To Thomas Jefferson January 25, 1805
To Thomas Jefferson January 25, 1805
I wrote you on the 1st January from N[ew] Rochelle and mentioned spending part of the winter at Washington. But as the present state of the weather renders the passage of the rivers dangerous and travelling precarious I have given up the intention. Mr. Levi Lincoln and Mr. Wingate called on me at N[ew] York, where I happened to be when they arrived from Washington to the Eastward. I find by Mr. Lincoln that the Louisiana Memorialists will have to return as they came and the more decisively Congress put an end to this business the better. The Cession of Louisiana is a great acquisition; but great as it is it would be an incumbrance on the Union were the prayer of the petitioners to be granted, nor would the lands be worth settling if the settlers are to be under a French jurisdiction. If they have a mind to have a Chamber of Commerce, or a Court of Arbitration, to settle their own private affairs with each other, in their own language, perhaps no inconvenience may arise to us from it; but with respect to government and legal jurisdiction they must for several years yet to come be under the same laws of Congress which the Americans themselves are under who settle in Louisiana. It will never answer to make French Louisiana the legislators of the new settlers. Perhaps no inconvenience would arise by permitting the two territories to have each of them two representatives in Congress one of which to be an American. The Cession of Louisiana is a new case not provided for in the Constitution and must be managed by prudence and justice. When the emigrations from the United States into Louisiana become equal to the number of French inhabitants it may then be proper and right to erect such part where such equality exists into a constitutional state; but to do it now would be sending the American settlers into exile. I think (for I write just what thoughts come in my mind) Congress would do right to divide the country into states as far as it is known, as was formerly done in the case of the western territory, subject to such revision as a future survey of the country shall show to be necessary and to give names to them as in the former case. The arm of the Louisian[i]ans appear to me to be that of governing Louisiana in the lump and this will put a stop to that expectation. If Congress cannot do this in the present session it might give directions so as to have something like a map or a survey ready against the next session, and to frame a form of internal government for them to continue till they arrived at a state of population proper for constitutional government. When this be done the country will be in a condition to be settled and the settlers will know beforehand the government and the laws they are to be under. For my own part, I wish the name of Louisiana to be lost, and this may in a great measure be done by giving names to the new states that will serve as descriptive of their situation or condition. France has lost the names and almost the remembrance of provinces by dividing them into departments with appropriate names.
Next to the acquisition of the territory and the Government of it is that of settling it. The people of the Eastern States are the best settlers of a new country, and of people from abroad the German peasantry are the best. The Irish in general are generous and dissolute. The Scotch turn their attention to traffic, and the English to manufactures. These people are more fitted to live in cities than to be cultivators of new lands. I know not if in Virginia they are much acquainted with the importation of German redemptioners, that is, servants indented for a term of years. The best farmers in Pennsylvania are those who came over in this manner or the descendants of them. The price before the war used to be twenty pounds Pennsylvania currency for an indented servant for four years, that is, the ship owner, got twenty pounds per head passage money, so that upon two hundred persons he would receive after their arrival four thousand pounds paid by the persons who purchased the time of their indentures which was generally four years. These would be the best people, of foreigners, to bring into Louisiana-because they would grow to be citizens. Whereas bringing poor Negroes to work the lands in a state of slavery and wretchedness, is, besides the immorality of it, the certain way of preventing population and consequently of preventing revenue. I question if the revenue arising from ten Negroes in the consumption of imported articles is equal to that of one white citizen. In the articles of dress and of the table it is almost impossible to make a comparison.
These matters though they do not belong to the class of principles are proper subjects for the consideration of Government; and it is always fortunate when the interests of Government and that of humanity act unitedly. But I much doubt if the Germans would come to be under a French Jurisdiction. Congress must frame the laws Under which they are to serve out their time; after which Congress might give them a few acres of land to begin with for themselves and they would soon be able to buy more. I am inclined to believe that by adopting this method the Country will be more peopled in about twenty years from the present time than it has been in all the times of the French and Spaniards. Spain, I believe, held it chiefly as a barrier to her dominions in Mexico, and the less it was improved the better it agreed with that policy; and as to France she never showed any great disposition or gave any great encouragement to colonizing. It is chiefly small countries, that are straitened for room at home, like Holland and England, that go in quest of foreign settlements.
