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my heart to make against Madame de Chastellux and yourself, is, that you may neither of you ever get the better of this same domestic felicity, during the entire course of your mortal existence.
If so wonderful an event should have occasioned me, my dear Marquis, to write in a strange style, you will understand me as clearly as if I had said, what in plain English is the simple truth, “Do me the justice to believe, that I take a heart-felt interest in whatsoever concerns your happiness.” And, in this view, I sincerely congratulate you on your auspicious matrimonial connection. I am happy to find that Madame de Chastellux is so intimately connected with the Duchess of Orleans; as I have always understood that this noble lady was an illustrious example of connubial love, as well as an excellent pattern of virtue in general.
While you have been making love under the banner of Hymen, the great personages in the north have been making war under the inspiration, or rather under the infatuation, of Mars. Now, for my part, I humbly conceive that you have acted much the best and wisest part; for certainly it is more consonant to all the principles of reason and religion, natural and revealed, to replenish the earth with inhabitants, than to depopulate it by killing those already in existence. Besides, it is time for the age of knight-errantry and mad heroism to be at an end. Your young military men, who want to reap the harvest of laurels, do not care, I suppose, how many seeds of war are sown; but for the sake of humanity it is devoutly to be wished, that the manly employment of agriculture, and the humanizing benefits of commerce, would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest; that the swords might be turned into ploughshares, the spears into pruning-hooks, and, as the Scriptures express it, the "the nations learn war no more."
Now I will give you a little news from this side of the water, and then finish. As for us, we are plodding on in the dull road of peace and politics. We, who live in these ends of the earth, only hear of the rumors of war like the roar of distant thunder. It is to be hoped that our remote local situation will prevent us from being swept into its vortex.
The constitution, which was proposed by the federal convention, has been adopted by the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Georgia. No State has rejected it. The convention of Maryland is now sitting, and will probably adopt it; as that of South Carolina is expected to do in May. The other conventions will assemble early in the summer.
Hitherto there has been much greater unanimity in favor of the proposed government, than could have reasonably been expected. Should it be adopted, and I think it will be, America will lift up her head again, and in a few years become respectable among the nations. It is a flattering and consolatory reflection, that our rising republics have the good wishes of all the philosophers, patriots,
and virtuous men in all nations; and that they look upon them as a kind of asylum for mankind. God grant that we may not disappoint their honest expectations by our folly or perverseness.
With sentiments of the purest attachment and esteem, I have the honor to be, my dear Marquis, etc.
P. S. If the Duc de Lauzun is still with you, I beg you will thank him, in my name, for his kind remembrance of me, and make my compliments to him.
May 1st.—Since writing the above, I have been favored with a duplicate of your letter in the handwriting of a lady, and cannot close this without acknowledging my obligations for the flattering postscript of the fair transcriber. In effect, my dear Marquis, the characters of this interpreter of your sentiments are so much fairer than those, through which I have been accustomed to decipher them, that I already consider myself as no small gainer by your matrimonial connection ; especially as I hope your amiable amanuensis will not forget sometimes to add a few annotations of her own to your original text.
THE APPROACH OF THE PRESIDENCY.
[From a Letter to Henry Lee.-—
Mount Vernon, 22 September, 1788.] YOU OU are among the small number of those, who know my invincible
attachment to domestic life, and that my sincerest wish is to continue in the enjoyment of it solely until my final hour. But the world would be neither so well instructed, nor so candidly disposed, as to believe me uninfluenced by sinister motives, in case any circumstance should render a deviation from the line of conduct I had prescribed to myself indispensable.
Should the contingency you suggest take place, and (for argument's sake alone let me say it) should my unfeigned reluctance to accept the office be overcome by a deference for the reasons and opinions of my friends, might I not, after the declarations I have made (and Heaven knows they were made in the sincerity of my heart), in the judgment of the impartial world and of posterity, be chargeable with levity and inconsistency, if not with rashness and ambition? Nay farther, would there not be some apparent foundation for the two former charges? Now justice to myself and tranquillity of conscience require, that I should act a part, if not above imputation, at least capable of vindication. Nor will you conceive me to be too solicitous for reputation. Though I prize as I ought the good opinion of my fellow citizens, yet, if I know myself,
I would not seek or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty or moral virtue.
While doing what my conscience informed me was right, as it respected my God, my country, and myself, I could despise all the party clamor and unjust censure, which might be expected from some, whose personal enmity might be occasioned by their hostility to the government. I am conscious, that I fear alone to give any real occasion for obloquy, and that I do not dread to meet with unmerited reproach. And certain I am, whensoever I shall be convinced the good of my country requires my reputation to be put in risk, regard for my own fame will not come in competition with an object of so much magnitude. If I declined the task, it would lie upon quite another principle. Notwithstanding my advanced season of life, my increasing fondness for agricultural amusements, and my growing love of retirement, augment and confirm my decided predilection for the character of a private citizen, yet it would be no one of these motives, nor the hazard to which my former reputation might be exposed, nor the terror of encountering new fatigues and troubles, that would deter me from an acceptance; but a belief, that some other
person, who had less pretence and less inclination to be excused, could execute all the duties full as satisfactorily as myself.
