To General Lewis Morris February 16th, 1784

To General Lewis Morris February 16th, 1784



I have been at this place almost three weeks waiting for a change of weather to come on to N[ew] York. As no passengers travel by the way of Bordentown and South Amboy, the water communication being stopped by the ice, we hear very little news from your quarter except the distressing account of the want of fire-wood. Valentine is got safe to school again. He is the best politician I have seen from N[ew] York for the month past. All the information I have had has been from him, and as he very gravely accompanies his news with his opinion upon matters I learn quite as much from him as I should from, the general run of newspapers. Mr. Ellison is lately married, and Valentine tells me (Senator like) that “he very much approves Mr. Ellison’s choice/’ She has the reputation of a prudent careful woman and the school will be benefited as to the necessary attention to the children’s clothes and dress.

Some time ago I showed Col. G. Morgan at Princeton a letter I received from a gentleman at Salisbury in England. He deferred me to leave it with him to show to you, which I did. It stated pretty fully the disposition of people in the country parts of England to emigrate from that country to this, and, as far as I am a judge, opened some useful hints to those who have lands either public or private to settle. I have since received a duplicate which I intend to show to you in case you have not seen the original. I think it is on a subject which deserves attention, for it appears to me, as well from my own knowledge of England as from the writer’s account, that were plans of new settlements laid out with conditions annexed, it would not be difficult to procure emigrants with money in the hands to settle them.

Valentine tells me of new Societies at [New] York, some with and some without care. As I intend to visit you in a little time I hope you will give me chance of partaking of your new amusements. I have had my share of care and wish to get rid of some of it. But there is one kind of Society which for the sake of public as well as private advantage and reputation I wish to see promoted and patronized in your State, and that is, a Philosophical Society. Pennsylvania with scarcely anybody in it who knows anything of the matter, except Mr. Rittenhouse and one or two more, is drawing to herself laurels and honors she does not deserve. The Philosophical Society established in Philadelphia is plausibly styled the “American Philosophical Society,” and though there has not been a single experiment or improvement made by the Society for several years before the war nor since, yet the name of the thing has drawn to her the notice of the European Philosophical Societies and served to make Philadelphia appear in the world as the only seat of science in America, whereas it is as little, if not the least so of any in the Union, and owes all its reputation in that line to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Rittenhouse.

An attention to matters of this kind are attended with many advantages. The countries the most famous and the most respected of antiquity are those which distinguished themselves by promoting and patronizing science, and on the contrary those which neglected or discouraged it are universally denominated rude and barbarous. The patronage which Britain has shown to Arts, Science and Literature has given her a better established and lasting rank in the world than she ever acquired by her arms. And Russia is a modern instance of the effect which the encouragement of those things produces both as to the internal improvement of a country and the character it raises abroad. The reign of Louis the fourteenth is more distinguished by being the Era of science and literature in France than by any other circumstance of those days.

But in the present state of things in America, and especially in New York, where the enemy has lately left, and minds of people are discomposed, it would be exceeding good policy to draw their attention to objects of public and agreeable utility, and to introduce as many subjects of easy and popular conversation as possible. And therefore a Philosophical Society as one of the means to this end would be a useful institution. The more the mind of the country can be taken off from party the quieter the seat of government will be; for it is impossible for a less party to govern a greater for any considerable length of time unless it can find out means to keep the latter in moderate temper, because if reason and good management do not prevail on the governing side, the numbers in opposition will, in the end, prevail against it. The hot-headed whigs of Pennsylvania, many of whom had very little merit to boast of, effectually worked themselves out by attempting too high a hand. Instead of increasing their strength by rendering themselves respectable, they endeavored to monopolize the government in order to be formidable, till at last they lost what they had. It is the misfortune of some whigs, as well those who have merit as those who have none (for there are whigs of all degrees) to expect more than can or ought to be done and which if attempted will probably undo the government and place it in other hands.

You see I write to you on any subject that comes across my thoughts. I am shut up here by the frost and if my letter is tedious attribute it to my want of amusement. The disagreeable party condition of Pennsylvania has given me a dislike to it. It is a place neither of science nor society and the most country retreat is to me preferable to Philadelphia. As I have yet my place of citizenship to fix, I had much rather it were in the State of New York than Pennsylvania, and if it can be ordered so, I should like to have a residence amongst you in preference to any place I have yet been in America. But of this I will converse more freely when I have the pleasure of seeing you and the rest of my N[ew] York friends, to whom please to present my best wishes. Remember me to Mrs. Morris and family.

I am Dear Sir, Your humble Servant,


Valentine and Master Sears are well. Your old friend Button sends as many compliments as can be expected from a horse.