« ZurückWeiter »
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. F. + See Vol. V. p. 155. VOL. X.
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 ques. tions 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. sistency in the announcing so many diversions for almost every evening of the week, and such quantities to be sold of expensive superfluities, fineries, and luxuries just imported, in a country, that at the same time fills its papers with complaints of hard times, and want of money. I tell her, that such complaints are common to all times and all countries, and were made even in Solomon's time; when, as we are told, silver was as plenty in Jerusalem as the stones in the street; and yet, even then, there were people that grumbled, so as to incur this censure from that knowing prince. “Say not thou that the former times were better than these ; for thou dost not inquire rightly concerning that matter.'
“But the inconsistency that strikes me the most is, that between the name of your city, Philadelphia, (brotherly love,) and the spirit of rancor, malice, and hatred that breathes in its newspapers. For I learn from those papers, that your State is divided into parties, that each party ascribes all the public operations of the other to vicious motives; that they do not even suspect one another of the smallest degree of honesty; that the antifederalists are such, merely from the fear of losing power, places, or emoluments, which they have in possession or in expectation; that the federalists are a set of conspirators, who aim at establishing a tyranny over the persons and property of their countrymen, and to live in splendor on the plunder of the people. I learn, too, that your justices of the peace, though chosen by their neighbours, make a villanous trade of their office, and promote discord to augment fees, and fleece their electors; and that this would not be mended by placing the choice in the executive council, who, with interested or party views, are continually making as improper appointments; witness a 'petty fiddler, sycophant, and scoundrel,' appointed Judge of the Admi
ralty; "an old woman and fomenter of sedition' to be another of the Judges, and "a Jeffries' Chief Justice, &c. &c.; with two harpies' the Comptroller and Naval Officers, to prey upon the merchants and deprive them of their property by force of arms, &c.
"I am informed also by these papers, that your General Assembly, though the annual choice of the people, shows no regard to their rights, but from sinister views or ignorance makes laws in direct violation of the constitution, to divest the inhabitants of their property and give it to strangers and intruders; and that the Council, either fearing the resentment of their constituents, or plotting to enslave them, had projected to disarm them, and given orders for that purpose; and finally, that your President, the unanimous joint choice of the Council and Assembly, is an old rogue,' who gave his assent to the federal constitution merely to avoid refunding money he had purloined from the United States.
“There is, indeed, a good deal of manifest inconsistency in all this, and yet a stranger, seeing it in your own prints, though he does not believe it all, may probably believe enough of it to conclude, that Pennsylvania is peopled by a set of the most unprincipled, wicked, rascally, and quarrelsome scoundrels upon the face of the globe. I have sometimes, indeed, suspected, that those papers are the manufacture of foreign enemies among you, who write with a view of disgracing your country, and making you appear contemptible and detestable all the world over; but then I wonder at the indiscretion of your printers in publishing such writings! There is, however, one of your inconsistencies that consoles me a little, which is, that though, living, you give one another the characters of devils; dead, you are all angels! It is delightful, when any of you