Monthly Archives: June 2006

Item of the Day: The Foresters, an American Tale (1834)

Full Title: The Foresters, an American Tale: Being a Sequal to the History of John Bull the Clothier in a Series of Letters to a Friend. Exeter: Ulman & Jefferds, 1834.

[Continued from Letter II. of Belknap’s The Foresters—Peregrine’s soliloquy]

“So much for traveling! Abused by Bull, cheated by Frog, what am I at last come to? Here I am alone, no creature but bears, and wolves, and such vermin around me! Nothing in the shape of an human being that I know of, nearer than Pipeweed’s* plantation, and with him I cannot agree; he is so devoted to old Dame Bull that he and I cannot live together any more than I could with the old woman. But, why should I despair? That is unmanly; there is at least a possibility of my living here, and if I am disappointed in my worldly prospects, it is but right, for I professed not to have any. My wish was to have my own way without disturbance or contradiction, and surely I can here enjoy my liberty. I have nobody here to curse me, or kick me, or cheat me. If I have only clams to eat, I can cook them my own way, and say as long a grace over them as I please. I can sit or stand, or kneel, or use any other posture at my devotions, without any cross old woman to growl at me, or any hectoring bully to cuff me for it. So that if I have lost in one way I have gained in another. I had better therefore reconcile myself to my situation, and make the best of a bad market. But company is good! apropos! I will write to some of my fellow-apprentices; I know they were as discontented as myself in old Bull’s family, though they did not care to speak their minds as plainly as I did. I’ll tell them how much happiness I enjoy here in my solitude. I’ll point out to them the charms of liberty, and coax them to follow me into the wilderness; and by and by, when we get all together, we shall make a brave hand of it.” Full of this resolution, he sat down on a wind-fallen tree, and pulling out his inkhorn and paper, wrote a letter to John Codline, Humphrey Ploughshare, and Roger Carrier, three of his fellow-apprentices, informing them of the extreme happiness he enjoyed in having liberty to eat his scanty meals in his own way, and to lay his swelled ankles and stiff knee in whatever posture was most easy to him; conjuring them by their former friendship, to come to join him in carrying on the good work so happily begun, &c. &c. As soon as he had finished the letter, (which had deeply engaged his attention) a huntsman happened to come along in quest of game. This was a lucky circumstance indeed, for Peregrine had not once thought of a conveyance for his letter; it proved also favourable to him in another view, for the huntsman, taking pity on his forlorn situation, spared him some powder and shot, and a few biscuit which he happened to have in his pocket so taking charge of the letter, he delivered it as it was directed. . . .

*Sir Walter Raleigh.


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Filed under 1830's, Fiction, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The Foresters, an American Tale (1834)

Full Title: The Foresters, an American Tale: Being a Sequal to the History of John Bull the Clothier in a Series of Letters to a Friend. Exeter: Ulman & Jefferds, 1834.

[Jeremy Belknap was a clergyman, historian, author, essayist, opponent of the African slave trade, member of the American Philosophical Society, founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society and overseer of Harvard College. Although probably best know for his History of New Hampshire and American Biographies, he also wrote The Foresters, An American Tale—a satirical fiction first published in 1792. The narrative was written as a series of letters, the subject of which is the settling, development and growth of the British colonies in America. Below is an excerpt from the 1834 edition of that work.]


Sickness and Delirium of Mr. Bull’s Mother. –Adventures of Perigrine Pickle. –John Codline. –Humphry Ploughshare. –Roger Carrier, and Theophilus Wheat-ear.

DEAR SIR,About the time in which these first attempts were making, and the same of them had raised much jealousy among some, and much expectation among others, there happened a sad quarrel in John Bull’s family. His mother,* poor woman, had been seized by hysteric fits, which caused her at times to be delirious and full of all sorts of whims. She had taken it into her head that every one of the family must hold a knife and a fork and spoon exactly alike; that they must all wash their hands and face precisely in the same manner; that they must sit, stand, walk, kneel, bow, spit, blow their noses, and perform every other animal function by the exact rule of uniformity which she had drawn up with her own hand, and from which they were not allowed to vary one hair’s breadth. If any one of the family complained of a lame ancle [sic] or a stiff knee, or had the crick in his neck, or happened to cut his finer, or was any other way so disabled as not to perform his duty to a tittle, she was so far from making the least allowance, that she would frown, scold and rave like a bedlamite; and John was such an obedient son to his mother, that he would lend her his hand to box their ears, or his foot to kick their backsides, for not complying with her humours. This way of proceeding raised an uproar in the family; for though most of them complied, either through affection for the old lady, or through fear, or some other motive, yet others looked sour, and grumbled; some would openly find fault and attempt to remonstrate, but they were answered with a kick or a thump, or a cato’-nine tails or shut up in a dark garret ‘till they promised a compliance. Such was the logic of the family in those days!

