Category Archives: Foreign Relations

Item of the Day: Letter from Charles Carroll to James McHenry (1800)

Full Title: Manuscript letter from Charles Carroll to Secretary of War, James McHenry, November 4, 1800.

 

Annapolis, 4th Nov. 1800

I regret my absence form this city when Mr. Caldwell brought your letter of the 21st past, as it deprived me of shewing those attentions & that civility to which his character & his connection with you justly entitled him.

I hoped to have had the pleasure of a visit from you at the Manor. I wished much to see you to discourse on a variety of subjects & particularly on the present critical situation of this country. The President remarks that we are fallen upon evil times. I fear a great part of the evil may be attributed to his shifting conduct, his passions, his indescretion, vanity & jealousy. I had a high opinion of Mr. Adams, & still I believe him to be an honest man, but his integrity cannot compensate for his weaknesses, which unfit him for his present station. With a competition for places & power between the friends & opposers of the administration the only object of the contest, it would be a matter of indifference to me by what party the governt. should be administered. If Mr. Adams should be reelected I fear our Constitution would be more injured by his unruly passions, anitpathies & jealousy, than by the whimsies of Jefferson. I am not acquainted with the characters of the leaders of the opposition but it is to be apprehanded [sic], that to obtain & retain power they might sacrifice the true interests & real independence of this country to France. Judge Duvall says that now well informed man can doubt of there being a british faction among us wishing to establish a monarchy in lieu of a republican govent. If he unites the north I own I am not one of the number of the well informed. I know of no such faction; if it exists & is endeavouring to effect such a change, its attempts should be crushed. If our country should continue to be the sport of parties, if the mass of the people should be exasperated & roused to pillage the more wealthy, social order will be subverted, anarchy will follow, succeeded by despotism; these changes have in that order of succession taken place in France. Yet the men so far as I am informed, who stile themselves republicans, very generally wish success to France; in other words, the friends of freedom here are the friends of Bounaparte, who has established by a military force the most despotic government in Europe; how are we to reconcile this contradiciton of their avowed principles? Is their aversion to the English constitution the cause of this inconsistency? Do they consider the naval power of that nation as the strongest barrier to the revolutionary arts by which all the rulers of France, each in their turn, have endeavoured & are endeavouring to weaken & subvert all othe governments, that France may establish an influence over all, & thus become too powerful? They dare not avow the sentiments, yet their wishes & their conduct point to it. I wish the british to retain the empire of the seas, while the rulers of France are activated by such motives; the decided naval superiority of Britain is ye only effectual check to ye ambition of that republick; the true interests and independence of this country require that those rival nations should be balanced.

If the people of this coutnry were united it would have nothing to fear from foreign powers; but unhappily this is not the case. Many of the opposers of the present administration, I suspect want a change of the federal constitution; if that should be altered or weakened so as to be rendered a dead letter, it will not answer the purposes of its formation and will expire from mere inanity: other confederacies will start up & ye scene of ye Grecian states after an interval of more than two thousand years will be renewed on this contintent, & some Philip or Bounaparte will met the whole of them into one mass of despotism.

These events will be hastened by the pretended philosophy of France; divine revelation has been scoffed at by the Philosophers of the present day, the immortality of the soul treated as the dreams of fools, or the invention of knaves, & death has been declared by public authority an eternal sleep; these opinions are gaining ground amont us & silently saping the foundations of religion & encouragement of good, the terror of evildoers and the consolation of the poor, the miserable, and the distressed. Remove the hope & dread of future reward & punishment, the most powerful restraint on wicked action, & ye strongest inducement to virtuous ones is done away. Virtue, it may be said, is its own reward; I believe it to be so, and even in this life the only soruce of happiness, and this intimate & necessary connection between virtue & happiness here, & between vice & misery, is to my mind one of the surest pledge of happiness or misery in a future state of existence. But how few practice virtue merely for its own reward? Some of happy dispositon & temperament, calm reflecting men, exempt in a great degree form the turbulance of passions may be vituous for vitrtue’s sake. Small however is the number who are guided by reason alone, & who can always subject their passions to its dictates. He can thust act may be said to be virtuous, but reason is often inlisted on the side of the passions, or at best, when most waanted, is weakest. Hence the necessity of a superior motive for acting virtuously; Now, what motive can be stronger than ye belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without mortals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness are underming the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government.

