« ZurückWeiter »
uncertainty as to that and the rest. I wish some resolutions were taken on this point of contingences, that I may know how to settle my accounts with Mr. Barclay. American ministers in Europe are too remote from their constituents to consult them, and take their orders on every occasion, as the ministers here of European courts can easily do. There seems, therefore, a necessity of allowing more to their discretion, and of giving them a credit to a certain amount on some banker, who may answer their orders; for which, however, they should be accountable. I mention this for the sake of other ministers, hoping and expecting soon to be discharged myself, and also for the good of the service.
The remissness of our people in paying taxes is highly blamable; the unwillingness to pay them is still more so. I see, in some resolutions of town meetings, a remonstrance against giving Congress the power to take, as they call it, the people's money out of their pockets, though only to pay the interest and principal of debts duly contracted. They seem to mistake the point. Money, justly due from the people, is their creditors' money, and no longer the money of the people, who, if they withhold it, should be compelled to pay by some law.
All property, indeed, except the savage's temporary cabin, his bow, his matchcoat, and other little acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his subsistence, seems to me to be the creature of public convention. Hence the public has the right of regulating descents, and all other conveyances of property, and even of limiting the quantity and the uses of it. All the property that is necessary to a man, for the conservation of the individual and the propagation of the species, is his natural right, which none can justly deprive him of;
but all property superfluous to such purposes is the property of the public, who, by their laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the welfare of the public shall demand such disposition. He that does not like civil society on these terms, let him retire and live among savages. He can have no right to the benefits of society, who will not pay his club towards the support of it.
The Marquis de Lafayette, who loves to be employed in our affairs, and is often very useful, has lately had several conversations with the ministers and persons concerned in forming new regulations, respecting the commerce between our two countries, which are not yet concluded. I therefore thought it well to communicate to him a copy of your letter, which contains so many sensible and just observations on that subject. He will make a proper use of them, and perhaps they may have more weight, as appearing to come from a Frenchman, than they would have if it were known that they were the observations of an American. I perfectly agree with you in all the sentiments you have expressed on this occasion.*
I am sorry for the public's sake, that you are about to quit your office, but on personal considerations I shall congratulate you; for I cannot conceive of a more happy man, than he, who having been long loaded with public cares, finds himself relieved from them, and enjoying repose in the bosom of his friends and famly. With sincere regard and attachment, I am ever, dear Sir, &c. B. FRANKLIN.
Many particulars respecting the interest taken by Lafayette in the commercial relations between France and the United States, and his endeavours to promote and extend them, are contained in his letters to the President of Congress. See Diplomatic Correspondence, Vol. X. pp.
FROM JOHN JAY TO B. FRANKLIN.
Bath, 26 December, 1783.
Since we parted, I have been so much and so long indisposed, as that, except short letters to Mrs. Jay, I have denied myself the pleasure of writing to my friends. The kindness you have shown to us both has, nevertheless, not been forgotten, nor has my disposition to acknowledge and be influenced by it in the least abated.
We have lately had a report here, that you were very ill with the stone; and some have said that you intended to seek relief from an operation. This report has alarmed your friends, and I am anxious to know how far it may be well founded. It would give me sincere satisfaction to have it contradicted under your own hand.
I decline saying any thing about politics for obvious reasons. The public papers afford you the means of forming a judgment of them, especially as your long experience and knowledge of this country enable you to see further than ordinary observers. There are many in this country, who speak of you with great respect. The honest Whig Club drank your health very affectionately. There are others, who like you as little as the eagle did the cat, and probably for the same reasons. When we meet, we will talk these matters over with less reserve than I can write. Present my affectionate compliments to your two grandsons, and believe me to be, with great esteem and regard, dear Sir, &c
TO THOMAS MIFFLIN, PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Dr. Franklin requests Permission of Congress to be recalled from France.
Passy, 26 December, 1783.
I congratulate you very sincerely on your appointment to that very honorable station, the Presidency of Congress. Every testimony you receive of the public sense of your services and talents, gives me pleasure.
I have written to you a long letter on business, in my quality of minister.* This is a private letter, respecting my personal concerns, which I presume to trouble you with on the score of our ancient friendship.
In a letter of the 12th of March, 1781, I stated my age and infirmities to the Congress, and requested they would be pleased to recall me, that I might enjoy the little left me of the evening of life in repose, and in the sweet society of my friends and family. I was answered by the then President, that, when peace should be made, if I persisted in the same request, it should be granted; I acquiesced; the preliminaries were signed in November, 1782, and I then repeated my petition. A year is past, and I have no answer. Undoubtedly, if the Congress should think my continuing here necessary for the public service, I ought, as a good citizen, to submit to their judgment and pleasure; but, as they may easily supply my place to advantage, that cannot be the case. I suppose, therefore, that it is merely the multiplicity of more important affairs, that has put my request out of their mind. What
*See above, p. 36.
See a letter to Robert R. Livingston, dated December 5th, 1782. Vol. IX. p. 436.
I would then desire of you is, to put this matter in train to be moved and answered as soon as possible, that I may arrange my affairs accordingly.
In the first letter above mentioned, to which I beg leave to refer you, I gave a character of my grandson, William Temple Franklin, and solicited for him the favor and protection of Congress. I have nothing to abate of that character; on the contrary, I think him so much improved as to be capable of executing, with credit to himself and advantage to the public, any employment in Europe the Congress may think fit to honor him with. He has been seven years in the service, and is much esteemed by all that know him, particularly by the minister here, who, since my new disorder (the stone) makes my going to Versailles inconvenient to me, transacts our business with him in the most obliging and friendly manner. It is natural for me, who love him, to wish to see him settled before I die, in some employ that may probably be permanent; and I hope you will be so good to me, as to get that affair likewise moved and carried through in his favor.
He has, I think, this additional merit to plead, that he has served in my office as secretary several years, for the small salary of three hundred louis a year, while the Congress gave one thousand a year to the secretaries of other ministers, who had not half the employ for a secretary that I had. For it was long before a consul was sent here, and we had all that business on our hands, with a great deal of admiralty business in examining and condemning captures, taken by our cruisers and by the French cruisers under American commissions; besides the constant attendance in examining and recording the acceptances of the Congress bills of exchange, which has been, from