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I have begun my memoir to the Society, and hope to get it ready by next post. I will then also send a letter to introduce my book.
HAZARD TO BELKNAP.
NEW YORK, September 27, 1789.
MY DEAR SIR, -I have long wanted to write to you, but have not been able. If the people of France are wise, they may have an excellent constitution of government; but I fear they are not sufficiently illuminated. If they are not careful, they will run into licentiousness.
Thank you for the paper from Mr. Thatcher. Your name shall not be mentioned. Dr. Marant's sermon shall have a reading. Can't you contrive to get one for me to add to my Farrago? It will be a curiosity with which I may make some diversion with the brethren. I have wrote to Mr. Bryson about the 50 dollars, but fear I shall not be able to help you. You mention your not having seen either Dover or Portsmouth for almost three years. What do you think of my not having been at so great a distance as ten miles from this city in that time? I will look for your other White Hill letter, and for an opportunity of sending the pamphlets. My peculiar situation can now be explained to you. I was busy electioneering. A friend in Congress intimated that I was in danger of losing my office, and advised me to bestir myself. My friends were to be informed, and urged to exertions, to prevent the success of three competitors; viz., Mr. Bache, of Philadelphia (Dr. Franklin's son-in-law), who had been removed from the same office before, for neglect of duty (he had Mr. Robert Morris's interest to support him); Mr. Tench Coxe, of Philadelphia, who pub
licly and cordially huzza'd in the streets when General Howe took possession of that city; and Colonel William Smith (son-in-law to the Vice-president), who had his father-in-law's merit and services to plead in his favour. This employed me pretty fully, and some very respectable applications in my favour were made to the President. The 19th inst. the President sent to me for a list of the outstanding debts, and the names of the postmasters from whom they were due. From this circumstance I became suspicious that my removal was in contemplation, and that these debts were intended as a plea for it. Under this impression, when I sent him the list, on the 21st, I wrote him a letter, intended to counteract the design (if such there was), and to exculpate myself. The following extract from it I send for your information, allowing you, at the same time, to make a prudent use of it in case of necessity: "The amount of the debts is much greater than it ought to be; but when your Excellency considers the prostration of morals; the habits of inattention to business, and inaccuracy in transacting it, which were occasioned by the war; the great number and extensive dispersion of the persons necessarily employed as postmasters, that there were only two to superintend these, and do all the other business of the department; that debts due to the Union had, in general, no preference to other debts; that the laws of some States permitted fraudulent payments in paper money, while the tedious process in the courts of others tempted to delay, and that even the Acts of Congress created both additional business and embarrassments in transacting it, without affording the head of the department suitable assistance,-I flatter myself your Excellency will rather think it extraordinary that so much has been collected, than that so much remains unpaid. Nor has this been neglected; for many dunning letters have been written, and several journies made, with a view to its collection. A number of the de
linquents have been removed from office, and in some cases security has been obtained." "More debts would undoubtedly have been collected, had I been placed in a situation more free from distraction; but, though I have made repeated applications for more assistance, and so clearly pointed out the necessity there was for it that a committee of Congress reported in favour of its being allowed, I have been left to encounter the whole business of the department almost alone.. Your Excellency will have some idea of my situation, when I mention that, besides the general superintendence of the business through an extent of 1500 miles, exclusive of cross-roads, I have had to maintain a very burthensome correspondence; to examine the quarterly returns from all the eastern offices; to enter all the accounts; to keep the books of the department (which, since my appointment, has been done in double entry); to make communications to Congress and committees, which have frequently required lengthy and tedious calculations; to form and enter into contracts, and pay the contractors quarterly; to inspect the dead letters; and to do the business out of doors as well as within. My own attention has been so constantly necessary that I have not had time for proper relaxation, and, in three years past, have not been to the distance of ten miles from this city. I once hired a clerk, but found my salary was not equal to that expence in addition to the support of my family, and was obliged to dismiss him. Will your Excellency permit me to add that, notwithstanding the embarrassments of my situation, the business has been conducted without the aid of the Treasury (which, before my appointment, was frequently applied to), and that the department has been made productive?"
From the time that letter was written to this day, I have received neither letter nor message from the President; and, after being kept in suspence till last Friday, was informed by a friend that Mr. Osgood was nomi
nated for Postmaster-General. I don't know whether you know him, or not; but he was formerly one of the Board of Treasury. He was the most attentive to business of any of the Board, and I believe is a man of integrity. He is, in my opinion, the most suitable for the office of any of my competitors; but I think I may add, without vanity, that he neither is as well qualified for it as myself, nor has an equal claim to it. I suppose the nomination was approved by the Senate yesterday, which seems to be a thing of course, and that this is the last letter you will receive from me while Postmaster-General. I never heard Mr. O. mentioned as a competitor, nor had anybody any suspicion of this appointment, that I can find, except Mrs. H., who intimated her suspicions to me some time ago, but could not tell on what they were founded. As I wish to have a good opinion of him, I hope he has not solicited for the office; and yet I think it hardly possible he could have got it without. If he has, the President's conduct must be very extraordinary. The three oldest officers (and I say three of the best) are now turned out of the service: Mr. Thomson, the late Secretary; Mr. Hillegas, the late Treasurer; and myself. This is the reward of 14 or 15 years' fidelity and fatigue, and of serving the public even with halters round our necks! for you will remember that civil officers were always excepted, when mercy was offered by the British proclamations. The reason of my removal, which is whispered about, is lenity to postmasters, from which you see I was not wrong in my conjecture. Upon a review of conduct in office, I find no reason to accuse mymy self. The public good has been my sole object, and even envy itself cannot accuse me of malversation. My situation gave me frequent opportunities of making personal advantages; but I suffered them all to slip, from a determined resolution, taken at first, to abstain from even "the appearance of evil." I do not think the bare loss of the
office a subject of regret; but it is accompanied with this
disagreeable circumstance, that at my time of life, with a family on my hands, and habituated to official ideas, I must seek a new mode of subsistence, in a very different line. Mrs. H. and I are now much in the situation of Adam and Eve when driven out of Paradise; but we have a larger family.
"The world is all before us, where to choose
Our place of rest; and Providence our guide!"
Yes, Providence is our guide, and we shall have divine direction. Difficulties may await us, but God will deliver us out of them all.
I am glad that Mrs. Morse proves so agreeable to the people of Charlestown and Boston. Mr. Morse has got home, I suppose, ere now. Shew him this letter, for I cannot write him particulars.
If you write to me by post in future, get Mr. H. to enclose your letters in his (if he thinks it right, but do not urge it), and frank them, for I cannot afford to pay postage. Our correspondence must not expire with my official character, and we must improve private opportunities for friendly intercourse.
Mrs. H. behaves well upon this new occasion, and joins me in love to Mrs. B. Both our children have the whooping-cough. I am, dear sir,
Your very sincere friend,
P. S. I sent your last packet to Trenchard.