Among the number of the disaffected, was Peregrine Pickle, ** a pretty clever sort of fellow about his business, but a great lover of sour crout [sic], and of an humour that would not bear contradiction. However, as he knew it would be fruitless to enter into a downright quarrel, and yet could not live there in peace; he had so much prudence as to quit the house, which he did by getting out of the window in the night. Not liking to be out of employ, he went to the house of Nic Frog,+ his master’s old friend and rival, told him the story of his sufferings, and got leave to employ himself in one of his workshops till the storm should be over. After he had been here a while, he thought Nick’s family were so much too loose in their manners as Bull’s were too strict; and having heard a rumour of the Forest, to which Nick had some kind of claim, he packed up his little all, and hired one of Nick’s servants who had been there a hunting, to pilot him to that part of the Forest to which Nick laid claim. But Frog had laid an anchor to windward of him; for as Pickle had said nothing to him about a lease, he supposed that when Peregrine had got into the Forest he would take a lease of his old master Bull, which would strengthen his title, and weaken his own; he therefore bribed the pilot to shew Peregrine to a barren part of the forest, instead of that fertile place ++ to which he had already sent his surveyors, and of which he was contriving to get possession. Accordingly the pilot having conducted Pickle to a sandy point which runs into the lake, +++ it being the dusk of the evening,++++ bade him good night, and walked off. Peregrine, who was fatigued with his march, laid down and went to sleep, but waking in the morning, saw himself alone in a very dreary situation, where he could get nothing to live upon but clams, and a few acorns which the squirrels had left. In this piteous plight, the poor fellow folded his arms, and walking along the sandy beach, fell into such a soliloquy as this . . .

*The Church of England.
**The Plymouth Adventures.
+The States of Holland.
++Hudson’s River.
+++Cape Cod.
++++The month of December.

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Filed under 1830's, Fiction, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Discourse, Delivered at the Consecration of the Synagogue in the City of New York (1818)

Full Title: Delivered at the Consecration of the Synagogue in the City of New York, on Friday, the 10th of Nisan, 5578, corresponding with the 17th of April, 1818. By Mordecai M. Noah. New-York: Printed by C.S. Van Winkle, 1818.

[One of the early American republic’s most influential Jews, Mordecai M. Noah was a journalist, editor of New York newspapers the National Advocate, publisher of the New York Enquirer, and a community activist. He held the position of United States Consul to Tunis in 1816, was the sheriff of New York in 1821, the Surveyor of the Port from 1829-1833, and a judge of the Court of General Sessions in 1841. He is perhaps most remembered as the originator of the failed Ararat Project on Grand Island near Niagara Falls in 1825—a proposed utopian city of refuge for persecuted European Jews. The following is an excerpt of an address delivered by Noah in New York at the consecration of the new synagogue. The address, printed as a pamphlet and later appearing in his Travels in England, France, Spain, and the Barbary States, received written responses from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison.]

DISCOURSE, &c.Children of Israel,

After eighteen centuries of oppression, of sufferings, and of unwearied persecution—after having been driven from the land of our fathers, and scattered to the most remote parts of the globe, it has pleased Almighty God, whose unity and omnipotence we have never ceased to acknowledge and defend, to direct a portion of his chosen people to this land of toleration and liberal principles, where, in peace and tranquility, contending with no obstacles, and enjoying the blessings of light and liberty, we have been permitted to erect this place of worship to his honour and holy name, which we now dedicate to his service—and invoke his protection and blessings on the children of his choice. On this occasion, I would ask you to accompany me to the early periods of our nation, and to follow in the rapid glance I shall take of their origin, character, religion, and sufferings. Born, as many of us here have been, in the most enlightened times, and enjoying, from our infancy, rights and privileges which many of our unfortunate ancestors never knew, we are but partially acquainted with their struggles and sufferings, and are not fully prepared to estimate the virtue of their sacrifices.

