To a Committee of the Continental Congress [October 1783]
To a Committee of the Continental Congress [October 1783]
Having understood that a report of the Committee to whom a late application of mine, to Congress, was referred, is now before that Honorable Body, I am desirous, before the report be further gone into, to lay before the Committee some matters relative to myself, which I presume may not be inconvenient for them to know, and likewise to offer such remarks on the subject of the report, which (I am distantly informed, for I have not seen it), is, that I be appointed Historiographer to the Continent, as appears to me necessary to elucidate an appointment so exceedingly nice on the part of Congress and so critical and difficult on the part of myself.
In thus looking back and bringing into my own view the many trying and inconvenient situations I have passed over for several years, I may very probably feel something of that unpleasantness of reflection which cannot fail to arise, when I compare what my unvaried conduct and disposition towards the Cause of America has been, and what hers has been to me in return.
As the last instance of regard to a Country, which, collectively had shown so little to me, and from an affection to those principles of freedom, on which the Cause of America was founded, and as a justification to my own mind for whatever I might hereafter think or say, respecting her public spirit to me, or mine to her, I presented a Letter to Congress of [June 7, 1783] requesting that Congress would be pleased to direct me to lay before them an account of what my services, such as they are, have been, the manner in which they were performed, and the situation I had been cast into during the course of the war. For as I saw little more than a prospect of future inconveniences to arise to myself by continuing in America, and as my return to Europe where I am not, and cannot now pass unknown, and the inconvenient circumstances under which that return must have been made would eventually have suggested an idea that either I had been unworthy of the regard of America, not- withstanding the appearance of service, or that she had been remiss in her regard towards me. I was therefore desirous of placing matters in such an unambiguous light before Congress, that my departure from a Country that did not afford me a home might, under any circumstance whatever, stand (should there be any occasion for it), as open and visible as every other part of my conduct had done. For to me who have often reflected upon it, it appears, that the continued neglect of the Country towards me, has an effect in putting my reputation to stake; which as it has always been my principle, so it is now, more than ever my duty to preserve.
I feel no reproof to myself in speaking thus freely; my situation and the relationship that now ought to subsist between me and America, make it necessary, and I speak so with the more freedom, because it is done to a confidential Body and not to the world, and is as much the effect of a good disposition as of concern.
Scarcely had I put my foot into the Country but it was set on fire about my ears. All the plans or prospects of private life (for I am not by nature fond of, or fitted for a public one, and feel all occasions of it where I must act personally, a burden) all these plans, I say, were immediately disconcerted, and I was at once involved in all the troubles of the Country. From a principle, devoted to the love of liberty, and a disposition to assist injured and suffering people, I felt a pleasure in sharing their fate without even troubling myself about consequences. I had none of those inducements arising from property of possessions that might operate in a more or less degree with others. I stood on the clear unencumbered line of principle and had no other interest to engage me but that of the heart.
As the progress of the war continued I very likely derived something of satisfaction from the idea of being ranked among the founders of a New Empire raised on the principles of liberty and liberality. Yet large as that Empire is, and fortunate in its circumstances, it does not afford to me a home, and I have both the pleasure and the concern to see, that, I have spent eight years of the prime of my life, in adding to the happiness of those, who, in return appear thoughtless of mine.
I cannot help viewing my situation as singularly inconvenient. Trade I do not understand. Land I have none, or what is equal to none. I have exiled myself from one Country without making a home of another; and I cannot help sometimes asking myself, what am I better off than a refugee? and that of the most extraordinary kind, a Refugee from the Country I have obliged and served, to that which can owe me no good will.
Though it was impossible I could be insensible of the daily inconveniences I experienced during almost the whole of the war, yet as they served to give me a clear standing in the world, and to show that I acted from impulse and not from interest, from principle and not from influence, I endeavored instead of growing discontented, to turn them into matters not only of consolation but of satisfaction. As an Author, I had gained the ear and confidence of a country made of many parts, I had likewise been singular in obtaining a general reading in England, and since that, on the Continent of Europe. In this situation as I could be useful, so it was necessary I should sacrifice something to preserve that usefulness. I easily saw that favor or partiality to me might tend to destroy it. One part of America might have supposed that I belonged to another, or one set of Politicians might imagine that I was attached to their opposites in local matters. Therefore I kept at a distance from all and acted my part alone. And so far as the neglect of Congress to me might arise from the same kind of reflections it was politic. But I now think the Experiment has continued long enough, especially as the war is over. Badly as the Army has been off, I was yet, in some instances, still worse. I was not so much as in the line of any state. I had even my own Rations to provide, and while serving all I was neglected by all and belonged to none.
