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not sincerely repented of their past Conduct. A Correspondent of mine says, They are in a State of political Reprobation Hell or Heaven, of Liberty or Slavery they reck not.'
As the Courtiers still entertain their old Malice against Us, it is not probable, that the true Interest of the Nation will be immediately and steadily pursued. But as Shelburne pursued for a long time an oscillating kind of Policy to the Disgrace and Loss of the Nation, it will now require so much time to get rid of old Prejudices in Commercial Matters, that its Rivals will get the Start. If the Duke of Portland,1 Ld. John Cavendish,2 Mr. Fox, etca. are now in Power, this Administration cannot last long, and I fear they will not understand so well as Shelburne the true System towards America. Administration will fluctuate for some time, and there are terrible Symptoms of bloody Contests, which will drive Multitudes to America, but will weaken and ruin that Island more completely, than it is our Interest, or that of Mankind perhaps, to wish.
The annual Interest of their Debt added to the Expences of Government exceed by several Millions all their Revenues, an horrid Truth which presents the Prospect at least of a partial Bankruptcy; and this alone, without any other Commotion, will drive great Numbers to our Country.
It is our Business to render our Country an Asylum, worthy to receive all who may wish to fly to it. This can only be done, by rendering the Minds of the People really independent. By guarding them against the Introduction of Luxury and Effeminacy, By watching over the Education of Youth, By keeping out Vices and cultivating Virtues, By improving our Militia, and by forming a Navy. These alone can compose a Rock of Defence. Without these, Alliances will be a Snare. With them, We may have what Alliances We please, and none but such as we chuse. With great Esteem and Respect, I have the Honour to be, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant
JOHN ADAMS 3
I William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, Duke of Portland (1738-1809). 2 (1732-1796). 3 Only the word "confidential" at the opening of this letter, the closing "With great Esteem" etc. and the name of General Warren are in John Adams' handwriting. See note to letter of March 20, 1783.
BENJAMIN LINCOLN TO JAMES Warren
PHILADELPHIA, April 5, 1783
DEAR SIR, Congress have referred to the several States, the propriety of repealing part of our present confederation, and of establishing new principles, for apportioning the Debts of the United States.
When questions, of such importance as these, are to be agitated, it is no less the duty, than the interest, of every citizen, to offer his own sentiments, on the propositions. I shall therefore, with freedom, and as concisely as possible, offer you mine, agreeably to my promise, made in my letter of the second instant.
The questions, to be considered, are whether that part of the confederation, shall be repealed, which directs, that the expences of the United States, shall be borne by the several States, according to the value of their located lands, and buildings; and whether a new system, shall be substituted, which provides, that the proportion of each State, shall be ascertained, by the number of their white inhabitants, added to three-fifths of their black inhabitants. Did the substitution recommended, include the whole number of souls in each State, and direct them all to be brought into the estimation, I should not hesitate to adopt it, and should consent to the repeal most readily, not because I think the scheme a perfect one, but because, I think it preferable, to the one pointed out by the confederation, and that it is the best we can now obtain.
The only question with me, at present is, whether there shall be a deduction from the numbers in any State, merely because the complexions of part [of] the inhabitants, of some of the States, are different, from those of the inhabitants of others.
The reason why we do not apportion, the public debts, on the several States equally, is because, each State, has not equal abilities, to pay a like sum; this brings us to the necessity, of enquiring into, and of ascertaining, the abilities of the several States, that we may know what proportion, each can pay, so that all the inhabitants, of the United States, shall bear their just proportion of the common burden.
In order, that I may give you my sentiments on the questions,
in as clear a manner as possible, I shall suggest some general principles, which I think will be admitted as true, and that they are the basis on which, a determination of the present questions,
A people may always be estimated rich, when a great proportion of their inhabitants are laborers, for it will not be controverted, that by the hand of the laborer, the State is supported; when from the richness of the soil, and from the clemency of their seasons, a sufficiency, for the support of their inhabitants, is produced, by a small proportion of that labor; When the surplus, affords a valuable and important article for exportation; and when, from the mildness of the climate, little clothing is necessary, and the labors of the summer, are not consumed, by providing subsistence for the winter.
I suppose that it will not be denied, by any, that a people thus circumstanced, will be rich, if they are not wanting to themselves, and that, if the value of such means of wealth, could with exactness be ascertained, we should have good documents, by which, we might form a system, for apportioning the public debts, that would do equal right to all. On this belief I shall ground my present observations on the subject.
