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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
been favored with by you since your return to your free country. People here think very differently of your freedom. In general we are of opinion, that your territory is too extensive for a popular government. Anarchy and despotism, they allege, must be the consequence. They therefore think it would be much wiser in you to adopt our limited government, as you have taken so many useful hints from us. You would naturally correct some errors, that have crept into our Constitution.
When you threw us off, I did expect, that we must have felt great diminution in our exports; but, what is singular, our people have been all constantly employed. We have some advantage over every nation in Europe. There is no nation in which the merchants have so great capitals, or are of so enterprising dispositions. We have fire and water everywhere, and ingenuity to turn them to the best advantage. We have the materials for great manufactories within ourselves; such as iron, steel, lead, copper, and tin. The whole island of Anglesea is found to be a mass of copper; and Mr. Wilkinson, who has the greatest foundery, I believe, in Europe, finds iron everywhere, and Mr. Wedgwood turns the clay, which does not turn to account with Mr. Wilkinson, into beautiful earthen ware. Did he make his exhibition of his very noble set sent to the Empress of Russia before you left England ?
You see, that, so far as we can trace the descendants of attainted families, their honors are restored. The Irish Roman Catholic families are most of them either engrafted into foreign families, or are extinct. Those, whose lands were in the crown by modern forfeiture, have their estates restored to them. By a general act of grace, call back your banished people. Procure inhabitants, and they will in time, by their industry,
create wealth. I think your present want of circulating cash may prove an advantage, as it may give a check to the luxury you had imported from us.
France may, by and by, exhibit a new scene of policy in Europe. Wealth, poured in upon her during the war, promises to restrain the power of the crown; and the King, as a reward for the assistance he gave you in renouncing your brethren, may have his own wings clipped. You will probably most abundantly punish Spain; for I dare prophesy, that in less than a century, you will take possession of Mexico. Thus the world goes round.
That you may live to see a good government established in your country, and happily enjoy what of life remains to you, is the sincere prayer of your affectionate, &c.
TO JOHN INGENHOUSZ.
Philadelphia, 11 February, 1788. MY DEAR OLD FRIEND, Your letter of September 28th, 1787, came to my hands but about two weeks since. It found me very • ill with a severe fit of the stone, which followed a fall I had on the stone steps that lead into my garden, whereby I was much bruised, and my wrist sprained, so as to render me incapable of writing for several weeks. I therefore requested Mr. Vaughan to answer it for me, which he has done in his letter, that I enclose. I will, however, add a little, as my hand is much strengthened, though I still write with pain.
All the books you have sent to me, and to the Philosophical Society here, have been received. They will be acknowledged in our next volume. In the mean time please to accept our hearty thanks. There are few books published in these times, that contain so much new and useful knowledge as these you have written.
I lament with you the prospect of a horrid war, which is likely to engage so great a part of mankind.
There is little good gained, and so much mischief done generally, by wars, that I wish the imprudence of undertaking them was more evident to princes; in which case I think they would be less frequent. If I were counsellor of the Empress of Russia, and found that she desired to possess some part of the domin. . ions of the Grand Signior, I should advise her to compute the annual taxes raised from that territory, and make him an offer of buying it, at the rate of paying for it at twenty years' purchase. And if I were his counsellor, I should advise him to take the money, and cede the dominion of that territory. For I am of opinion, that a war to obtain it will cost her more than that sum, and the event uncertain, and that the defence of it will cost him as much; and, not having embraced the offer, his loss is double. But to make and accept such an offer, these potentates should be both of them reasonable creatures, and free from the ambition of glory, which perhaps is too much to be supposed.
I am glad that peace is likely to be established in your native country, with so little expense of blood, though it be done in a manner not agreeable to a great part of the nation. If the French had entered with the Prussians, and made it the seat of war, the mischief would have been infinite.
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 band, 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 ar