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[TO SYLVANUS BOURNE]
MY DEAR SIR :
Mr. Johnson sent me a few days ago your favor of the 1st instant, inclosing the letter of Mr. Roos. I shall accordingly procure for him a copying press, with a considerable quantity of the paper and ink-powder. The directions for making the ink and for using the press are both in French and English, and must be attentively observed. I shall perhaps bring the press over with me, as I expect to return in the course of a few weeks. If, however, an earlier opportunity to send it shall offer, I will embrace it.
The most recent accounts from America contain the usual mixture of sweet and bitter, but with more than an ordinary quantity of both ingredients. The attack upon the President is still carried on with that virulence and brutality which have uniformly been characteristic of an American party mingling with a foreign influence. Mr. Randolph, I suppose, means to come forward with his publication at the moment when Congress shall meet. The depredations by the Bermuda privateers continue to irritate and fester the public mind, and the present session of the national legislature will doubtless produce great heats, and perhaps animosities ; though I hope not any dangerous divisions.
It is not a little remarkable that this is the critical situation of our country at a moment when the national prosperity continues to grow with a luxuriance of which the annals of the world give no example. One would think our people determined to dash the cup of happiness from their own lips, merely because it overflows. To give you an instance of our commercial state, a Boston newspaper of October 14, states that within the month preceding that date, one hundred sail of vessels had entered there from foreign ports. It is said here to be unquestionable, that the exports from the United States during the year ending September 30, 1795, amounted to more than thirty-five millions of dollars. When we recollect that at the same date only four years before, one half of this sum was considered as the proof of some extraordinary cause, which would not be supported to an equal extent during the years subsequent, is it possible to avoid the reflection, that the American government, and the President in particular, do not meet with that retribution which has been richly deserved? At the present moment if our neutrality be still preserved, it will be due to the President alone. Nothing but his weight of character and reputation, combined with his firmness and political intrepidity, could have stood against the torrent that is still tumbling with a fury that resounds even across the Atlantic. He is now pledged, and he is unmoved. If his system of ad ministration now prevails, ten years more will place the United States among the most powerful and opulent nations on earth. If he fails, though the Demon of Discord may raise a cloud of prejudice and obloquy around the splendor of his fame for the present moment, it will only serve to add a brighter radiance to his future glory. Yet I deprecate this event because the value of his administration will in that case be proved by the deprivation of the blessings it has secured to his country.
This, my good friend, is not the language of a courtier. You and I have known the time when not to applaud the man who united all hearts was almost held to be a crime. Should that time return again while he lives, my tribute of veneration and gratitude shall again remain silent in my heart. But now, when he does not unite all hearts, when on the contrary a powerful party at home, and a mighty influence from abroad, are joining all their forces to assail his reputation and his character, I think it my duty as an American to avow my sentiments as they concern that man.
You know, I suppose, that in the course of the last sum mer a peace was concluded with all the western Indians. The last papers mention the receipt of official news of the peace with the Algerines. In addition to these may be reckoned the successful issue of Mr. Pinckney's negotiation in Spain. In this country a relaxation from the rigor of their navigation laws has already become inevitable, if they remain at war, and we at peace. Here are objects secured by our neutrality, and by that alone. Compare them with the most advantageous issue that a war might by any possibility have had, and tell me what you think of those who still hesitate about the choice? Though by the way, I suspect the Algerine peace is to be abused, and we are to be told it might have been had upon infinitely better terms.
There is another pretty story current, arising from the same source, but which it is to be feared will now lose its use. It is, that when France and Spain were negotiating their late peace, one of the articles insisted on by the former was navigation of the Mississippi for us. But upon Mr. Pinckney's going through Paris without communicating to the French government Mr. Jay's treaty, the Committee of Public Safety immediately sent orders to Barthelemy to give up that point. I have this account as coming from the express knowledge of Mr. Monroe. Had Mr. Pinckney failed, what a charming anecdote this was to make the treaty with Britain odious, and to give a lift to the influence of France. But alas ! when the generous bounty of the Committee was withdrawn, it seems the United States could obtain the same thing on their own account. But perhaps, indeed, the tale will be worth keeping up, to show what France would have done for us, if we had been good children.
It is on this ground that the treaty with Algiers is to be blamed. I know nothing of the circumstances attending that negotiation; but I perceive that a great deal of credit is meant to be given to the French government for what they would have done for us in that matter, if time had been given them, and, therefore, I conclude they had little or no hand in what was done.
That the Americans now in France should love the French nation and admire the French Republic, is natural and rational. They are a most amiable people. Few Americans have had an opportunity to be more acquainted with what they formerly were than I have, and if I do not look on them as the first people on the face of the globe, it is only because I have a country. The American people are under obligations to France. I acknowledge them and would have them repaid with honor and generosity : nor can I dissent from the feelings of gratitude which actuate so strongly our country men in France on that account. But if there are Americans who have considered speculation in the funds of the United States as almost a disqualification for political opinions, and those very Americans have speculated in the funds of the French Revolution, I think it would become them to be moderate in their panegyrics, or expect that their opinions will be taken with a grain of allowance.
I remain &c
- Writings of John Quincy Adams,Worthington Chauncy Ford,Vol. I, 1779-1796, digitized by the Internet Archive