Having said thus much on matters generally I shall now beg leave to trouble the Committee, with a short detail of some principle facts.
The first public work I undertook (and the first thing I ever published in my life except a few miscellaneous pieces in the Pennsylvania Magazine in the year '75 for in England I never was the author of a syllable in print) was the pamphlet Common Sense. It cannot at this time a day be forgotten that the politics, the opinions and the prejudices of the Country were in direct opposition to the principles contained in that work. And I well know that in Pennsylvania, and I suppose the same in other of the then Provinces, it would have been unsafe for a man to have espoused independence in any public company and after the appearance of that pamphlet it was as dangerous to speak against it. It was a point of time full of critical danger to America, and if her future well being depended on any one political circumstance more than another it was in changing the sentiments of the people from dependence to Independence and from the monarchial to the republican form of government; for had she unhappily split on the question, or entered coldly or hesitatingly into it, she most probably had been ruined; and as for myself, had it failed, I know not where any home in the world would have been, and though it has succeeded I am but little better off.
It cannot be very agreeable to a man to be obliged to speak of himself, but if the situation of any one for years together can apologize for or justify it, I think I may venture to lay claim to the excuse.
As my wish was to serve an oppressed people, and assist in a just and good cause, I conceived that the honor of it would be promoted by my declining to make even the usual profits of an Author, by the publication, and therefore I gave up the profits of the first Edition into the hands of Col. Joseph Deane and Mr. Thomas Pryor both of the city of Philadelphia to be disposed of by them in any public service or private charity. After this I printed six thousand at my own expense and directed Mr. Bradford to sell them at the price of the printing and paper. It may, perhaps, be said, that as I had made a dangerous step it was my interest to make it as little so as possible by promoting by every means, the success of the principle on which my own safety rested, but this would be an uncandid way of accounting for public spirit and conduct.
After the Declaration of Independence, the Pennsylvania associators marched into Jersey, under the command of General Roberdeau, to whom I went as secretary without pay. And after his command at Amboy expired and the Associators returned home I served as volunteer aid to General Greene at Fort Lee, and continued with him during the gloomy campaign of Seventy-Six.
The wretched and despairing condition of the Country occasioned me to publish the first number of the Crisis at a time when few would venture to speak and the printing presses had left off working. I began it at Newark on the retreat and got it printed in Philadelphia the 19th of Dec. 1776. But the printer did not choose to put his name to it.
On the return of Congress from Baltimore they unanimously and unknown to me, appointed me secretary to the Committee for foreign affairs which I was afterwards obliged to resign on account of the affair of Silas Deane.
It very unfortunately happened to me that I was in possession of a Secret, respecting the supplies from abroad and the money demands of Silas Deane which I have good reason to believe Congress were not altogether, if, at all, acquainted with. The Despatches which should have contained the information never arrived at Congress, blank white paper being put in their stead, and that which afterwards came into my hands enjoined in these words, "That it be kept a dead secret even from Congress where it is supposed England has some intelligence." This was in the hand writing of Temple Franklin. That Deane had imposed on his friends and was attempting a fraud on the Country was exceedingly visible to me, and the event has proved that something must have been very wrong in his conduct or he needed not, with so popular a support at first, have made the retreat he did.
On the evening of the day on which my resignation was made, a very lucrative offer, to double the value of what I had resigned was made to me, and repeated for three successive evenings. What the motive was that led to the proposal I am somewhat at a loss to conceive. It might be friendship only. But in the situation I then stood I thought it right to decline it; and preferred hiring myself as a clerk to Mr. Owen Biddle, at the usual wages of a common clerk to avoid running into debt. In which place I continued, still going on in the same line of Common Sense I had done before, until the assembly of Pennsylvania, without any application, or even knowledge of mine, appointed me their Clerk.
The next summer introduced itself by the loss of Charleston, and I could not but be confounded at what appeared to me an obstinate disbelief in almost all ranks of People, respecting the fall of that place as if believing or disbelieving would govern facts.
The finances of Congress and of the several States were in a deplorable condition, and scarcely anything was left but private credit, and in a letter from the Commander in Chief to the President of Pennsylvania stating the condition of the Army and urging resistance, and which was read confidentially to the house with the doors locked, the complication of difficulties were so affecting, that some of the members began to think them past relief.