If there be force in this reasoning what judgement ought we to form of our pretended republicans, who admire & applaud the proceedings of the revolutionary France!

These disclaimers in favor of freedom and equality act in such a questionable shape that I cannot help suspecting their sincerity.

This is a long & preaching letter and I fear a tedious & dull one, but you wished to know my sentiments about the present parties & impending fate of our country, and I could not give them without developing the reasons for my opinion. You see that I almost despair of the Commonwealth. The end of every legitimate government is the security of life, liberty and property: if this country is to be revolutionised none of these will be secure. Perhaps the leaders of the opposition, when they get into office, may be content to let the Constitution remain as it is, & may pursue the policy & measures of Washington’s administration, but what will become in that case of their consistency? Patriots you will say are not always consistent; granted, yet other patriots and opposers will arise to arraign this inconsistency, & the storm once raised, who will stop its fury?

Celui que met un pein a la fureur des flots

Sait aussi des mechans arreter les complots

My only hope is in that being who educes good out of evil. May he in his abundant mercy incline the hearts of our countrymen to tpeace, justice and concord.

I have read Mr. Hamilton’s pamphlet; the drift of its publication at this time I conjecture was not so mcuh with a view of vindicating his character as to prevent the electors in Massachusetts from scattering their votes in order to secure the election of Mr. Adams in preference to Mr. Pinckney. All with whom I have conversed, blame however Mr. Hamilton and consider his publication as ill timed, altho I pay a deference to the opinions of others, whose motives I know to be good, yet I cannot help differing from them in this instance. The assertions of the pamphlet I take it for granted are true, and if true, surely it must be admitted that Mr. Adams is not fit to be president, and his unfitness should be made known to the electors, and ye public. I conceive it a species of treason to conceal from the publick his incapacity . . .

Although your remaining rather a spectator of than an actor in the passing scenes is founded on a proper motive, yet you will find it impossible to retain an neutral character, nor do I think it fit you should. We ought all, each in our several spheres, to endeavour to set the publick mind right, & to administer antodotes to the poison that is widely spreading throughout the country.

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Filed under 1800's, Early Republic, Elections, Federalists, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, John Adams, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: The New Book of Chronicles [1789]

Full Title: The New Book of Chronicles; Delineating in Eccentrical Sketches of the Times a Variety of Modern Characters of the Great and Small Vulgar. London: Printed for T. Massey, Snow-Hill, and sold by all the booksellers of Great Britain, [1789].

 

CHAPTER III.

ARGUMENT.

In those days the fire burned in Gallia, as the multitude mused on their mighty Monarch.

2.  Behold, the fury of the flame spread far and wide even until it reached the region of captivity,

3.  Called in the Hebrew tongue the Tophet of Tyranny but by the Gauls the Bastile.

4.  Lo, in that horrible pit were found the Records of Royal Rebellion, written with the blood of the brave asserters of Liberty.

5.  On that day the Grand Monarch much marveled, and humbled himself before the Lord, and all the people of the Provinces.

6.  Then fled the Queen and hid herself in a solitary Sanctuary,

7.  Which proved not an asylym, for the assembly of the nation for her head offered three hundred thousand livres.

8.  In the mean time the enraged multitude seized the Governour of the Bastile, and put him to Death, who dealt with him as he deserved.

9.  The Commandant also was pushed by the people within the reach of the tyrant, whose slave he had been.

10. And behold, when the frightful king had done to these twain even as they had done to the prisoners of the dungeon, they descended to the shades of Erebus,

11. Not meeting in all the way the place which the priests of Rome call Purgatory, even the place of fools.

12. Now it came to pass, as these slaves of authority arrived at the gate of Pandoemonium,

13. That behold Brownrig the wife of Lucifer looked out at a window over the portal of the unhallowed hall.

14. And she cried with a loud voice, saying, behold, my brethren of the Bastile knock at the door, open it unto them.

15. As the high harlot of hell spake, lo the gates opened wide to the harsh sound of ten thousand hogs making melody in the Museum of Mawby.

16. And when forty and five infernals had whipped the slaves into the hall of justice, they stood before Eacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthus.

17. Howbeit, Belial blushed, Moloch grew mad, Satan saddened his countenance, and all the peers proclaimed a fast, when they were told that their kingdom was falling.