Eighteen hundred years have passed without shedding a ray of happiness upon the Jews. Assailed in the early periods of our history by the Assyrians, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans, by each successively harassed, oppressed, and proscribed, our armies were destroyed, the scepter of Israel was broken, and the people chosen by the Almighty to establish his unity and omnipotence, were dispersed throughout the world, Overwhelmed wit contumely; driven from their inheritance; with sufferings most acute, and privations the most painful, they intrepidly maintained the Majesty of their God, when every effort was made to sap their resolution and destroy their firmness. Since the time of Vespasian our history has been traced in blood. Eleven hundred thousand were massacred at the siege of Jerusalem; millions perished during the reign of Adrian, and in combating on the plains of Palestine for their rights as a nation. It would seem that the sword of desolation was never to return to the scabbard. They persisted in the supremacy of their religion over the idolatry and infidelity to the times—they remained firm—and they perished. The world regarded their efforts with wonder and astonishment. Their resistance was termed obstinacy—their struggles rebellion. It was neither: It was the resistance which every nation is bound to make against foreign invaders; it was a natural and proper defence [sic] of their just and unalienable rights. The lapse of ages prove it so. Reason and truth have triumphed. The persecutors of the Jews have ceased to exist. Rome and Greece are no more; we yet live—are more numerous than at the period of our dispersion; and while nations have arisen and departed—while religions have multiplied and confounded each other by schisms and dissentions, we yet preserve our faith, the simple religion of nature, unimpaired by the corroding hand of time. . . .

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Filed under 1810's, New York, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

Item of the Day: The Green Box (1779)

Full Title: The Green Box of Monsieur de Sartine, found at Mademoiselle du The’s Lodgings. From the French of the Hague Edition. Revised and corrected by those of Leipsic and Amsterdam. London: Sold by a. Becket and R. Faulder, 1779.

[The English edition of Tickell’s La Cassette Verte, a political satire on the American Revolution and the Franco-American alliance.]

ADVERTISMENTMinisters in all countries are very cautious, and very careless—In France as well as England, they lock up letters and state papers in Green boxes, but sometimes these boxes are not well taken care of—It was to this caution, and this carelessness, that I am indebted for the discovery of Monsieur De Sartine’s politics. For, about six weeks since, a brother Jacobin and myself, in our morning rounds, called at Mademoiselle Du The’s. Madamoiselle’s [sic] femme de chamber, a little arch brunette, whose eyes seemed to require absolution, having opened the door, engaged the attention of my companion; so that without any enquiries from the maid, I slipped up stairs, to be of equal service to the mistress. The toilet door being open, I walked in, in hopes of finding her there, but I soon saw my mistake; for upon one of the sophas [sic] I discovered a chapeau de bras and sword; which exciting my curiosity, I examined the room more closely, and, behind the veil of the glass, to my great delight, I perceived a Green box. In short, Monsieur De Sartine, who had come late from his Majesty, was at that moment in Madamoiselle [sic] Du The’s arms, while his Green box was in mine, and I leave you to think which of the two was the best pleased. I immediately snatched up this treasure of secrecy, and, hiding it under my gown, without disturbing my brother, who was occupied in devotion, I hastened home to study politics. I own, at first I had some scruples about opening the box, but I reflected how much it was the duty of my profession to discover all secrets; and I argued, that if it was profane even in kings to conceal their thoughts from their confessors, a minister who locked up his secrets must be an enemy to religion, and, if not himself, certainly his Green box should be put to the question. –But why reveal these secrets? It’s fair to discover, but not to disclose them. –To this I answer, that the papers themselves must be my defence [sic]—Possibly, some critics may at first be inclined to compare Sartine’s box to Pandora’s, and the editor to a second Epimetheus; but they will soon do me the justice to make some distinction between us. It was not till after he had opened his box that war and discord broke forth; but all the mischief was done in France, long before I opened M. Sartine’s. The fable says, Hope alone rested at the bottom: an allegory, very flattering to the Editor of the Green box.—In short, if these papers shew how little reason we have to depend on the French ministry, or the English opposition, I shall trust to the judgment of every friend of France to approve or condemn this publication.—O you, my countrymen, whom I love, and who ought to love me for flying my country for your sake,* will you not at last think and act like Frenchmen in true spirit?