In this state of things, and without mentioning the matter either at the time or since, I addressed the enclosed letter No. 1 to Mr. Blair McClenaghan to try what might be done in that line of private credit and assistance. I drew out all the Salary that was due to me, being about a thousand dollars, and enclosed 500 as a deposit for the whole. Mr. McClenaghan introduced the matter and the letter among the merchants at the Coffee [House] and subscribed two hundred pounds hard money. Mr. [Robert] Morris did the same, and by the next day the subscription amounted to one thousand five hundred pounds which was afterwards thrown into a Bank and the army assisted, if not principally supplied, through the remainder of the summer by that means.
Toward the latter end of this year, 1780, I conceived the idea of going to Europe on the following grounds.
By all the English papers, publications and politics that ever came to my hands during the contest, it was exceedingly evident, at least to me, that the British, as a nation, were in a state of profound ignorance respecting many circumstances in America, and had only a loose uninformed notion of others, and that they prosecuted the war, so far as conquest was the object, on the ground of delusion. There was like no person in England who knew enough of the affairs of America to remove that delusion and those who were supposed to know America best, such as [Joseph] Galloway and others, were on the wrong side, and the political parties in Parliament were so heated against each other that no argument from either could effect the other. And we frequently saw that even those who were against the war, were in many instances as wrong
as those who were for it.
In this state of things, it was rational to conclude that could a person, who knew the country and the people, and was acquainted with the affairs and politics of America, to convey himself secretly from this country to that, he might by a well timed and well composed publication, avoiding as much as possible all English parties, have gone a great way, at least in debilitating the rancorous spirit of the nation, and by removing their delusion have disposed them to peace. For the press, wherever it can be freely used, is an Engine, even in the affairs of government, whose force does not admit of calculation. And could the Enemy have gotten hold of our press, in the same manner we could have got hold of theirs in England their chance of conquest would have been far greater than it was.
I mentioned this design confidentially to then President of the State, General [Joseph] Reed, who scarcely knew what to say about it. He seemed to approve it but thought it both difficult and dangerous. But as I saw my own way exceedingly clear in it, and felt a rational consolation, and a self-approving humanity in attempting it, I presented a Petition to the House of Assembly for leave of absence for one year, discontinuing my salary from the time my absence should commence. And as it was necessary for my own safety sake, and for the success of the plan, that I should conceal the true reason of my absence, I assigned, instead thereof, that it was to collect and furnish myself with materials for a history of the revolution.
But the time of the House for that year, being on the point of expiring, the house thought they had no right to give leave in a manner that more properly belonged to the next. And the next house having several new Members, and somewhat variously composed, and many of them viewing my letter as a kind of withdrawing from the appointment, or giving preference to something else, and as I could enter into no explanation with them I found it most convenient to proceed no farther in the application. General Mifllin who was then a member of the House asked me some questions respecting my intention of continuing in the Clerkship of the House, and I saw they proceeded from motives, and were accompanied with offers of friendship, I confided my design fully to him, and resigned the office of Clerk.
I had saved as much money out of the pay I received as Clerk as would bear my expenses to Europe, which was all I wanted. Neither did I see any danger to myself but the being known or catched up in England before I could get out the publication I intended which I meant should appear anonymously as from a person who had made the Tour of America incog. And I am now more than ever persuaded, from the reception and success which my Letter to the Abbe Raynal has met with in England, and the new light which all their accounts acknowledge have been thrown on the affairs of America by that publication, that to have laid hold of the English presses at that time, in the manner I mention, would have been a serviceable and capital piece of policy, and what is still more, it would have been humanity.
The ship Franklin and the unfortunate ship Shelalah were getting ready for sea, and I intended a passage on the one or other of them. But on my mentioning the matter to General [Nathanael] Greene who was then at Philadelphia on his way to the Southward, he expressed some apprehensions on the case, and when he arrived at Annapolis he wrote-me the enclosed letter No. 2 strongly dissuading me from it. And the fate of Major Andre happening at the same time, I felt some apprehensions of becoming an object of retaliation should I have been discovered in England when my first landing, and therefore gave the intention up.
I was now once more in the world without the least dependence on it. But as I was of a turn of mind not very easily discouraged, and had sat down from the first with an expectation of difficulties, and a disposition as well as a determination to bear with every thing I might meet with, I felt the less under them.