18. On that day the King caused all the regions of his dominions to be hung with sable, and commanded also the court to appear in the hue of hell, saying:

19. Peradventure the mercers and drapers of London may open a trade hither, through the medium of the taylors.

20. And when he had caused his servants to set before the keepers of the Bastile the bread which Belial had baken and the beer of his brewing,

21. At the motion of his sceptre seven of the infernal phalanx thrust them into the fiery furnace;

22. And it came to pass, when the door was shut that the whole herd of hardned fiends fell into a fit of festivity, rejoicing to hear the roar of the _____s.

 

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Filed under 1780's, Foreign Relations, France, French Revolution, Great Britain, Political Commentary, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Speech of the President of the United States to Congress (May 16, 1797)

Found In: State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States from the Accession of George Washington to the Presidency, Exhibiting a Complete View of our Foreign Relations since that Time. 1797. Boston: Printed and published by T. B. Wait & Sons, David Hale, agent for the States of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, 1815.

 

SPEECH OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO CONGRESS. MAY 16, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate, and

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives,

The personal inconveniences to the members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives, in leaving their families and private affairs, at this season of the year, are so obvious, that I the more regret the extraordinary occasion which has rendered the convention of Congress indispensable.

It would have afforded me the highest satisfaction to have been able to congratulate you on a restoration of peace to the nations of Europe, whose animosities have endangered our tranquillity: but we have still abundant casue of gratitude to the Supreme Dispenser of national blessings for general health and promising seasons; for domestick and social  happiness; for the rapid progress and ample acquisitions of industry through extensive territories; for civil, political, and religious liberty. While other states are desolated with foreign war, or convulsed with intestine divisions, the United States present the pleasing prospect of a nation governed by mild and equal laws, generally satisfied with the possession of their rights; neither envying the advantages nor fearing the power of other nations; solicitious only for the maintenance of order and justice and the preservation of liberty; increasing daily in their attachment to a system of government, in proportion to their experience of its utility; yielding a ready and general obedience to laws flowing from the reason, and resting on the only solid foundation, the affections of the people.

It is with extreme regret that I shall be obliged to turn your thoughts to other circumstances, which admonish us that some of these felicities may not be lasting; but if the tide of our prosperity is full, and a reflux commencing, a vigilant circumspection becomes us, that we may meet our reverses with fortitude, and extricate ourselves from their consequences, with all the skill we possess, and all the efforts in our power.

In giving to Congress information of the state of the Union, and recommending to their consideration such measures as appear to me to be necessary or expedient, according to my constitutional duty, the cause and the objects of the present extraordinary session will be explained.

After the President of the United States received information that the French government had expressed serious discontents at some proceedings of the government of these states, said to affect the interests of France, he thought it expedient to send to that country a new minister, fully instructed to enter on such amicable discussions, and to give such candid explanations as might happily remove the discontents and suspicions of the French government, and vindicate the conduct of the United States. —For this purpose he selected from among his fellow-citizens a character, whose integrity, talents, experience, and services, had placed him in the rank of the most esteemed and respected in the nation. The direct object of his mission was expressed in his letter of credence to the French Republick; being “to maintain that good understanding, which from the commencement of the alliance had subsisted between the two nations; and to efface unfavourable impressions, banish suspicions, and restore that cordiality which was at once the evidence and pledge of a friendly union:” and his instructions were to the same effect “faithfully to represent the dispositon of the government and people of the United States, (their dispositon being one) to remove jealousies, and obiate complaints, by showing that they were groundless; to restore that mutual confidence which had been so unfortunately and injuriously imparied; and to explain the relative interests of both countries, and the real sentiments of his own.” . . .

 

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Filed under 1790's, Congress, Early Republic, Foreign Relations, France, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Washington

Item of the Day: Rights of Man (1791)

Full Title: Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution.  Second Edition.  By Thomas Paine, Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Congress in the American War, and Author of the Work Intitled “Common Sense.”  London: Printed for J. S. Jordan, No. 166.  Fleet-Street.  MDCCXCI.

Preface to the English Edition.

From the part Mr. Burke took in the American Revolution, it was natural that I should consider him a friend to mankind; and as our acquaintance commenced on that ground, it would have been more agreeable to me to have had cause to continue in that opinion, than to change it.