I have again seen and talked with the gentleman from Hamburg. He tells me that some Vessels under pretence of shipping persons to America carried them to England to serve as soldiers and sailors. He tells me he has the Edict or Proclamation of the Senate of Hamburg forbidding persons shipping themselves without the consent of the Senate, and that he will give me a copy of it, which if he does soon enough I will send with this letter. He says that the American Consul has been spoken to respecting this kidnapping business under American pretences, but that he says he has no authority to interfere. The German members of Congress, or the Philadelphia merchants or ship-owners who have been in the practice of importing German redemptioners, can give you better information respecting the business of importation than I can. But the redemptioners thus imported must be at the charge of the Captain or ship owner till their time is sold. Some of the Quaker Merchants of Philadelphia went a great deal into the importation of German servants or redemptioners. It agreed with the morality of their principles that of bettering people's condition, and to put an end to the practice of importing slaves. I think it not an unreasonable estimation to suppose that the population of Louisiana may be increased ten thousand souls every year. What retards the settlement of it is the want of laborers, and until laborers can be had the sale of the lands will be slow. Were I twenty years younger, and my name and reputation as well known in European countries as it is now, I would contract for a quantity of land in Louisiana and go to Europe and bring over settlers.
I think you will see the propriety of taking some measures upon this affair, for besides being injurious to us and to the American character it is a wicked piece of business. Perhaps it may afford an opportunity of saying something that may be acceptable to the Senate of Hamburg, for where a civil thing can be said on good principles it is always worth saying.
I also send you a letter I lately received from an old revolutionary soldier in Kentucky. It is much better written than one would expect from a person of that standing. Perhaps some of the Kentucky members may know him.
It is probable that towards the close of the session I may make an excursion to Washington. The piece on Gouverneur Morris's Oration on Hamilton and that on the Louisiana Memorial are the last I have published; and as everything of public affairs is now on a good ground I shall do as I did after the War, remain a quiet spectator, and attend now to my own affairs.
I intend making a collection of all the pieces I have published, beginning with Common Sense, and of what I have by me in manuscript, and publish them by subscription. I have deferred doing this till the presidential election should be over, but I believe there was not much occasion for that caution. There is more of hypocrisy than bigotry in America. When I was in Connecticut the summer before last, I fell in company with some Baptists among whom were three ministers. The conversation turned on the election for President, and one of them who appeared to be a leading man said, "They cry out against Mr. Jefferson, because they say he is a Deist. Well, a Deist may be a good man and if he think it right it is right to him." "For my own part," said he, "I had rather vote for a Deist than for a blue skin presbyterian." "You judge right," said I, "for a man that is not of any of the sectaries will hold the balance even between all; but give power to a bigot of any sectary and he will use it to the oppression of the rest, as the blue-skins do in connection." They all agreed in this sentiment, and I have always found it assented to in any company I have had occasion to use it.
I judge the collection I speak of will make five volumes octavo of four hundred pages each at two dollars a volume to be paid for on delivery; and as they will be delivered separately as fast as they can be printed and bound, the subscribers may stop when they please. The three first volumes will be political and each piece will be accompanied with an account of the state of affairs whether in America, France or England, at the time it was written which will also show the occasion of writing it. The first expression in the first No. of the Crisis published the 19th. December '76 is, ''These are the times that try men's souls." It is therefore necessary as explanatory to the expression in all future times to show what those times were. The two last volumes will be theological and those who do not choose to take them may let them alone. They will have the right to do so by the conditions of the subscription. I shall also make a miscellaneous volume of correspondence, essays and some pieces of poetry which I believe have some claim to originality.