Some short time before this I had published the Crisis Extraordinary, on the resources and revenues of America, a copy of which I enclose. My design in this publication was not only to show the necessity and advantage of going into a solid system of Taxes, but to make use of that Publication in England, as an opportunity of showing that America was in no danger from the want of resources.
I had likewise drawn up a private Letter marked No. 3 to a nobleman in France which I remember showing to a gentleman now in Congress, a considerable time before any proposition for sending Col. Laurens took place, and which is the letter referred to in General Greene's letter to me. The principles and politics in this Letter, as they will do me no discredit, they will likewise serve to show an unvaried and unabated application an attachment to the Cause of America even at a time she was acting so coldly and carelessly by me.
On the appointment of Col. Laurens to the Court of France, he expressed to me his wishes, that as he felt himself out of the Political line, that I would accompany him, and as it appeared to me a convenient opportunity to get out the Publication intended I accepted the proposition and went with him. He proposed, in order to make it worth my while, that I should act as Secretary to him; but the prejudiced interference of two or three Gentlemen then of Congress but now out, one of whom (who I am sure will never forgive me for publishing Common Sense and going a step beyond him in Literary reputation) went so far as to tell Col. Laurens, that he doubted my principles, for that I did not join in the Cause till it was late, made it best, in order to avoid contention, and guard against accidents, to change the plan of secretaryship, and for me to go only as a companion.
After the business of his Embassy was dispatched, which it was impossible any man could have executed with more address and alacrity than himself, and the affairs of America were put into a prosperous train, I told Col. Laurens that though I had every wish it was possible a man could feel for the success of the cause which America was engaged in, yet such had been the treatment I had received, and such the hardships and difficulties I had experienced year after year, that I had no heart to return back, and was resolved not to do it. That whatever service I had rendered her she was perfectly welcome to, and that as far as any abilities of mine could go, in any part of Europe, that I should invariably continue the advocate of her cause, and that it was likewise a decided opinion with me that, as matters then stood, I could render her more service, by justifying her cause and explaining and clearing up her affairs in Europe, where they appeared to be but darkly understood, than by any thing I could do in America. But that it appeared an Act of meanness to me, to return to a Country where I had experienced so much thankless treatment.
I mentioned these reasons in a letter from France to the Honble Mr. Izard, and I have no objections to that Gentleman's producing the letter if he has it yet by him.
But such was Col. Laurens's passionate attachment to me, and the more so when he saw my letter to Mr. Izard, that his importunities for my returning with him were pressing and excessive, and he carried them to such a height, that I felt I should not be very easy to myself do which I would; and as he would have had nobody with him on the passage if any misfortune had befallen him, I gave into his wishes and accompanied him back.
After our return we parted company on the road soon after we left
Providence, occasioned by the sulky I was in breaking down. We parted the money he had with him, of which I had six guineas, and he not much more, with which I had to bear my own expences and that of a servant he left with me and two horses, for three hundred miles, and I was obliged to borrow a dollar at Bordentown to pass the ferry with. Perhaps two such travellers as Col. Laurens and myself on such a national business is a novelty.
He left with me five guineas when he went from Philadelphia, out of which I was to buy some few things for him and follow on to the siege of York but this soon became impracticable from the want of means.
Of the many letters I received from him after this until the time of his death, I enclose one marked No. 4.1 enclose one, as it serves in general as a voucher for what I have said respecting my connection with him and the concord that subsisted between us, for it is certainly some reputation in a man to be esteemed most by those who know him best.
But notwithstanding the wishes and intentions of Col. Laurens I had again to experience a revival of every former difficulty.
I now felt myself worse off than ever. My intention of getting out a publication in Europe was prevented by my speedy return from that country. The money I had taken with me and which had been saved out of my salary as Clerk of the Assembly was expended. The design of Col. Laurens in placing me as Secretary had been frustrated, and the Clerkship of the House, which though of but little worth, was better than nothing, was in other hands; and I had the mortification of knowing that all this arose from an anxiety to serve in, and promote the cause of a country, whose circumstances were then rising into prosperity, and who, though she owed something of that prosperity to me appeared every day careless of whatever related to my personal interest.
