in this respect, it is rather a matter of -wonder, that they have made so great a progress, and have discovered such a facility in getting the better of that aversion to taxes, which is so universally prevalent . For my own part, I have a great confidence in the good sense of my countrymen in general, nor can I admit a doubt, that they will speedily fall upon measures to do justice to all the public credit tors. Though you and I have lived to see a great work accomplished, yet much still remains to be done, to secure the happiness of this country. May that Almighty Being, who has thus far conducted us safely through many scenes of difficulty and distress, inspire the people of these United States with wisdom to improve the opportunity now afforded of becoming a happy nation.
I need not recommend Colonel Franks to your notice, as you are already acquainted with him. He has great merit for the early part he took, and the sacrifices he has made in the late controversy, and his steady adherence to our cause.
I long for the pleasure of seeing you, but forego that pleasure with the more ease, as I am sensible you are usefully employed in a work, which is of great importance to our country. I need not assure you, that I am, with the most perfect esteem and respect, dear Sir, your affectionate old friend,
Vol. X. 8
TO MRS. SARAH RACHE.
Order of the Cincinnati. — Hereditary Nobility. — Descending Honors.
Passy, 26 January, 1784.
My Dear Child,
Your care in sending me the newspapers is very agreeable to me. I received by Captain Barney those relating to the Cincinnati. My opinion of the institution cannot be of much importance; I only wonder that, when the united wisdom of our nation had, in the articles of confederation, manifested their dislike of establishing ranks of nobility, by authority either of the Congress or of any particular State, a number of private persons should think proper to distinguish themselves and their posterity, from their fellow citizens, and form an order of hereditary knights, in direct opposition to the solemnly declared sense of their country! I imagine it must be likewise contrary to the good sense of most of those drawn into it by the persuasion of its projectors, who have been too much struck with the ribands and crosses they have seen hanging to the buttonholes of foreign officers. And I suppose those, who disapprove of it, have not hitherto given it much opposition, from a principle somewhat like that of your good mother, relating to punctilious persons, who are always exacting little observances of respect; that, "if people can be pleased with small matters, it is a pity but they should have them."
In this view, perhaps, I should not myself, if my advice had been asked, have objected to their wearing their riband and badge themselves according to their fancy, though I certainly should to the entailing it as an honor on their posterity. For honor, worthily obtained (as that for example of our officers), is in its