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gress, or others that fall in your way, and communicate to me their answers, if of any importance. I have also multitudes of projects sent to me, with requests that I would lay them before Congress. They are plans and schemes of governments, legislation, education, defence, manufactures, commerce, &c., formed by people who have great good will to us, but are totally ignorant of our affairs and circumstances; whence their projects are, for the most part, wild and impracticable, or unfit to be presented to Congress, as not pertaining to their jurisdiction. I have therefore not forwarded them; but now and then send some of them for your amusement, if you should have any leisure, that you may see how people make shoes for feet they have never measured.
As your letter mentions nothing of public affairs, I imagined I might have had, by the same conveyance, some despatches from Congress, perhaps in the care of some passenger; but a fortnight has passed since the arrival of the packet-boat, and no letters appear; so that I have nothing from Congress later than the 14th of January, and continue in great uncertainty as to my return.
Mr. Norris came here, after residing some time at Liege. He stayed but a week or two at Paris, and then removed to a country town not far distant, where nothing but French is spoken, in order to improve himself in that language. He seems a sensible, discreet young man, and I shall with pleasure render him any service that may be in my power.
The King of Sweden is now at this court, enjoying the various splendid entertainments provided for him. The Danish minister is astonished, that the Congress are so long without taking any notice of the proposed
treaty. With great esteem, I am ever, my dear friend, yours most affectionately,
TO CHARLES THOMSON.* Respecting a Million of Livres in the Account of the American Banker in France.
Philadelphia, 18 June, 1786. DEAR SIR, I received in its time your favor of the 15th past, with an extract from the contract made at Versailles, February 21st, 1783. This extract being a translation, I have spent some time in searching for a copy. I supposed I might have the original, but have not yet met with it, and will now no longer delay my answer, which is, that, if the translation be just, and the original really mentions three millions, as given before the treaty of 1778, it has either been a mistake of one million, or the million received from the Farmers-General is included, as a don gratuit of the King; in which latter case, as you observe, they owe us for the tobacco received, in part. For I think it a certainty, that no money was received from the crown, which did not go directly into the hands of Mr. Grand; and, though he accounts for three millions received before 1778, one of them is the million received of the Farmers-General.
An explanation and adjustment of this matter may, I make no doubt, be easily obtained by writing to Mr. Grand and Mr. Jefferson. There can be no error of that magnitude in Mr. Grand's accounts, for they were rendered to the Commissioners from time to time, and settled while all the transactions were fresh
* A further explanation of the subject of this letter may be seen in this volume, pp. 265, 269 - 272, 285.
in memory. And I am persuaded, the minister will very readily either correct the error in the contract, or direct our demanding of the Farmers the value of the tobacco, as the case may be. With great and sincere esteem, I have the honor to be, Sir, &c.
TO MRS. JANE MECOM.
Attendance in the Convention. – Disapprobation of War. — Precautions for protecting Houses from Fire.
Philadelphia, 20 September, 1787. DEAR SISTER, I received your kind letter of the 16th past, which gave me the great pleasure of learning that you were well. I thought I had before acknowledged the receipt of yours per Colonel Sergeant.
The Convention finished the 17th instant. I attended the business of it five hours in every day from the beginning, which is something more than four months. You may judge from thence, that my health continues; some tell me I look better, and they suppose the daily exercise of going and returning from the Statehouse has done me good. You will see the Constitution we have proposed in the papers. The forming of it so as to accommodate all the different interests and views was a difficult task; and perhaps, after all, it may not be received with the same unanimity in the different States, that the Convention have given the example of in delivering it out for their consideration. We have, however, done our best, and it must take its chance.
I agree with you perfectly in your disapprobation of war. Abstracted from the inhumanity of it, I think it wrong in point of human prudence; for, whatever advantage one nation would obtain from another, whether it be part of their territory, the liberty of commerce with them, free passage on their rivers, &c. &c., it would be much cheaper to purchase such advantage with ready money than to pay the expense of acquiring it by war. An army is a devouring monster, and, when you have raised it, you have, in order to subsist it, not only the fair charges of pay, clothing, provisions, arms, and ammunition, with numberless other contingent and just charges to answer and satisfy, but you have all the additional knavish charges of the numerous tribe of contractors to defray, with those of every other dealer who furnishes the articles wanted for your army, and takes advantage of that want to demand exorbitant prices. It seems to me, that, if statesmen had a little more arithmetic, or were more accustomed to calculation, wars would be much less frequent. I am confident, that Canada might have been purchased from France for a tenth part of the money England spent in the conquest of it. And if, instead of fighting with us for the power of taxing us, she had kept us in good humor by allowing us to dispose of our own money, and now and then giving us a little of hers, by way of donation to colleges, or hospitals, or for cutting canals, or fortifying ports, she might have easily drawn from us much more by our occasional voluntary grants and contributions, than ever she could by taxes. Sensible people will give a bucket or two of water to a dry pump, that they may afterwards get from it all they have occasion for. Her ministry were deficient in that little point of common sense. And so they spent one hundred millions of her money, and after all lost wha they contended for.
I lament the loss your town has suffered this year by fire. I sometimes think men do not act like reaVOL. X.
sonable creatures, when they build for themselves combustible dwellings, in which they are every day obliged to use fire. In my new buildings, I have taken a few precautions, not generally used ; to wit, none of the wooden work of one room communicates with the wooden work of any other room; and all the floors, and even the steps of the stairs, are plastered close to the boards, besides the plastering on the laths under the joists. There are also trap-doors to go out upon the roofs, that one may go out and wet the shingles in case of a neighbouring fire. But, indeed, I think the staircases should be stone, and the floors tiled as in Paris, and the roofs either tiled or slated.
I am much obliged to your friend and neighbour Mr. Lathrop, for his kind present, and purpose writing to him. It is a discourse well written.
I sent you lately a barrel of flour, and I blame myself for not sooner desiring you to lay in your winter's wood, and drawing upon me for it as last year. But I have been so busy. To avoid such neglect in future, I now make the direction general, that you draw on me every year for the same purpose.
Adieu, my dear sister, and believe me ever your affectionate brother,
TO M. DUBOURG.*
On the Nature of Sea Coal. - I am persuaded, as well as you, that the sea coal has a vegetable origin, and that it has been formed
* This extract is translated from the French, as printed in M. Dubourg's edition of the author's writings. Its date is uncertain, but it was probably written about the year 1770, and should have been inserted among the philosophical papers of that period.