From an unwillingness to upbraid, I was silent, and assumed an appearance of cheerfulness and contentment when I had nothing to make me so, but a consolation in my own integrity and a satisfaction in seeing the war was drawing towards a fortunate issue. Neither is it possible to discover any publication of mine during this situation, which continued several months the least tincture of discontent. I was determined to go on to the last, and when I could go no further, I intended to ask some merchant or Captain of a vessel to give me a passage to Holland, where I was sure of being safe, and could not be worse off. I could not be insensible that I had abilities that could be useful, but the inconvenient situation I stood in narrowed and cramped the exercise of them, and held me, whenever I reflected on it, in a state of disquietude. I had a mind disposed to public service, but above either asking or complaining. I was conscious that I had acted generously and honorably, and if that would not speak for itself I had no intention to speak for it.
This winter the Commander in Chief resided in Philadelphia, and I took an opportunity from an opening which his friendship afforded me to disclose my situation to him, for as I must have done it to somebody, or left the country in a state of circumstances which must have reflected dishonor either on her or me, I judged I could not do it better than to himself whose situation detached him from all political parties and bound him alike to all and to the whole.
From his friendship towards me and an opinion he had pleased to form of my past services and probable future usefulness, he became affectionately interested in the account I gave him, and concerted with a friend or two to make my continuance in America convenient to myself until a proper time might offer to do it more permanently.
As I had been formerly in the department for foreign affairs I was again distantly attached to it while under the management of Mr. Livingstone. But so far as related to any publications of mine, it was a condition between us that I should do as I saw best, and he confided totally and entirely that matter to me. In the instance of Capt. Huddy and Capt. Asgill he informed me of an opportunity he then had of sending to Europe and wished that I would state that unfortunate and distressing affair in its true light, so as to prevent mistakes taking place abroad or unjust reflection being cast on the temper or humanity of America, which I did, at least to the best of my power in a letter signed Common Sense, and addressed to Sir Guy Carleton, and which was published, I believe, in all the papers of America. I mention this as being the only instance in which he even pointed anything out to me, and this was entirely a National concern. Mr. Livingstone's resignation dissolved the matter between us, and left me in the former state as before, which has continued ever since.
The Abbe Raynal's account of the Revolution arriving here, his mistakes afforded me, in part, the opportunity I had wished for, of throwing out a Publication that should reach Europe, and by obtaining a general reading there, put the affairs of America and the revolution in the point of light in which they ought to be viewed. I printed my answer to him at my own expense, and made a present of one hundred copies to be sent to France, 50 of which I sent to Mr. Livingstone's office. I made the army a present of 50. I enclosed the Secretary of Congress an order on the printer for 156, being thirteen dozen, to be sent as occasion might offer to the several governments, but, from what reason I know not, they were not accepted. Upon the whole I gave away nearly five hundred, for all I aimed at on this side the water was to reimburse myself the expences of printing which was about one hundred pounds. In England the Booksellers cannot have made less by it than three hundred guineas, but with them it was business, with me it was an affection. The publication arriving in England just at the time the negotiation for peace was beginning, it could have no ill effect, and probably a good one, in promoting the issue.
The new arrangement of revenue proposed by Congress for carrying on the war, on the decline of the paper currency was, in the year eighty one, the principal hope of the enemy, and as I knew I had the ear of the continent, and I believe its good opinion, it was the most serviceable point I could employ myself in. The best argument that could be used either in Congress or in the Assemblies, were confined to the walls, and it is only by the press, the tongue of the world, that they can be brought before the Eyes and Ears of all men.
How far any publications of mine on this subject might be useful in other states, I am not so well acquainted with, but I have authority to speak on what happened in the State of Pennsylvania.
Upon the recommendation of Congress, and the quota of the State of eight millions of Dollars, a division took place in the House, and it was carried by only one vote, which was the speakers casting vote.
The Speaker, Mr. Muhlenburgh, mentioned this circumstance to me, and on the day on which it was to come on again I got out a Publication on the subject, and in the Evening, Mr. Muhlenburgh came to inform me of its effect, for that all opposition had ceased and the House which before had been equally divided had that day been unanimous.
I shall close this narrative with an account of my journey to Rhode Island last winter.
As no nation whose individuals are wealthy and their public revenues poor and inadequate to their defence, can be considered in a state of honorable safety either in war or peace. I undertook, at my own choice, and without the least intimation from any person whatever, and wholly and perfectly at my own expense (except the hire of a horse, which was lent me by Mr. Joshua Wallace of Rariton), a journey to the State of Rhode Island at the time the five per cent duty was in agitation. It was nearly indifferent to me whether I was there or here. My intentions were liberal, they were friendly, and what is equal to anything they were honest. I had been an exceedingly] welcome visitor at Providence in company with Col. Laurens when he returned from France with the money which the five per cent duty was, in part, intended to discharge, and the pleasure of repaying ought to be as great as that of receiving.
