« ZurückWeiter »
entertain hopes for the liberties of America, and for what will be an asylum one day or other to a rem- . nant of mankind, who wish and deserve to live with political liberty.
I do not altogether take confidence to heart. I have some fears of mischief from the orbit of four years' period, which you give to the rotation of the office of President. It may become the ground of intrigue. Further, suppose the United States in peace, and that they have a president exactly and fully qualified to conduct their affairs in peace, but not in war. Suppose then war to come upon you, before the period of his office has had its rotation. Although the United States might wish to choose a president, suited to conduct matters in the line of war or of negotiation, that, unless a voluntary resignation of the first takes place, cannot be done. I make this remark from my knowledge on experience, that the people, in their annual election of representatives in General Assembly, look always thus to suit the character of their representative to the business of the country, which is likely to come into operation. When I see how wisely and prudently suited to the basis whereon it is built, every other part of your system is framed, I suspect my own judgment in this, and suppose there must be something, which I do not see, that operated to this form of a four years' rotation. As I hope and trust you are now alive and well, and will be so to receive what I now write, and as I also hope you will give me an answer, and that I shall continue in life to receive it, pray explain this to me.
Being at this place to spend a few weeks, and sending to Mrs. Cruger to inquire whether any ship, by which I could write to you, was going to America, and hearing that a ship bound to New York is just gone
down the river, and that she sends her letters tomorrow morning, I have hardly an hour to write this. hasty letter to you. I am, as I ever have been, most sincerely your affectionate friend,
TO M. LE VEILLARD.
New Constitution. — Custom-House Duties.
Philadelphia, 22 April, 1788. MY DEAR FRIEND, I received but a few days since, your favor of November 30th, 1787, in which you continue to urge me to finish the Memoirs. My three years of service will expire in October, when a new president must be chosen; and I had the project of retiring then to my grandson's estate in New Jersey, where I might be free from the interruption of visits, in order to com. plete that work for your satisfaction; for in this city my time is so cut to pieces by friends and strangers, that I have sometimes envied the prisoners in Bastille. But considering now the little remnant of life I have left, the accidents that may happen between this and October, and your earnest desire, I have come to the resolution to proceed in that work to-morrow, and continue it daily till finished, which, if my health permits, may be in the course of the ensuing summer. As it goes on, I will have a copy made for you, and you may expect to receive a part by the next packet.
It is very possible, as you suppose, that all the articles of the proposed new government will not remain unchanged, after the first meeting of the Congress. I am of opinion with you, that the two chambers were not necessary, and I disliked some other articles that are
in, and wished for some that are not in the proposed plan. I nevertheless hope it may be adopted, though I should have nothing to do with the execution of it, being determined to quit all public business with my present employment. At eighty-three one certainly has a right to ambition repose.
We are not ignorant, that the duties paid at the custom-house on the importation of foreign goods are finally reimbursed by the consumer, but we impose them as the easiest way of levying a tax from those consumers. If our new country was as closely inhabited as your old one, we might without much difficulty collect a land tax, that would be sufficient for all purposes; but where farms are at five or six miles' distance from each other, as they are in a great part of our country, the going of the collectors from house to house to demand the taxes, and being obliged to call more than once for the same tax, makes the trouble of collecting in many cases exceed the value of the sum collected. Things that are practicable in one country are not always so in another, where circumstances differ. Our duties are, however, generally so small, as to give little temptation to smuggling. Believe me ever, my dear friend, yours most affectionately,
TO JOHN LATHROP.*
Attachment to his early Friends and the Associations of his Youth. — Growing Felicity of Mankind by Improvements in Philosophy.
Philadelphia, 31 May, 1788. REVEREND SIR, I received your obliging favor of the 6th instant by Mr. Hilliard, with whose conversation I was much pleased, and would have been glad to have had more of it, if he would have spared it to me; but the short time of his stay has prevented. You need make no apology for introducing any of your friends to me. I consider it as doing me honor, as well as giving me pleasure.
I thank you for the pamphlet of the Humane Society. In return please to accept one of the same kind, which was published while I resided in France. If your Society have not hitherto seen it, it may possibly afford them useful hints.
It would certainly, as you observe, be a very great pleasure to me, if I could once again visit my native town, and walk over the grounds I used to frequent when a boy, and where I enjoyed many of the innocent pleasures of youth, which would be so brought to my remembrance, and where I might find some of my old acquaintance to converse with. But when I consider how well I am situated here, with every thing about me, that I can call either necessary or convenient; the fatigues and bad accommodations to be met with and suffered in a land journey, and the unpleas
* An eminent clergyman of Boston, and for many years a neighbour and valuable friend of Mrs. Mecom, the sister of Dr. Franklin.
antness of sea voyages, to one, who, although he has crossed the Atlantic eight times, and made many smaller trips, does not recollect his having ever been at sea without taking a firm resolution never to go to sea again; and that, if I were arrived in Boston, I should see but little of it, as I could neither bear walking nor riding in a carriage over its pebbled streets; and, above all, that I should find very few indeed of my old friends living, it being now sixtyfive years since I left it to settle here; - all this considered, I say, it seems probable, though not certain, that I shall hardly again visit that beloved place. But I enjoy the company and conversation of its inhabitants, when any of them are so good as to visit me ; for, besides their general good sense, which I value, the Boston manner, turn of phrase, and even tone of voice, and accent in pronunciation, all please, and seem to refresh and revive me.
I have been long impressed with the same sentiments you so well express, of the growing felicity of mankind, from the improvements in philosophy, morals, politics, and even the conveniences of common living, and the invention and acquisition of new and useful utensils and instruments; so that I have sometimes almost wished it had been my destiny to be born two or three centuries hence. For invention and improvement are prolific, and beget more of their kind. The present progress is rapid. Many of great importance, now unthought of, will before that period be produced; and then I might not only enjoy their advantages, but have my curiosity gratified in knowing what they are to be. I see a little absurdity in what I have just written, but it is to a friend, who will wink and let it pass, while I mention one reason more for such a wish, which is, that, if the art of physic shall