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for the King and the nation. The voice of Philosophy I apprehend can hardly be heard among those tumults. If any thing material in that way had occurred, I am persuaded you would have acquainted me with it. However, pray let me hear from you a little oftener; for, though the distance is great, and the means of conveying letters not very regular, a year's silence between friends must needs give uneasiness.
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
My health continues much as it has been for some time, except that I grow thinner and weaker, so that I cannot expect to hold out much longer.
My respects to your good brother, and to our friends of the Academy, which always has my best wishes for its prosperity and glory. Adieu, my dear friend, and believe me ever yours most affectionately,
TO DAVID HARTLEY.
Convulsions in France. — Great Britain and the
Philadelphia, 4 December 1789. MY VERY DEAR FRIEND, I received your favor of August last. Your kind condolences on the painful state of my health are very obliging. I am thankful to God, however, that, among the numerous ills human life is subject to, one only of any importance is fallen to my lot; and that so late as almost to insure that it can be but of short duration.
The convulsions in France are attended with some
disagreeable circumstances; but if by the struggle she obtains and secures for the nation its future liberty, and a good constitution, a few years' enjoyment of those blessings will amply repay all the damages their acquisition may have occasioned. God grant, that not only the love of liberty, but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man, may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface, and say, “This is my country.”
Your wishes for a cordial and perpetual friendship between Britain and her ancient colonies are manifested continually in every one of your letters to me; something of my disposition on the same subject may appear to you in casting your eye over the enclosed paper. I do not by this opportunity send you any of our Gazettes, because the postage from Liverpool would be more than they are worth. I can now only add my best wishes of every kind of felicity for the three amiable Hartleys, to whom I have the honor of being an affectionate friend and most obedient humble servant,
TO MRS. JANE MECOM.
Philadelphia, 17 December, 1789. DEAR SISTER, You tell me you are desired by an acquaintance to ask my opinion, whether the general circumstances mentioned in the history of Baron Trenck are founded in fact; to which I can only answer, that, of the greatest part of those circumstances, the scene being laid in Germany, I must consequently be very ignorant; but of what he says as having passed in France, between the ministers of that country, himself, and me, I can speak positively, that it is founded in falsehood, and that the fact can only serve to confound, as I never saw him in that country, nor ever knew or heard of him anywhere, till I met with the abovementioned history in print, in the German language, in which he ventured to relate it as a fact, that I had, with those ministers, solicited him to enter into the American service. A translation of that book into French has since been printed, but the translator has omitted that pretended fact, probably from an apprehension, that its being in that country known not to be true might hurt the credit and sale of the translation.
I thank you for the sermon on Sacred Music. I have read it with pleasure. I think it a very ingenious composition. You will say this is natural enough, if you read what I have formerly written on the same subject in one of my printed letters, wherein you will find a perfect agreement of sentiment respecting the complex music, of late, in my opinion, too much in vogue; it being only pleasing to learned ears, which can be delighted with the difficulty of execution, instead of harmody and melody.* Your affectionate brother.
TO NOAH WEBSTER. On the English Language. — Improper Use of certain Words in America. — Universality of the French Language. — Improvements in Printing.
Philadelphia, 26 December, 1789. DEAR SIR, I received some time since your Dissertations on the English Language. The book was not accompanied
by any letter or message, informing me to whom I am obliged for it, but I suppose it is to yourself. It is an excellent work, and will be greatly useful in turning the thoughts of our countrymen to correct writing. Please to accept my thanks for the great honor you have done me in its dedication. I ought to have made this acknowledgment sooner, but much indisposition prevented me.
I cannot but applaud your zeal for preserving the purity of our language, both in its expressions and pronunciation, and in correcting the popular errors several of our States are continually falling into with respect to both. Give me leave to mention some of them, though possibly they may have already occurred to you. I wish, however, in some future publication of yours, you would set a discountenancing mark upon them. The first I remember is the word improved. When I left New England, in the year 1723, this word had never been used among us, as far as I know, but in the sense of ameliorated or made better, except once in a very old book of Dr. Mather's, entitled Remarkable Providences. As that eminent man wrote a very obscure hand, I remember that when I read that word in his book, used instead of the word imployed, I conjectured it was an error of the printer, who had mistaken a too short l in the writing for an r, and a y with too short a tail for a v; whereby imployed was converted into improved.
But when I returned to Boston, in 1733, I found this change had obtained favor, and was then become common; for I met with it often in perusing the newspapers, where it frequently made an appearance rather ridiculous. Such, for instance, as the advertisement of a country-house to be sold, which had been many years improved as a tavern; and, in the character of a
deceased country gentleman, that he had been for more than thirty years improved as a justice of the peace. This use of the word improved is peculiar to New England, and not to be met with among any other speakers of English, either on this or the other side of the water.
During my late absence in France, I find that seyeral other new words have been introduced into our parliamentary language; for example, I find a verb formed from the substantive notice; I should not have NOTICED This, were it not that the gentleman, &c. Also another verb from the substantive advocate ; The gentleman who ADVOCATES or has ADVOCATED that motion, &c. Another from the substantive progress, the most awkward and abominable of the three; The committee, having PROGRESSED, resolved to adjourn. The word opposed, though not a new word, I find used in a new manner, as, The gentlemen who are OPPOSED to this measure ; to which I have also myself always been OPPOSED. If you should happen to be of my opinion with respect to these innovations, you will use your authority in reprobating them.
The Latin language, long the vehicle used in distributing knowledge among the different nations of Europe, is daily more and more neglected; and one of the modern tongues, viz. the French, seems in point of universality to have supplied its place. It is spoken in all the courts of Europe ; and most of the literati, those even who do not speak it, have acquired knowledge enough of it to enable them easily to read the books that are written in it. This gives a considerable advantage to that nation ; it enables its authors to inculcate and spread throughout other nations such sentiments and opinions on important points, as are most conducive to its interests, or which may contribute