That the five per cent duty was darkly understood and worse represented was visible to me by the publications which were introduced into the Philadelphia newspapers, and as it was a matter, which, the less it was blazed about the world, the less would the reputation of America suffer, it was therefore, in me, a piece of prudence to make the debate as limited as possible by keeping it to the Rhode Island papers only, and for the same reason I avoided putting the signature of Common Sense.
But it is more than probable that misfortune will accomplish at last, what prudence and good policy could not at first; for when it becomes perceiveable that the Trade of America is run away with by foreigners, who are here today and gone tomorrow, the opposers of the measure will have other ideas; for there was an experience to be had in the matter which the times, and the state of Trade, did not then apply to, and which prejudice could not foresee.
I have now stated to the committee some of the principal matters which have employed my time and attention in America, and some of the difficulties they have been attended with. The war being now ended, and happily for America, that disposition which led me to partake of, and share in, the distresses and hardships of the Country is no longer necessary, and I should appear rather a whimsical than a rational man, to affect it when there is no occasion. For the sake of serving others in a Cause that was just and honorable, I have [been] severe to myself, and if Nature gave me any abilities that could be publicly useful, I have been as free in giving them away. But the duty I owe to myself requires me now to pay some attention to the means of living in the world. Scenes of war and tumult were as unnatural and opposite to me as they could possibly be to any man in America; and as the impulse which led me on and the constant agitation of mind, which in a great measure kept me from feeling, and all cases from regarding inconveniences, are calmed by the issue of the war, I may now, as the last in my own consideration, justly employ my thoughts to make my private situation consistent and agreeable. Party of every kind I have constantly avoided in everything that did not apply to the interest of all, and so national have I been, that the State I have lived in scarcely knows me as a citizen in anything but the Tax-book. Even the distinction of Whig and Tory are very rarely to be met with in any publications of mine; for as I considered myself as endeavoring to raise recruits in the Cause of freedom every one which could be gained to it was an addition to its strength and interest, and if I have any Enemies I am conscious of not having deserved them.
Having thus stated my own situation to the Committee, I beg leave to offer to them some observations on the proposed appointment of an Historiographer to the Continent.
That so extraordinary a Revolution should pass without care being taken to leave to posterity an authenticated History of it, would here- after call the literary character of the present America in question.
But the matters which unite themselves in this Revolution are so various and numerous, so complicated and extensive, so made up of public and private, and so connected in the beginning with the politics of England, and in its progress with those of almost every country in Europe, that to gain all the necessary information will be exceedingly difficult, and to select such parts as are important enough to be read forever, and omit the diminutives, will be a work of almost endless observation.
I observed that in writing Common Sense however easy it may appear now it is over, the necessity of knowing both countries was so material, that no person who had reflected only on one could have sufficiently succeeded in a proposition for their political separation: and though that pamphlet has much to say respecting England, it has never been attacked in that country on the score of error or mistake, which scarcely would have happened had the writer known only one side of the water. Something of the same knowledge was necessary in answering the Abbe Raynal because he treated of the involved matters of both countries. An English historian, supposing him ever so dispossessed of prejudice or partiality will unavoidably err when he comes to treat of America; and an American historian will be subject to the same inconvenience when he enters on English matters.
Perhaps there is no history that ever required to be more carefully guarded than that of the present Revolution. The nations now separated and opposed have both the same language and the same freedom of the press, and therefore the history ought to be such as England cannot deny, the means for her doing it being so easy.
To give the present Revolution its full foundation and extent in theworld, it seems necessary there should be three histories-one that should state fully all the leading principles, policy and facts of the revolution, so as not only to inform posterity but to confirm them in the true principles of freedom and civil government; a second, being rather an abstract of the first cast into easy and graceful language to be used as a standing school-book, and a third for Europe or the world. In this land all partiality to forms of government or defence of any one in preference to another should be omitted, and the facts of the revolution only attended to, with such reflections on them as may serve to promote the general good and peace of mankind without disturbing their modes of government. This last is the plan on which my answer to the Abbe Raynal is conducted. There is nothing respecting forms of government in it, for asI intended it for the purpose of setting forth the affairs and advocating the cause of America in Europe I was careful in attending to this point, and by so doing it became eligible to be translated into the European languages, and has already been printed in French at Paris.