At that time Mr. Burke made his violent speech last winter in the English Parliament against the French Revolution and the National Assembly, I was in Paris, and had written him, but a short time before, to inform him how prosperously matters were going on.  Soon after this, I saw his advertisement of the Pamphlet he intended to publish: As the attack was to be made in a language he little studied, and less understood, in France, and as every thing suffers by translation, I promised some of the friends of the Revolution in that country, that whenever Mr. Burke’s Pamphlet came forth, I would answer it.  This appeared to m the more necessary to be done, when I saw the flagrant misrepresentations which Mr. Burke’s Pamphlet contains; and that while it is an outrageous abuse on the French Revolution, and the principles of Liberty, it is an imposition on the rest of the world.

I am the more astonished and disappointed at this conduct of Mr. Burke, as (from the circumstance I am going to mention), I had formed other expectations.

I had seen enough of the miseries of war, to wish it might never more have existence in the world, and that some other mode might be found out to settle the differences that should occasionally arise in the neighborhood of nations.  This certainly might be done if Courts were disposed to set honestly about it, or if countries were enlightened enough to not be made the dupes of Courts.  The people of America had been bred up in the same prejudices against France, which at that time characterized the people of England; but experience and an acquaintance with the French Nation have most effectually shown to the Americans the falsehood of those prejudices; and I do not believe that a more cordial and confidential intercourse exists between any two countries than between America and France. 

When I came to France in the Spring of 1787, the Archbishop of Thoulouse was then Minister, and at that time highly esteemed.  I became much acquainted with the private Secretary of that Minister, a man of an enlarged and benevolent heart; and found, that his sentiments and my own perfectly agreed with respect to the madness of war, and the wretched impolicy of two nations, like England and France, continually worrying each other, to no other end than that of a mutual increase of burdens and taxes.  That I might be assured I had not misunderstood him, nor he me, I put the substance of our opinions into writing, and sent it to him; subjoining a request, that if I should see among the people of England, any disposition to cultivate a better understanding between the two nations than had hitherto prevailed, how far I might be authorized to say that the same disposition prevailed on the part of France?  He answered me by letter in the most unreserved manner, and that not for himself only, but for the Minister, with whose knowledge the letter was declared to be written.

I put this letter into the hands of Mr. Burke almost three years ago, and left it with him, where it still remains; hoping, and at the same time naturally expecting, from the opinion I had conceived of him, that he would find some opportunity of making good use of it, for the purpose of removing those errors and prejudices, which two neighboring nations, from the want of knowing each other, had entertained, to the injury of both.

When the French Revolution broke out, it certainly afforded to Mr. Burke an opportunity of doing some good, had he been disposed to it; instead of which, no sooner did he see the old prejudices wearing away, than he immediately began sowing the seeds of a new inveteracy, as if he were afraid that England and France would cease to be enemies.  That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrel of Nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between Nations, it becomes more unpardonable.

With respect to a paragraph in this Work alluding to Mr. Burke’s having a pension, the report has been some time in circulation, at least two months; and as a person is often the last to hear what concerns him the most to know, I have mentioned it, that Mr. Burke may have an opportunity of contradicting the rumour, if he thinks proper.

THOMAS PAINE.

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Filed under 1790's, Common sense, Eighteenth century, Europe, Foreign Relations, French Revolution, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution

Item of the Day: The Universal Merchant (1797)

Full Title: The Universal Merchant, in Theory and Practice: Improved and Enlarged by W. J. Alldridge . . . First American Edition. Philadelphia: Printed by Francis and Robert Bailey, at Yorick’s=Head, No. 116, High-Street, M,DCC,XCVII. [1797]

DEDICATION,

TO THE

CITIZENS

OF THE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

I FEEL the greatest pleasure in presenting the following work to your consideration and use, from the hope I entertain, that amongst others it may contribute to advance our national interests; –from a reflection on that uncommon degree of patronage it has obtained, amongst the most respectable and patriotic characters; –as it furnishes an opportunity of thus testifying my gratitude for the participation with you, in the benefits derived from a just administration of wise and equal laws; –and from a sense of that encouragement which our happy mode of government presents to industry, skill and virtue.

To this cause must we attribute the attainment of that conspicuous situation America now holds in the commercial system, and her elevated rank among the nations.

The respect which commerce commands, is infinitely preferable to that which conquest excites: –those with whom we negociate, naturally become our friends, –those we conquer, as natually become our enemies: –the first address us with an open, bounteous benevolence, –the last approach us with tardy steps, and yield their compulsive tribute with a retracting hand.

While commerce enriches individuals with all that is comprized in the epithet of wealth–it enriches a nation with a fixed and lasting reputation; but conquest, merely amuses with an imaginary, impermanent, inglorius fame, –leaving its security ever quesionable, and obnoxious to those open or secret attacks, which a just resentment of injuries invariably inspires.