I say all the blacks, in the southern States, should be numbered, and brought into the estimation, Because a greater proportion of them are laborers, than are among the same number of people, in the Northern States. In the southern, there are in these respects, no distinction of sex, the mother with her babe is as many hours in the field, and has an equal task assigned her, with her husband, and if she, being thus incumbred, is unable to perform it, he is obliged to compleat it, in addition to his own. Because from the nature and richness of the soil, which is easy of culture, the same quantity of labor, for the support of an individual, is not necessary in the Southern States, as in the northern, where the soil is stiff, the lands stoney, and are with difficulty cultivated. Because in the southern States, they have a large surplus of beef and pork, which make a very valuable article of exportation. To obtain this they are at little or no expence, for their cattle and swine roam at large and from the growths of the forests, (such being the tempera
ture of the climate,) their spontaneous productions, are sufficient to feed them, summer and winter, without any attention of the laborer, and no cost is incurred, in fencing and clearing the lands, on which these are raised. While in the Northern States all the cattle and swine are fed five months in a year from food provided for them in the summer and at all times from the groath of land, which to clear and fence involves the owner in a very great expence and after all our care the surplus of beef and pork for exportation is very inconsiderable. Because the surplus, provided by the labors of the Southern States, of articles of exportation, far exceed, in quantity and value the surplus procured by the labors in the Northern States, where a great part of their time is spent, in laying in necessaries for the winter, in which, little business is performed. Because, food not so expensive in kind, and not in so great a quantity, is required by the laborers, in the Southern States, as is required by those in the Northern, there animal food cannot be dispensed with. Because in the Southern States, their seasons are so clement, that very little expence is necessary for clothing, and especially for the laborers, and to provide necessaries for the winter. In the Northern States, warm clothing must be had, and as I observed before, a great proportion of their time, is spent in the summer, in providing for the winter. Because, the laborer, from the best information I can obtain, in procuring the principal articles of export, can earn nearly double the sum, each day, to that which is earned, by our fishermen, in taking and curing fish, which are our cheif article of export.
These are among the reasons, which have induced me to say, that all the blacks, ought to be taken into the estimation. Indeed, I think, in consideration of the peculiar advantages, enjoyed by the Southern, which cannot be enjoyed by the Northern States, that the Southern, should take a greater proportion of the common debt than even this would give them.
Here I should drop the subject, was there any common arbiter, to decide among the United States, whose mind would not be swayed by interest nor his Judgment fettered by fear. We might with safety rely, on such a decision, as insuring to us, that justice, which to obtain, I see very little hope, under our present consti
tution. But is there such an arbiter to be found, among all the Sons of the United States? I am convinced there is not. If then, there is little probability, that the most perfect justice can be obtained, and the very best method cannot be called into practice, while something must be done, which I think is our case, and the very great advances made by the Massachusetts makes it particularly necessary for her to have all our public accounts liquidated and apportioned on the several States, which I am confident would greatly relieve her from her present burdens, I think therefore, although she may be fully convinced, that the system proposed for her consideration and adoption, will not do her perfect justice; yet if she is convinced that it is the best which can be obtained, and that fewer evils will arise from her adopting than from her rejecting it, she will no doubt do the former.
To procure an estimate of all the located lands and buildings, in the several States, agreeably to the mode pointed out by the confederation, is a work of time, and we know, from long experience, by the operation of laws of this kind in our State, how little dependance can be placed, in such returns, when they are obtained.
If it is with difficulty that a just valuation can be procured and established in so small an extent of country as is our State, and where there are many of the inhabitants, who have a pretty good knowledge of the several parts of it, and can correct the errors, which always mark such returns; can we hope for a just one from the several States, and that an equal proportion can be settled by such returns, where we have no persons, who have such a knowledge of all the States, as will give them, any just pretentions, to a right, of correcting the several returns, from their own information. Besides, I am confident, should a just return be made, of all the buildings, and the full number of the acres of Land, in each State, yet I have not a doubt, but the different estimates of value put on them, by the several States, would be so unequal, that it would be a source of continual disputes, and a fountain, from which, unceasing dissentions would flow.
The real and estimated value of estates, are very different things, the first is determined by their produce, and the other by the sum they will sell for. We often find, that the produce of a