*As soon as the Editor had determined to publish these papers, he thought it adviseable [sic] to retire to Holland.—The Bastille has never been a friend to the Liberty of the Press.

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Filed under 1770's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution

Item of the Day: La Cassette Verte (1779)

Full Title: Cassette Verte de Monsieur de Sartine, trouvée chez Mademoiselle du The. Cinqième Edition revue & corrigée sur celles de Leipsic & d’Amersterdam. A la Haye: Chez la Veuve Whiskerfeld, in de Platte Borze by de Vrygagmerkt, 1779.

[Attributed to Richard Tickell, this anonymously published political satire purported to be an exposé. It tells the tale of a French diplomat who, during a visit to Madame du The, leaves his box of confidential papers in an anteroom, where they are purloined by the author of this pamphlet. La Cassette Verte was simultaneously published in English as The Green Box. Included in the French edition is a spurious letter from Benjamin Franklin, written in English.]

A Monsieur de SartineFeb. 28th.

Dear Sartine,

I cannot contain my rage till my Secretary comes home, or trust my resentment to the tameness of translation. –I, the Ambassador of Plenipotentiary of the United Free States of America, have lived to see the day, when I must endure the contempt of the wretched envoys of every paltry principality. –In short, all the ambassadors refuse to rank with me. –Doria Pamphili, the Pope’s Nuncio, calls me Quaker—Count D’Aranda says his Catholic Majesty loves South America too well, to encourage rebel colonies—Chevalier Zeno says the Venetians hate any thing but a nominal Republic.—Monsieur L’Estevenon de Berkenroode, tell me his States quarreled for religion, not taxes – Prince Briantinski loves the English, and his mistress the Empress of Russia, desires him to insult me.—Baron Goltz refers to me as Mr. Sayre.—All this I could bear – but to see Count Sickingen, Baron Grimm, Baron Thun, and Monsieur Wolff give themselves airs, drives me to madness.—In short, sir, I am insulted in all the languages of Europe. –My religion is satirized in Italian—my politics in Spanish and Dutch—I hear Washington ridiculed in Russian, and myself in all the jargon of Germany—I cannot bear it. –Make Europe civil to America, or I’ll follow Silas Deane,



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Filed under 1770's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution

Item of the Day: Lunardi’s Account of the First Aerial Voyage in England (1784)

Full Title: Account of the First Aerial Voyage in England, in a Series of Letters to his Guardian, Chevalier Gherdo Compagni, written under the Impressions of the Various Events that affected the Undertaking. By Vincent Lunardi, Esq. London: Printed for the Author, 1784.

[In London with the Neapolitan Ambassador to the English court, the eighteenth-century “astronaut” Vincent Lunardi made the first ascent in England by hydrogen balloon on September 15, 1784. The twenty-two year old Lunardi, along with by his dog, cat and a pigeon, took flight from the Honourable Artillery Company’s Grounds at Moorfield. He landed at North Mimms in Hertfordshire to release his apparently frightened cat, and then took off again and touched down for a second time at Stondon in Hertfordshire. In this work published in 1784, the young balloonist chronicles, in a series of letters, his experience and impressions of this twenty-four mile flight.]

At five minutes after two, the last gun was fired, the cords divided, and the Balloon rose, the company returning my signals of adieu with the most unfeigned acclamations and applauses. The effect was, that of a miracle, on the multitudes of which surrounded the place; and they passed with incredulity and menace, into the most extravagant expressions of approbation and joy.At the height of twenty yards, the Balloon was a little depressed by the wind, which had a fine effect; it held me over the ground for a few seconds, and seemed to pause majestically before its departure.

On discharging a part of the ballast, it ascended to the height of two hundred yards. As a multitude lay before me of a hundred and fifty thousand people, who had not seen my ascent from the ground, I had recourse to every stratagem to let them know I was in the gallery, and they literally rent the air with their acclamations and applause. In these stratagems I devoted my flag, worked my oars, one of which was immediately broken, and fell from me. A pidgeon [sic] too escaped, which with a dog, and a cat, were the only companions of my excursion.