No position can be more evident, than, that war is destructive of commerce, and ruinous to the prosperity of a country, –therefore, a nation or state, the professed objects of whose aim are, prosperity and happiness, must avoid war, –encourage industry, — cultivate virtue, –and preserve good order at home.

Until the European nations shall imitate the United States, in the adoption of the same means, they will have no legitimate hope of obtaining the same end, in the participation of those substantial blessings, which form her distinguishing characteristics, and constitute her true honor, happiness and glory.

May the universal co-operation of individual virtue, secure and perpetuate these blessings, until her illustrious example shall have taught all nations duly to appreciate their value, that they may participate the possession; and with her to unite in transmitting them, by such individual virtue, to all succeeding generations.

 

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Filed under 1790's, Commerce, Eighteenth century, Europe, Foreign Relations, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: Cui bono? (1781)

Full Title: Cui Bono? Or, An Inquiry, What Benefits Can Arise Either to the English or the Americans, the French, Spaniards, or Dutch, from the Greatest Victories, or Successes, in the Present War? Being a Series of Letters, Addressed to Monsieur Necker, Late Controller General of the Finances of France. By Josiah Tucker, D.D. Dean of Glocester. Glocester: Printed by R. Raikes, for T. Cadell, in the Strand; Sold also by Evans and Hazell, in Glocester, M.DCC.LXXXI. [1781]

LETTER I.

TO MONSIEUR NECKER.

Cui Bono?

SIR,

A MAN who has distinguished himself in such critical Times as the present, in the difficult and envied Station of Controller-General of the Finances of France, is certain of being attacked, and as sure of being defended, by Multitudes of Writers. You have experienced the Effects of both Parties; and are, perhaps, by this Time, sufficiently cloyed with the Flattery of the one, and grown callous to the Censures of the other. Therefore it is natural for you to conclude, that when any other Writer is bringing your Name again before the Public, he is only repeating what you have so often heard. —But if you, Sir, will honour these Letters with a careful Perusal, you will find hardly one Thing in them similar to what you have read before, and yet many of them, perhaps, not unworthy of your serious Attention.

As I wish to treat you with all the Respect due to your distinguished Character; and as my Aim, in the Prosecution of my Subject, is entirely the Good of Mankind; I presume it is unnecessary, as a Stranger to your Person, to apologize for the Liberty I take in thus addressing you. And here allow me to observe, that I was favoured with the Correspondence of your Predecessor, Mons. Turgot, both during the Time he was in Office, and after his Resignation; —and that I am the same Person, of whose Writings Mons. Necker himself has sometimes condescended to make mention; and more particularly at that Juncture, when the idle Project of invading England, became the general Topic of Conversation throughout Europe.

Setting, therefore, all Apologies aside, and endeavouring to divest myself of national Partialities, and local Prejudices, to the utmost of my Power, I now enter on the Work proposed, not as an Englishman, but as a Citizen of the World; not as having an inbred Antipathy against France, but as a Friend of the whole human Species.

Whatever were your private Views, either of Interest, or of Honour, in publishing your Compte Rendu, the Example you have set deserves universal Commendation. And it is greatly to be wished, that it were made a fundamental Law in all arbitrary Governments, that each Minister, in the grand Departments of Trust and Power, should publish annual Accounts of his respective Administration; —Accounts I mean, which could stand the Test of an open and impartial Scrutiny, free from those false Colourings, and wilful Misrepresentations, with which yours have been so frequently and expressly charged; and from which I fear you have not yet been able to clear yourself to general Satisfaction.

But waving every Thing of this Nature, (because I do not intend to be either your Advocate, or your Accuser) and taking for granted, what you do not wish to conceal, that the grand Design of the Government, under which you live, in ordering your Account to be made Public, was to shew the World, that France had so many Resources still remaining, as would exhaust and ruin England in the Progress of this war; —I will here suppose, for Argument Sake, that every Thing has succeeded, or shall succeed according to the warmest Wishes of the most bigotted Frenchman, Poor England is no more! Non modo delenda, sed penitus deleta est Carthage! In short, the Lillies of France, like the Eagles of Rome, are every where triumphant!

