To Thomas Jefferson April 10, 1789
From the original letter at the Library of Congress.
Msrs. Parker and Rumsey having set off for Paris prevented me the opportunity of sending you the former part — Your favor of March 17th. came safe to hand for which I am obliged to you. The King of England continues in his amended State — but Dr. Willis, his son and attendants are yet about his person — He has not been to Parliament nor made any public appearance — but he has fixed April 23d for a public thanksgiving, and he is to go in great parade to offer up his Devotions at St. Pauls on that day — Those about him have endeavoured to dissuade him from this ostentatious pilgrimage, most probably from an apprehension of some effect it may have upon him — but he persists — The treaty with Prussia has been laid before parliament but nothing has been said upon it — The Acts for regulating the Trade with America are to be continued as last year — A Paper from the Privy Council respecting the American fly is before Parliament. I had some conversations with Sir Joseph Banks upon this subject as he was the person whom the privy Council referred to — I told him that the Hessian fly attacked only the green plant, and did not exist in dry grain — He said that with respect to the Hessian fly, they had no apprehension — but it was the weevil they alluded to — I told him the weevil had always, more or less, been in the wheat Countries of America — and that if the prohibition was on that account it was as necessary fifty or sixty years ago as now — that I believed it was only a political manoeuver of the Ministry to please the landed interest — as a balance for prohibiting the exportation of Wool, to please the manufacturing interest — He did not reply — and as we are on very sociable terms I went farther by saying — the English ought not to complain of the non-payment of Debts from America while they prohibit the means of payment.
I suggest to you a thought on this Subject — the Debts due before the war ought to be distinguished from the Debts contracted since, and all and every mode of payment and remittance under which they might have been discharged at the time they were contracted ought to accompany those Debts, so long as any of them shall continue unpaid — because the Circumstances of payment became united with the Debt, and cannot be separated by subsequent Acts of one side only — If this was taken up in America and insisted on as a right co-eval with and inseparable from those Debts — it would force some of the restrictions here to give way —
You speak very truly of this Country when you say “that they are slumbering under a half reformation of Politics and religion, and cannot be excited by any thing they hear or see to question the remains of prejudice.” — Their ignorance on some matters is unfathomable — for instance, the Bank of England discount Bills at 5 p cent — but a proposal is talked of for discounting at 4 1/2 and the reason given is the vast quantity of money and that money of the good houses discount at 4 1/2 — from this they deduce the great ability and credit of the nation whereas the contrary is the case — This money is all in paper, and the quantity is greater than the object to circulate it upon, and therefore shews that the market is glutted and consequently the ability for farther paper exertions is lessened. If a War should ever break out between the Countries again — this is the spot where it ought to be prosecuted — they neither feel nor Care for any thing at a distance but are frightened and spiritless at every thing which happens at home. The combined fleet coming up the Channel Paul Jones, — and the Mob of 1738 are the dreadful eras of this Country — but for national puffery none equals them — The addresses which have been presented are stuffed with nonsense of this kind —
One of them published in the London Gazette and presented by a Sir William Appleby begins thus — “Britain, the queen of Isles, the pride of Nations, the Arbitress of Europe, perhaps, of the world.” —
The exceeding bad weather has delayed my return to the Iron Works, as a new experiment especially ought to have all the advantages of fine weather — next Monday or Tuesday I sett off and leave this in the Care of Mr. Mason, who is returning to Paris on his way to Bordeaux. — On the receipt of your last I went to Sir Joseph Banks to inform him of your having heard from Ledyard from Grand Cairo — but found he had a letter from him of the same date. — Sir Joseph is one of the Society for promoting that undertaking, he has an high opinion of Ledyard, and thinks him the only man fitted for such an exploration — As you may probably hear of Ledyard by accounts that may not reach here, Sir Joseph will be obliged to you to communicate to him any matters respecting him that may arrive to you (Sir Joseph Banks, Bart., Soho Square) —
The Rumours respecting a negociation for the Austrian Netherlands are at a Stand — and the English Papers have sent the Prince of Nassau to Madrid to push forward the Quadruple Alliance, to which Denmark is to accede —
The Slave Trade is to come in the 27th of April — Mr. Wilberforce has given notice that he shall move for a total abolition of the traffic — It will pass the Commons, and probably stop in house of Peers —
While writing this I am informed that the Minister has had a Conference with some of the American Creditors and proposed to them to assume the Debts and give them ten shillings on the pound — the conjecture is that he means when the new Congress is established to demand the payment — If you are writing to General Washington it may not be amiss to mention this — and if I hear farther on the matter I will inform you — But as being a money matter it cannot come forward but through Parliament there will be notice given of the business — This would be a proper time to shew that the British Acts since the Peace militate against the payment by narrowing the means by which those debts might have been paid when they were contracted and which ought to be considered as constituent parts of the contract —
April 13 — The New York Packet arrived on Fryday — brought nothing new — it sailed the 4th March on which day the New Congress met — Mr. Rumsey came yesterday (Sunday) — and I set off this evening for my Iron Works.
your affectionate friend & Ob. Humble Servant