When the thermometer had fallen from 68° to 61° I perceived a great difference in the temperature of the air. I became very cold, and found it necessary to take a few glasses of wine. I likewise eat the leg of a chicken, but my bread and other provisions had been rendered useless, by being mixed with the sand, which I carried as ballast.

When the thermometer was at fifty, the effect of the atmosphere, and the combination of circumstances around, produced a calm delight, which is inexpressible, and which no situation on earth could give. The stillness, extent, and magnificence of the scene, rendered it highly awful. My horizon seemed a perfect circle; the terminating line several hundred miles in circumference. This I conjectured from the view of London; the extreme points of which, formed an angle of only a few degrees. It was so reduced on the great scale before me, that I can find no simile to convey an idea of it. I could distinguish Saint Paul’s, and other churches, from the houses. I saw the streets as lines, all animated with beings, whom I knew to be men and women, but which I should otherwise have had a difficulty in describing. It was an enormous beehive, but the industry was suspended. All the moving mass seemed to have no object but myself, and the transition from suspicion, and perhaps contempt of the preceding hour, to the affectionate transport, admiration and glory of the present moment, was not without its effect on my mind. I recollected puns* on my name, and was glad to find myself calm. I had soared from the apprehensions and anxieties of the Artillery Ground, and felt as if I had left behind me all the cares and passions that molest mankind. . . .

*In some of the papers, witticisms appeared on the affinity of Lunatic & Lunardi.

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Filed under 1780's, Natural Science, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel

Item of the Day: The Federalist: Addressed to the People of the State of New-York — Number 85 (1788)

Full Title: The Federalist: a Collection of Essays Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. Vol. II. New-York: Printed and sold by J. and A. Mclean, 1788.

[Number 85, the final Federalist essay, contains Alexander Hamilton’s concluding remarks regarding the proposed Constitution. First published on August 13 and August 16, 1788 in the Independent Journal, the text that follows is taken from the 1788 Mclean’s edition.]

Number LXXXV. Conclusion.

ACCORDING to the formal division of the subject of these papers, announced in my first number, there would appear still to remain for discussion two points, “the analogy of the proposed government to your own state constitution,” and “the additional security, which its adoption will afford to republican government, to liberty, and to property.” But these heads have been so fully anticipated and exhausted in the progress of the work, that it would now scarcely be possible to do any thing more than repeat, in a more dilated form, what has been heretofore said; which the advanced stage of the question, and the time already spent upon it conspire to forbid.

It is remarkable, that the resemblance of the plan of the convention to the act which organizes the government of this state holds, not less with regard to many of the supposed defects, than to the real excellences of the former. Among the pretended defects, are the re-eligibility of the executive, the want of a council, the omission of a formal bill of rights, the omission of a provision respecting the liberty of the press: These and several others, which have been noted in the course of our inquiries, are as much chargeable on the existing constitution of this state, as on the one proposed for the Union: And a man must have slender pretensions to consistency, who can rail at the latter for imperfections which he finds no difficulty in excusing in the former. Nor indeed can there be a better proof of the insincerity and affectation of some of the zealous adversaries of the plan of the convention among us, who profess to be the devoted admirers of the government under which they live, than the fury with which they have attacked that plan, for matters in regard to which our own constitution is equally, or perhaps more vulnerable.

The additional securities to republican government, to liberty and to property, to be derived from the adoption of the plan under consideration, consist chiefly in the restraints which the preservation of the union will impose on local factions and insurrections, and on the ambition of powerful individuals in single states, who may acquire credit and influence enough, from leaders and favorites, to become the despots of the people; in the diminution of the opportunities to foreign intrigue, which the dissolution of the confederacy would invite and facilitate; in the prevention of extensive military establishments, which could not fail to grow out of wars between the states in a disunited situation; in the express guaranty of a republican form of government to each; in the absolute and universal exclusion of titles of nobility; and in the precautions against the repetition of those practices on the part of the state governments, which have undermined the foundations of property and credit, have planted mutual distrust in the breasts of all classes of citizens, and have occasioned an almost universal prostration of morals.