Well, my good Sir, after all this Expence and Trouble, after so much Hurry and Confusion in subduing this devoted Island, after such repeated Victories, and immortal Fame, —will you permit us to rest a while, and to take a Breath: —And since the French have now raised their Nation to this Pinnacle of Glory, let us pause a little, to view the extended Prospect so far below us? —This is all the Boon I ask, and in granting this, I hope we shall be induced to think in the next Place, (for we have not yet thought upon the Matter) what would be the inevitable Consequences of these mighty Revolutions, now so ardently desired by every Frenchman, were Providence to permit them to pass.

Such a Subject is surely of Importance, to the Welfare and Happiness of Mankind. And this is the Subject I propose for the ensuing Letter. In the mean Time, I own I am under a strong Temptation to add a few Words concerning the infatuated Conduct of my own Country-men, the English, in the former War, as a Warning and Memento [sic] to future Politicians.

Almost thirty Years ago, when the Colonists in America were at least fifty to one more in Number than the Handful of Men, who could have invaded them from Canada, —I say, when these fifty undaunted Heroes, of the true English Breed, pretended to be afraid of one Frenchman — Common Sense might have taught us to have suspected the Truth of such pretended Fears; — Common Sense also might have suggested the Expediency of pausing a while, and of examining into Facts, particualry relating to the Fur-trade, before we rushed into Hostilities on such weak and frivolous Pretences: —Lastly, Common Sense might have told us that it would be bad Policy to put these turbulent and factious Colonies above Controul, (if we really thought them worth the keeping) and of placing them in that very State of Independance [sic], which they had ever wished for, and had been constantly aiming at. —I say, Common Sense might have suggested all these Things, if we had not disdained to ask the Advice of such a Counsellor. Nay more; —there was a Man at that very Time, who remonstrated strongly against the Absurdity, not to say Injustice of such Proceedings. —He shewed, with an Evidence not attempted to be invalidated, that the Americans had not assigned a sufficient Cause for going to War for their Sakes; —and that their pretended Dangers either of being driven into the Sea, or of being put between two Fires (the constant Cry, and Clamour at that Juncture in all our Public Papers) were mere Imposture, and Grimace. —And what is beyond all, he offered to prove from the English Custom-House Books of Entries or Imports, that the Quantity of Furs brought into England from America was almost double to what it had been in former Times, instead of being monopolized (as was asserted) by the French: —Though I must own, that had this really been the Case, it would have been something new in the Annals of the World, that a great Nation, and a civilized People had made War on another Natin, because the latter had bought more Skins of Cats, Foxes, Badgers, and of such Sort of Vermin, than the former had been able to do. —Lastly the same Person ventured to foretel in the most direct Terms, that the driving of the French from the English back Settlements would be the Signal to the Colonies, to meditate a general Revolt. But alas! he was preaching to the Winds and Waves: —Some would not vouchsafe an Answer to his Letters; —others were pleased to tell him that the American Colonists were better Judges of their own Dangers, than he had any Right to pretend to be; —and that the Reflections cast upon them for harbouring thoughts of Independance, and of planning Schemes of Rebellion, were base and scandalous, and utterly void of Foundation. Moreover, not a few plainly declared, that whosoeve should attempt to raise such Suspicions against the best of loyal Subjects, the faithful Americans, could be no other than a Spy in Disguise, and a Pensioner to France. (You, Sir, who so justly complain, that the several Pensions on the French List amount to the enormous Sum of Twenty-eight Millions of Livres, or about £.1,272,727. Sterling; —you, I say, can best tell, whether you have met with the Name of Tucker among the long Roll of English Mock Patriots, and French Pensioners.)

Now, as we have such a recent Example, before our Eyes of those fatal Consequences, which might have been prevented by a cool and timely Reflection; it is to be hoped, that the like blind, infatuated Part will not be acted over again; —but that the Powers at War will take Warning by the past, and consider, ‘ere it is too late, what would be the Effects of the present furious Contests, were they even to be crowned with all that Brilliancy and Success, which their own fond Hearts can wish, or desire.

With these Sentiments, and with just Esteem for your great Talents, I have the Honour to be,

SIR,

Your most obedient,

Humble Servant,

J.T.

 

 

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Filed under 1780's, Eighteenth century, England, Europe, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution

Item of the Day: Franklin on the Slave Trade (1790/1836)

Full Title:

The Works of Benjamin Franklin; Containing Several Political and Historical Tracts Not Included in Any Former Edition, And Many Letters Official and Private Not Hitherto Published; with Notes and A Life of the Author.  By Jared Sparks.  Volume II [of 9].  Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Company. 