I have again seen and canvassed with the gentleman from Hamburg. He occupies the store of the house where I lodge. He is a wholesale merchant in dry goods, has been several times backward and forward from Hamburg to New York, and in one of his voyages came with 175 German redemptioners. He says he will engage them and have them indented to him for four years and deliver them together with their indentures to some merchant or agent at New Orleans and receive upon the delivery of them 12 guineas (56 dollars) per head. That merchant or agent will sell the time of their indentures, four years which will at least be worth eighty dollars, or I may say one hundred. It will fetch more than that in New York.
As the person who buy their time will have to find them in clothes, he must not turn them naked upon the world; and therefore the custorn in Pennsylvania was, and I believe it was provided for by law that their master at the end of their time furnished them with two covering suits, that is two of everything and if Congress, as I before said, were to give each of them twenty acres of land, they would soon become cultivators for themselves and other redemptioners would arrive to supply their places, and the present French inhabitants would soon be a minority and the sooner the better for they give symptoms of being a troublesome set.
This appears to me to be the best and quickest method of peopling, cultivating and settling Louisiana and we shall gain by it a useful industrious set of citizens. The ten dollars bounty money I spoke of in the former part of this case become unnecessary.
There is too much detail in this business to bring it immediately before Congress, neither is there information enough at present to make a law that shall exactly fit the case. The best and shortest way will be for Congress to empower the President to devise and employ means for bringing cultivators into Louisiana from any of the European countries who after the expiration of the time of their indentures will more than pay the expense. I suppose it will be necessary to appoint an agent to whom they are to be delivered at N[ew] Orleans who will account for the monies paid and received. When this business is once set agoing it will go on of itself. But I think Congress ought to make the first adventure to give encouragement to it.
While this letter was in hand I fell in company with a N[ew] York captain of a Vessel, who was lately at N[ew] Orleans. He says that the number of Americans, including the garrison, is about equal to the number of French inhabitants in the town of N[ew] Orleans. This is an additional reason for not admitting the French memorialists to be legislators in their own language. Could they get the power of legislation and government in their hands they would probably appoint courts to judge of claims, and you would find some of the best lands in Louisiana covered with claims. I think it not an unreasonable suspicion that this is one of their objects. I observed in the French revolution that they always proceeded by stages and made each stage a stepping stone to another. The convention, to amuse the people, voted a Constitution, and then voted to suspend the practical establishment of it till after the war and in the meantime to carry on a revolutionary government. When Robespierre fell they proposed bringing forward the suspended constitution, and apparently for this purpose appointed a committee to frame what they called organic laws and those organic laws turned out to be a new constitution (the Directory constitution which was in general a good one). When Bonaparte overthrew this constitution he got himself appointed pro consul for ten years, then for life; and now Emperor with an hereditary succession. As to myself they first voted me out of the convention for being a foreigner, then imprisoned me on the ground of being a foreigner, then voted me in again by annulling the vote that declared me a foreigner. There will be no end to the claims of these Memorialists if you once begin to make a distinction in their favor between them and the American settlers. They must all be governed by the same law as of Congress till there are a sufficient number of American settlers to be trusted with constitutional powers, They might I think have a representation in Congress one of which as before mentioned to be an American.
I find by the Captain above mentioned that several Liverpool ships have been at New Orleans. It is chiefly the people of Liverpool that employ themselves in the slave trade and they bring cargoes of those unfortunate Negroes to take back in return the hard money and the produce of the country. Had I the command of the elements I would blast Liverpool with fire and brimstone. It is the Sodom and Gomorrah of brutality.
