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(French and English), it would answer the same purpose. My son John will be a Frenchman.
I wish your papers may be brought to light, by means
of a magazine, or otherwise. But who are the persons concerned? I have had application from a Mr. Irvine, of Philadelphia, to engage with the proprietors of the Asylum; but I have declined it.
You speak of the ferment into which Congress were thrown by the Quakers' Petition. I wish you had given me, or that you would give me, your sentiments on the propriety of such an application, and a particular reason for my desiring it is this: There is an Abolition Society set up at Providence, and they have elected several gentlemen of this town and vicinity corresponding members, of which number I am one. The other day each of us received a letter from the President, David Howell, by order of the Society, requesting that we would promote an association of the advocates of freedom and humanity here, with a view to "join with the Society of New York, and bring on the subject next session, with additional weight; a movement which," he says, "we understand the Society there are preparing to make."
The proposition does not strike me agreeably. First, it comes from a foul quarter, Rhode Island. Secondly, I am loth to meddle with things that do not belong to me. When there was a call to petition against the slave-trade to our own General Court, I was forward in the matter, because I thought it my duty, and the application happily succeeded; but there does not appear to be any such call now. But thirdly, and principally, I conceive the present Constitution to be a compact between the States; and one of the express stipulations is, that "the migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit shall not be prohibited by Congress prior to the year 1808." Therefore, all applications to Congress for such prohibition are absolutely
precluded; and I apprehend that the stirring up a controversy on this subject may endanger the Union. I was not pleased with the petition of the Quakers. I think them very contemptible politicians. They are governed by their feelings, and they do not reason. They think all mankind must submit to what their impulses dictate. I wish they had been consistent with themselves; and, that as they profess to be advocates for the rights of mankind, they had shewn some regard to the rights of white people as well as black. What did they do towards supporting the rights of America when invaded by Brittain? Then there was a clear call to support the rights and liberties of their country, but we heard nothing of their movings and drawings in that cause, unless it was the wrong way. Now there is an union and compact, formed on certain conditions, they want to violate those conditions, and set us again into a state of anarchy. Suppose the Southern States should say, The principles of the Union are infringed, and we will withdraw: we will keep our slaves, and you may keep your Quakers. What a contemptible figure will America make in the eyes of the world! I wish the Quakers would lie still and mind their own business, and let Government mind theirs, without any more meddling. Once our forefathers, here in New England, overstrained their zeal in persecuting the Quakers; and, ever since their posterity have been convinced of their error, they have been over-doing the other way, complimenting the Quakers, and flattering them, and speaking better of them than they deserve. I have lived among them long enough to know that they are no better than other people, either in point of morality or wisdom, or even neatness, for which they are so much celebrated. Have you seen a piece which Brissot de Warville has written about them?* I am told he married a Quaker wife.
*This was probably the Examen Critique of the travels of De Chastellux in North America, refuting his opinions relating to the Quakers, &c. London, 1786. -EDS.
Well, so much for the Quakers. My question is, What is your Society about? Do they intend to petition Congress? and with what view? Let me know your thoughts on the matter as soon as convenient, that I may be able to form a proper answer to this Mr. David Howell. Do you know any thing of this man's character? I have heard that he is a person of no principle, but a seeker of popularity.
I have had a very severe attack of the influenza, which has brought me very low. Through divine goodness, I am now a convalescent. We have had so little good weather that my recovery has been much retarded.
All mine send love to all yours, and I am, dear sir,
I have almost got through my topographical description of N.H., and find it a work of more variety and labour than I expected. It will make no less than 24 sections or chapters.
HAZARD TO BELKNAP.
NEW YORK, June 5, 1790.
MY DEAR SIR,I send you by Captain Barnard a box containing 25 of your books, bound, and 18 in boards; and I sold one, bound, for 1 dollars, which completes the number I received. Since the books were packed, I have met with Chambaud's Dictionary, which I send herewith. It cost 1 dollars. I enclose the other quarter, which pays for the book sold.
The Act for securing literary property has at length appeared in this day's paper. I send you a copy.
I do not think the want of the Report of the Lords of Trade a subject of regret, as you have it, at least substantially, in the Decision of the King in Council. It is a pity
that Chalmers will probably "drudge no more at Annals." He could produce many valuable materials for our history, and we could correct his want of candour. His idea of both Indian and English rights is erroneous. If the Indians had no right to more of the country than they actually occupied, certainly the English right could not be more extensive; and yet he argues that it was. Besides, he is willing to allow full weight to the right the English derived from discovery, but seems to forget that the Indians had a prior, and consequently a better right on this score. However, it was necessary for his purpose that the Indian right should be destroyed; and he has done it, without much ceremony.
The application for my papers sleeps at present, but the Magazine is going on. I suppose my hearing more on the subjects depends on its success. However, the Act for securing literary property may possibly put it in my power to make a tolerable bargain about them, if I can meet with a printer or bookseller of sufficient property and spirit.
I did not at the time, nor do I yet, approve the application made by the Quakers to Congress, or rather the manner in which it was conducted. If, as I understand, the Quakers meant no more than to request Congress to lay the African trade under such restrictions as the Constitution allowed, there certainly was nothing improper in it; and it ought to have been done. I believe this was all that was intended; but one of the petitions mentioned abolition, and this alarmed the Southern members, and excited violent opposition, which was accompanied with a degree of illiberality and personal invective that was truly distressing to those who had the honour and dignity of the Union at heart.
Congress might, and ought to have, imposed a duty of 10 dollars per head on all negroes imported. They might have restrained our own citizens from going to Africa for
negroes, and carrying them to the West Indies; and they might have hindered foreigners from fitting out in our ports for the African trade. All this might have been done, but the Southern members affected to believe that a total prohibition of the importation of slaves was wanted, and that those already amongst us were to be liberated; and some of them made a terrible outcry, and became abusive. They abused the Quakers generally, and an individual of them (then in the gallery) by name. Such conduct was infamous. The application of the Quakers was ill-timed, and discovered more zeal than knowledge. They discovered, in my opinion, a forwardness and obstinacy and stubbornness in the business, which were unbecoming. They are too prone to these things.
I belong to the Society here, but have not attended their meetings lately, for I was constantly saddled with an undue proportion of business; and, though I will cheerfully do my share on such occasions, I do [not] love to do more, while others are idle. I have not heard that our Society intend to make such application as you mention, though it is possible they do. If it will stir up controversy, it ought to be avoided, especially in the present situation of our affairs. I do not know D. Howel's character, though he has become member of Congress.
The influenza has raged here, as well as with you, but has not proved mortal, except when accompanied by other disorders. My family have had but little of it.
I am glad you get on so well with your History. Ramsay's General History of the Revolution is published, but I have not seen it. Can you tell me [whether] Mr. Parsons's (late of Newburyport) Sermons are published yet? I am asked the question from Scotland.
Congress, — I hate to say any thing about them, for I can say nothing good.
I have no prospect of business yet. My friends proposed me lately for a member of Assembly, but did not