So far as the committee of their own accord and opinion have thought me fit for the undertaking I present them my thanks. But the manner how any one is to be enabled to go through the work is a matter of nice consideration.
To leave the history of the Revolution to chance, to party, or partiality of any kind, or to be performed as a matter of profit, will subject the character of the present age to various and hazardous representations, and though it cannot be completed as it ought without the aid of, and a confidential communication with Congress, yet for Congress to reserve to themselves the least appearance of influence over an historian, by annexing thereto a yearly salary subject to their own control, will endanger the reputation of both of the historian and the history. And the experience I had in the affairs of Silas Deane while I was Secretary in the foreign department has taught me how uncertain dependence is.
Neither can a yearly salary answer the purpose. The expense of collecting materials and information from the different parts of America and abroad (for a man cannot do it effectually unless he does it personally), the time it will take to digest and arrange them and the charge of printing the work and engraving the plates necessary or ornamental to it will amount to several thousand pounds before any part could be reimbursed. And I must question whether the sale in America would in any moderate length of time defray the charge; the printing and paper only of my letter to the Abbe Raynal cost me a hundred pounds besides fifteen pounds more for folding and binding.
The cold conduct of America towards me for my past services has disabled me from rendering those I would now wish to do. It is a treatment that is killing to public spirit, and while it serves to hold the character of America as unfavorable to letters and literary studies it likewise serves to banish genius to other countries. The literature of America is now sunk into, and comprised in newspapers, and though I am the only one whose writings have reached Europe it will very probably be my lot to follow them.
From one who have been the friend and not the servant of America, the helper and not the receiver, and whose heart is naturally bound to her cause, and whose wishes are for her happiness and character, these plain declarations, though perhaps not pleasing, will I hope be favorably received. It is the only representation I ever intend to make, and it is fit that I should do it effectually.
It may very probably have [been] supposed even by Congress, that my situation during this long period of the war was rendered convenient, either by the state I lived in or by some other means. From the state of Pennsylvania I have never received the least grain of assistance or favor, except the office of Clerk of the Assembly, and the committee are already informed of my motive for resigning it. That state always beheld me in the light of a continental man, and it is probable the continent supposed me as belonging to the State, till between the two my situation has been what I described it.
But as I have gone thus far into my narrative and have seen the beginning and the end of the war, and have contributed in some degree, to erect a new empire in the world founded on better principles than those of the old, I have now no wish or inclination to seek another citizenship elsewhere or be recognized as a member of any other country or community than that which I have helped to raise. I am induced to venture, nice as the matter is to me, to express to the committee, and through them to Congress, the following suggestion. Neither does it arise from; any species of avarice because the part I acted, and the reputation which I cannot be insensible, I enjoy, both moral and literary, and of which this country cannot refuse her evidence, are, I presume, sufficient to make any liberal country in Europe a happier home to me, as a private individual, than America has been to me as a public one.
The committee have now before them my situation fully, and likewise some remarks on the proposition for appointing an Historiographer. They see that from a disposition to serve others, I neglected myself for years together. If, then, the part I have chosen and acted has been of any benefit to America, it remains unacknowledged; if it has not it requires none. Or if it is consistent with the honor and character of a country to receive favors from individuals she is fully welcome to what she has had from me.
But as to oblige and be obliged is fair and friendly, she has it in her choice, whether she will in return make my situation such, as I can with happiness to myself, and unconfined by dependence, remain in the rank of a citizen of America, or whether I must wish her well and say to her, Adieu.
If she chooses the first I wish it to have a retrospect to past services only, and not in the least combined with any particular service in prospect. My own disposition will of itself supply conditions and such the peculiar piety of literary service in public affairs, that conditions destroy both their spirit and effects.
If after this I undertake a history of the revolution it will be perfectly voluntary and with freedom to myself, and if Congress pleases to give me the appointment of Historiographer, as honorary, and without salary or conditions, it will facilitate the collection of materials and give the work the foundation of impartiality and clear it of all appearance or suspicion of influence.
I have now only to apologize to the committee for taking up so much of their time, and to request that the freedom of my observations may be received with the same good disposition with which they are given, and to subscribe myself to the committee-their much obliged, and obedient humble servant,