Thus have I, my fellow citizens, executed the task I had assigned to myself; with what success, your conduct must determine. I trust at least you will admit, that I have not failed in the assurance I gave you respecting the spirit with which my endeavors should be conducted. I have addressed myself purely to your judgments, and have studiously avoided those asperities which are too apt to disgrace political disputants of all parties, and which have been not a little provoked by the language and conduct of the opponents of the constitution. The charge of a conspiracy against the liberties of the people, which has been indiscriminately brought against the advocates of the plan, has something in it too wanton and too malignant, not to excite the indignation of every man who feels in his own bosom a refutation of the calumny. The perpetual changes which have been rung upon the wealthy, the well-born, and the great, have been such as to inspire the disgust of all sensible men. And the unwarrantable concealments and misrepresentations which have been in various ways practiced to keep the truth from the public eye, have been of a nature to demand the reprobation of all honest men. It is not impossible that these circumstances may have occasionally betrayed me into intemperances [sic] of expression which I did not intend: It is certain that I have frequently felt a struggle between sensibility and moderation, and if the former has in some instances prevailed, it must be my excuse that it has been neither often nor much. . . .

The zeal for attempts to amend, prior to the establishment of the constitution, must abate in every man, who, is ready to accede to the truth of the following observations of a writer, equally solid and ingenious:—“To balance a large state or society (says he), whether monarchical or republican, on general laws, is a work of so great difficulty, that no human genius, however comprehensive, is able by the mere dint of reason and reflection, to effect it. The judgments of many must unite in the work: EXPERIENCE must guide their labour: TIME must bring it to perfection: And the feeling of inconveniences must correct the mistakes which they inevitably fall into, in their first trials and experiments.”* These judicious reflections contain a lesson of moderation to all the sincere lovers of the union, and ought to put them upon their guard against hazarding anarchy, civil war, a perpetual alienation of the states from each other, and perhaps the military despotism of a victorious demagogue, in the pursuit of what they are not likely to obtain, but from TIME and EXPERIENCE. It may be in me a defect of political fortitude, but I acknowledge that I cannot entertain an equal tranquillity [sic] with those who affect to treat the dangers of a longer continuance in our present situation as imaginary. A NATION without a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, is, in my view, an awful spectacle. The establishment of a constitution, in time of profound peace, by the voluntary consent of a whole people, is a PRODIGY, to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety. I can reconcile it to no rules of prudence to let go the hold we now have, in so arduous an enterprise, upon seven out of the thirteen states, and after having passed over so considerable a part of the ground to recommence the course. I dread the more the consequences of new attempts, because I KNOW that POWERFUL INDIVIDUALS, in this and in other States, are enemies to a general national government in every possible shape.

PUBLIUS*Hume’s Essays, vol. I, page 128.—The rise of arts and sciences.

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Item of the Day: The Federalist: Addressed to the People of the State of New-York — Number 64 (1788)

Full Title: The Federalist: a Collection of Essays Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. Vol. II. New-York: Printed and sold by J. and A. Mclean, 1788.

[First published on March 5, 1788, Number 64 was the last of the John Jay’s five Federalist articles. In it, Publius discusses the power of the Senate in making treaties under the new Constitution. This excerpt is taken from the 1788 Mclean edition of Volume II. without spelling or grammatical corrections.]

Number LXIV. A further View of the Constitution of the Senate, in regard to the Power of making Treaties.

It is a just and not a new observation, that enemies to particular person, and opponents to particular measures, seldom confine their censures to such things only in either, as are worthy of blame. Unless on this principle, it is difficult to explain the motives of their conduct, who condemn the proposed constitution in the aggregate, and treat with severity some of the most unexceptionable articles in it. . . .

However useful jealousy may be in republics, yet when, like bile in the natural, it abounds too much in the body politic; the eyes of both become very liable to be deceived by the delusive appearances which that malady casts on surrounding objects. From this cause probably proceed the fears and apprehensions of some, that the president and senate may make treaties without an equal eye to the interests of all the states. Others suspect that two- thirds will oppress the remaining third, and ask whether those gentlemen are made sufficiently responsible for their conduct—whether if they act corruptly they can be punished; and if they make disadvantageous treaties, how are we to get rid of those treaties?