I have now written you a long letter. The subjects it treats of and the reasons given in support of them are more proper for private communication than for publication. It is that which distinguishes this letter from my answer to the Louisiana Memorial. The letter to you on the Domingo business is of the same kind. Now I am on the subject of public and private communication I will explain something to you regarding the note I sent you two years ago the first of last January when I was at Washington with respect to obtaining the Cession of Louisiana. The idea occurred to me without knowing it had occurred to another person and I mentioned it to Dr. Lieb who lived in the same house (Lovells) and as he appeared pleased with it I wrote the note and showed it to him before I sent it. The next morning you said to me that measures were already taken in that business. When Lieb returned from Congress I told him of it. I knew that said he. Why then, said I, did you not tell me so, because in that case I would not have sent the note. That is the reason, said he, I would not tell you because two opinions concurring on a case strengthen it.
I do not however like Dr. Lieb's motion about Banks. Congress ought to be very cautious how it gives encouragement to this speculating project of banking, for it is now carried to an extreme. It is but another kind of striking paper money. I expect some of them will blow up, for they have already banked away the hard money. Were Dr. Lieb's motion to take place, it would, I suppose, make some additional clerks necessary at the treasury, because it would derange the simplicity of collecting the revenue. I view the Doctor's motion as an unwise attempt at popularity among those interested in [illegible] banks.
Neither do I like the motion respecting the recession of the (Cession). The cession was made to the United States, and not to the representatives of the states, and if alteration be made it should be made by the consent of the state legislatures as in the case of altering any article of the constitution, for the seat of government ought to be considered as a part of the constitution. It was because the states had no place where their representatives in Congress could rightfully assemble, for Congress has not the right to place itself within the jurisdiction of any state, that [illegible] was made. I know that when I was clerk of the general assembly of Pennsylvania there was, upon some disagreement between the assembly as to Congress, a strong disposition in the assembly to signify to Congress to quit the state. The union has now a territory independent of any state belonging governmentally to all, yet some of the representatives of the states are assuming to fritter away the rights of their constituents. There is no foreseeing what occasion future Congresses in future times may have for territory, nor do I know if the dock be without or within the limits of the city. Somehow or other it happens by a comparison of things that Congress appears little to the generality of people when it sits in a little place. It is like a dwarf governing a mole-hill.
I am just informed (January 24) there is a run on the Manhattan bank in this city occasioned by some difference between that and what is called the Merchants bank. Manhattan is the Indian name of N[ew] York island. If instead of Dr. Lieb's motion, the motion had been, that a certain proportion of the revenue should be collected in hard money and the rest in notes of the Bank of the United States, it would, I think, have been much wiser, because it would restrain the merchants in sending away the hard cash and fitting the chasm up with paper.
I recollect when in France that you spoke of a plan of making the Negroes tenants on a plantation, that is, allotting each Negro family a quantity of land for which they were to pay to the owner a certain quantity of produce. I think that numbers of our free Negroes might be provided for in this manner in Louisiana. The best way that occurs to me is for Congress to give them their passage to New Orleans, then for them to hire themselves out to the planters for one or two years; they would by this means learn plantation business, after which to place the men on a tract of land as before mentioned. A great many good things may now be done, and I please myself with the idea of suggesting my thoughts to you.
Old Captain Landais who lives at Brooklyn on Long Island opposite N[ew] York calls sometimes to see me. I knew him in Paris. He is a very respectable old man. I wish something had been done for him in Congress on his petition, for I think something is due to him. Nor do I see how the statute of limitations can consistently apply to him. The law in John Adams's administration which cut off all commerce and communication with France, cut him off from the chance of coming to America to put in his claim. I suppose that the claims of some of our merchants on England, France, and Spain is more than of 6 or 7 years' standing yet no law of limitation, that I know of, takes place between nation, or between individuals of different nations. I consider a statute of limitation to be a domestic law and only have a [illegible]. Dr. Miller one of the New York Senators in Congress knows Landais and can give you an account of him.
Concerning my former letter on Domingo, I intended had I come to Washington to have talked with Pichon about it if you had approved that method, for it can only be brought forward in an indirect way. The two Emperors are at too great a distance in objects and in color to have any intercourse but by fire and sword, yet something I think might be done. It is time I should close this long epistle.
Yours in friendship,
Any letters directed to me to the care of the Post Master N[ew] York will come to hand.