On The Slave Trade.

To the Editor of the Federal Gazette. 

March 23rd, 1790.

Sir,

Reading last night in your excellent paper the speech of Mr. Jackson in Congress against their meddling with the affair of slavery, or attempting to mend the condition of the slaves, it put me in mind of a similar one made about one hundred years since by Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of Algiers, which may be seen in Martin’s Account of his Consulship, anno 1687.  It was against granting the petition of the sect called Erika, or Purists, who prayed for the abolition of piracy and slavery as being unjust.  Mr. Jackson does not quote it; perhaps he has not seen it.  If, therefore, some of its reasonings are to be found in his eloquent speech, it may only show that men’s interests and intellects operate and are operated on with surprising similarity in all countries and climates, whenever they are under similar circumstances.  The African’s speech, as translated, is as follows.

Allah Bismallah, &c.  God is great, and Mahomet is his Prophet.

“Have these Erika considered the consequences of granting this petition?  If we cease our cruises against the Christians, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us?  If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who in this hot climate are to cultivate our lands?  Who are to perform the common labors of our city, and in our families?  Must we not then be our own slaves?  And is there not more compassion and more favor due to us as Mussulmen, than to these Christian dogs?  We have now above fifty thousand slaves in and near Algiers.  This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated.  If we then cease taking and plundering the infidel ships, and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation; the rents of houses in the city will sink one half; and the revenue of government arising from its share of prizes be totally destroyed!  And for what?  To gratify the whims of a whimsical sect, who would have us, not only forbear making more slaves, but even manumit those we have. 

“But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss?  Will the state do it?  Is our treasury sufficient?  Will the Erika do it?  Can they do it?  Or would they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners?  And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them?  Few of them will return to their countries; they know too well the greater hardships they must there be subject to; they will not embrace our holy religion; they will not adopt our manners; our people will not pollute themselves by intermarrying with them.  Must we maintain them as beggars in our streets, or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage?  For men accustomed to slavery will not work for a livelihood when not compelled.  And what is there so pitiable in their present condition?  Were they not slaves in their own countries?

“Are not Spain, Portugal, France, and the Italian states governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception?  Even England treats its sailors as slaves; for they are, whenever the government pleases, seized, and confined in ships of war, condemned not only to work, but to fight, for small wages, or a mere subsistence, not better than our slaves are allowed by us.  Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands?  No; they have only exchanged one slavery for another, and I may say a better; for here they are brought into a land where the sun of Islamism gives forth its light, and shines in full splendor, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls.  Those who remain at home have not that happiness.  Sending the slaves home then would be sending them out of the light and into darkness.

“I repeat the question, What is to be done with them?  I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state; but they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labor without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild Arabs would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them.  While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing, and they are treated with humanity.  The laborers in their own country are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged, and clothed.  The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no further improvement.  Here their lives are in safety.  They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another’s Christian throats, as in the wars of their own countries.  If some of the religious mad bigots, who now tease us with their silly petitions, have in a fit of blind zeal freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity, that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burden of a load of sins, and a hope, from the supposed merits of so good a work, to be excused from damnation.

“How grossly are they mistaken to suppose slavery to be disallowed by the Alcoran!  Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, ‘Masters, treat your slaves with kindness; Slaves, serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity,’ clear proofs to the contrary?  Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the world, and all it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of right as fast as they conquer it.  Let us then hear not more of this detestable proposition, the manumission of Christian slaves, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government and producing general confusion.  I have therefore no doubt, but this wise council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers to the whim of a few Erika, and dismiss their petition.”      

The result was, as Martin tells us, that the Divan came to the resolution; “The doctrine, that plundering and enslaving the Christians is unjust, is as best problematical; but that it is in the interest of this state to continue the practice, is clear; therefore let the petition be rejected.”

And it was rejected accordingly.

And since like motives are apt to produce in the minds of men like opinions and resolutions, may we not, Mr. Brown, venture to predict, from this account, that the petitions to the Parliament of England for abolishing the slave-trade, to say nothing of other legislatures, and the debates upon them, will have a similar conclusion?  I am, Sir, your constant reader and humble servant,

HISTORICUS.

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Filed under 1790's, 1830's, Early Republic, Eighteenth century, Foreign Relations, Government, Islam, Koran, Letters, Newspapers, Posted by Matthew Williams, Slavery