As all the states are equally represented in the senate, and by men the most able and the most willing to promote the interests of their constituents, they will all have an equal degree of influence in that body, especially while they continue to be careful in appointing proper persons, and to insist on their punctual attendance. In proportion as the United States assume a national form, and a national character, so will the good of the whole be more and more an object of attention; and the government must be a weak one indeed, if it should forget that the good of the whole can only be promoted by advancing the good of each of the parts or members which compose the whole. It will not be in the power of the president and senate to make any treaties, by which they and their families and estates will not be equally bound and affected with the rest of the community; and, having no private interests distinct from that of the nation, they will be under no temptations to neglect the latter.
As to corruption, the case is not supposeable [sic]. He must either have been very unfortunate in his intercourse with the world, or possess a heart very susceptible of such impressions, who can think it probable that the president and two thirds of the senate will ever be capable of such unworthy conduct. The idea is too gross and too invidious to be entertained. But in such a case, if it should ever happen, the treaty so obtained from us would, like all other fraudulent contracts, be null and void by the law of nations.

With respect to their responsibility, it is difficult to conceive how it could be encreased [sic]. Every consideration that can influence the human mind, such as honor, oaths, reputations, conscience, the love of country, and family affections and attachments, afford security for their fidelity. In short, as the constitution has taken the utmost care that they shall be men of talents and integrity, we have reason to be persuaded that the treaties they make will be as advantageous as all circumstances considered, could be made; and so far as the fear of punishment and disgrace can operate, that motive to good behavior is amply afforded by the article on the subject of impeachments.


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Filed under 1780's, Journal, Legal, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The Federalist: Addressed to the People of the State of New-York -–Number 51 (1788)

Full Title: The Federalist: a Collection of Essays Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. Vol. II. New-York: Printed and sold by J. and A. Mclean, 1788.

[From October 27, 1787 through August 16, 1788 a series of articles, commonly known as the Federalist Papers, appeared in New York newspapers to rally support for the ratification of the Constitution. This controversial new plan of government, drafted in secrecy, was made public on September 17, 1787 when it was sent to the states for ratification. The articles were later published in newspapers in other states and then bound, thanks to the efforts of Alexander Hamilton, as a two volumes called The Federalist. These essays were the brain child of Hamilton who recruited James Madison and John Jay as anonymous collaborators in his effort to both explain the Constitution and to rally the support of New Yorkers for its ratification. It is generally agreed fifty-two of the essays were written by Hamilton, twenty-eight by Madison and five by Jay. Written under the pseudonym “Publius,”—called “the nation’s first significant fictional character” by Robert A. Ferguson —the eighty-five essays had a significant impact on the vote in New York, which was one of the last states to ratify the Constitution by the narrow margin of 30 to 27 votes. The power of persuasion of the written word and its use in the politics of the eighteenth century cannot be underestimated, especially during the era of the American revolution and in the formation of the new republic. The following text is an excerpt from essay Number LI, by James Madison as it appeared in the 1788 Mclean bound edition.]

Number LI. The same Subject continued with the same View, and concluded.To what expedient then shall we finally resort for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the effect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government, as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places. Without presuming to undertake a full developement [sic] of this important idea, I will hazard a few general observations, which may perhaps place it in a clearer light, and enable us to forma more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the convention.

In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent, is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others. Were this principle rigorously adhered to, it would require that all the appointments for magistrates should be drawn from the same fountain of authority, the people, through channels, having no communication whatever with one another. Perhaps such a plan of constructing the several departments would be less difficult in practice than it may in contemplation appear. Some difficulties however, and some additional expence [sic], would attend the execution of it. Some deviations therefore from the principle must be admitted. In the constitution of the judiciary department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist rigorously on the principle; first, because peculiar qualifications being essential in the members, the primary consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice, which best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the authority conferring them.

It is equally evident that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices. Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other, would be merely nominal.

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defence [sic] must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of al reflections on human nature: If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angles were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

. . . Publius

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Filed under 1780's, Journal, Legal, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Mrs. Grant’s Description of the Breaking up of the Ice on Hudson’s River (1809)

Full Title: Memoirs of an American lady: with sketches of manners and scenery in America, as they existed previous to the revolution. New-York: Printed for Samuel Campbell by D. and G. Bruce, 1809.

[From Chapter LXI, Mrs. Grant’s wonderful and nostalgic “Description of the Breaking up of the Ice on Hudson’s River”]

Soon after this I witnessed, for the last time, the sublime spectacle of the ice breaking up on the river; an object that fills and elevates the mind with ideas of power, and grandeur, and, indeed, magnificence; before which all the triumphs of human art sink into contemptuous insignificance. This noble object of animated greatness, for such it seemed, I never missed: its approach being announced, like a loud and long peal of thunder, the whole population of Albany were down at the river side in a moment; and if it happened, as was often the case, in the morning, there could not be a more grotesque assemblage. No one who had a nightcap on waited to put it off; as for waiting for one’s cloak, or gloves, it was a thing out of the question; you caught the thing next you, that could wrap round you, and run. In the way you saw every door left open, and pails, baskets, &c without number, set down in the street. It was a perfect saturnalia. People never dreamt of being obeyed by their slaves, till the ice was past. The houses were left quite empty; the meanest slave, the youngest child, all were to be found on the shore. Such as could walk, ran; and they that could not, were carried by those whose duty it would have been to stay and attend them. When arrived at the show place, unlike the audience collected to witness any spectacle of human invention, the multitude with their eyes all bent one way, stood immovable, and silent as death, till the tumult ceased, and the mighty commotion was passed by; then every one tried to give vent to the vast conceptions with which his mind had been distended. Every child, and every negro, was sure to say, “Is not this like the day of judgment?” and what they said every one else thought. Now to describe this is impossible; but I mean to account, in some degree, for it. The ice, which had been all winter very thick, instead of diminishing, as might be expected in spring, still increased, as the sun-shine came, and the days lengthened. Much snow fell in February: which, melted by the heat of the sun, was stagnant, for a day, on the surface of the ice; and then by the night frosts, which were still severe, was added, as a new accession to the thickness of it, above the former surface. This was so often repeated, that in some years the ice gained two feet in thickness, after the heat of the sun became such, as one would have expected should have entirely dissolved it. So conscious were the natives of the safety this accumulation of ice afforded, that the sledges continued to drive on the ice, when the trees were budding, and every thing looked like spring; nay, when there was so much melted on the surface that the horses were knee deep in water, while traveling on it; and portentous cracks, on every side, announced the approaching rupture. This could scarce have been produced by the mere influence of the sun, till midsummer. It was the swelling of the waters under the ice, increased by rivulets, enlarged by melted snows, that produced this catastrophe; for such the awful concussion made it appear. The prelude to the general bursting of this mighty mass, was a fracture, lengthways, in the middle of the stream, produced by the effort of the imprisoned waters, now increased too much to be contained within their wonted bounds. Conceive a solid mass, from six to eight feet thick, bursting for many miles in one continued rupture, produced by a force inconceivably great, and, in a manner, inexpressibly sudden. Thunder is no adequate image of this awful explosion, which roused all the sleepers, within reach of the sound, as completely as the final convulsion of nature, and the solemn peal of the awakening trumpet, might be supposed to do. The stream in summer was confined by a pebbly strand, overhung with high and steep banks, crowned with lofty trees, which were considered as a sacred barrier against the encroachments of this annual visitation. Never dryads dwelt in more security than those of the clad elms, that extended their ample branches over this mighty stream. Their tangled nets laid bare by the impetuous torrents, formed caverns ever fresh and fragrant; where most the most delicate plants flourished, unvisited by scorching suns, or snipping blasts; and nothing could be more singular than the variety of plants and birds that were sheltered in these intricate safe recesses. But when the bursting of the crystal surface set loose the many waters that had rushed down, swollen with the annual tribute of dissolving snow, the islands and low lands were flooded in an instant; and the lofty banks, from which you were wont to overlook the steam, were now entirely filled by impetuous torrent, bearing down, with incredible and tumultuous rage, immense shoals of ice; which, breaking every instant by the concussion of others, jammed together in some places, in others erecting themselves in gigantic heights for an instant in the air, and seemed to combat with their fellow giants crowding on in all directions, and falling together with an inconceivable crash, formed a terrible moving picture, animated and various beyond conception; for it was not only the cerulean ice, whose broken edges combating with the stream, refracted light into a thousand rainbows, that charmed your attention, lofty pines, large pieces of the bank torn off by the ice with all their early green and tender foliage, were drove on like traveling islands, amid this battle of breakers, for such it seemed. I am absurdly attempting to paint a scene, under which the powers of language sink. Suffice it, that this year its solemnity was increased by an unusual quantity of snow, which the last hard winter had accumulated, and the dissolution of which now threatened an inundation. . . .

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Filed under 1800's, Natural Science, Posted by Caroline Fuchs