A GREAT EXPERIMENT.
(From a Letter to Catharine Macaulay Graham—New York, 9 January, 1790.] IN N the first place I thank you for your congratulatory sentiments on
the event, which has placed me at the head of the American government, as well as for the indulgent partiality, which it is to be feared may have warped your judgment too much in my favor. But you do me no more than justice in supposing, that, if I had been permitted to indulge my first and fondest wish, I should have remained in a private station.
Although neither the present age nor posterity may possibly give me full credit for the feelings, which I have experienced on this subject, yet I have a consciousness that nothing short of an absolute conviction of duty could ever have brought me upon the scenes of public life again. The establishment of our new government seemed to be the last great experiment for promoting human happiness by a reasonable compact in civil society. It was to be in the first instance, in a considerable degree, a government of accommodation as well as a government of laws. Much was to be done by prudence, much by conciliation, much by firmness. Few, who are not philosophical spectators, can realize the difficult and
delicate part, which a man in my situation had to act. All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external happiness of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it beyond the lustre, which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.
In our progress toward political happiness my station is new, and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely an action, the motive of which may not be subject to a double interpretation. There is scarcely any part of my conduct, which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent. Under such a view of the duties inherent in my arduous office, I could not but feel a diffidence in myself on the one hand, and an anxiety for the community, that every new arrangement should be made in the best possible manner, on the other. If, after all my humble but faithful endeavors to advance the felicity of my country and mankind, I may indulge a hope, that my labors have not been altogether without success, it will be the only real compensation I can receive in the closing scenes of life.
AN ADMONITION TO HIS NIECE.
[Letter to Harriot Washington.-Philadelphia, 30 October, 1791.]
EAR HARRIOT: I have received your letter of the 21st instant,
and shall always be glad to hear from you. When my business will permit, inclination will not be wanting in me to acknowledge the receipt of your letters; and this I shall do the more cheerfully, as it will afford me opportunities at those times of giving you such occasional advice, as your situation may require.
At present I could plead a better excuse for curtailing my letter to you, than you had for shortening yours to me, having a multitude of occupations before me, while you have nothing to do; consequently you might with as much convenience to yourself have sat down to write your letter an hour or two or even a day sooner, as have delayed it until your cousin was on the point of sending to the post-office. I make this remark for no other reason, than to show you it is better to offer no excuse than a bad one, if at any time you should happen to fall into an error.
Occupied as my time now is, and must be during the sitting of Congress, I nevertheless will endeavor to inculcate upon your mind the delicacy and danger of that period, to which you are now arrived under peculiar circumstances. You are just entering into the state of womanhood, without the watchful eye of a mother to admonish, or the protect
ing aid of a father to advise and defend you; you may not be sensible, that you are at this moment about to be stamped with that character, which will adhere to you through life; the consequences of which you have not perhaps attended to, but be assured it is of the utmost importance that
should. Your cousins, with whom you live, are well qualified to give you advice; and I am sure they will, if you are disposed to receive it. But, if you are disobliging, self-willed, and untowardly, it is hardly to be expected that they will engage themselves in unpleasant disputes with you, especially Fanny, whose mild and placid temper will not permit her to exceed the limits of wholesome admonition or gentle rebuke. Think, then, to what dangers a giddy girl of fifteen or sixteen must be exposed in circumstances like these. To be under but little or no control may be pleasing to a mind that does not reflect, but this pleasure cannot be of long duration; and reason, too late perhaps, may convince you of the folly of misspending time. You are not to learn, I am certain, that your fortune is small. Supply the want of it, then, with a well cultivated mind, with dispositions to industry and frugality, with gentleness of manners, an obliging temper, and such qualifications as will attract notice, and recommend you to a happy establishment for life.
You might, instead of associating with those from whom you can derive nothing that is good, but may have observed everything that is deceitful, lying, and bad, become the intimate companion of, and aid to, your cousin in the domestic concerns of the family. Many girls, before they have arrived at your age, have been found so trustworthy as to take the whole trouble of a family from their mothers; but it is by a steady and rigid attention to the rules of propriety, that such confidence is obtained, and nothing would give me more pleasure than to hear that you had acquired it. The merits and benefits of it would redound more to your advantage in your progress through life, and to the person with whom you may in due time form a matrimonial connection, than to any others; but to none would such a circumstance afford more real satisfaction, than to your affectionate uncle.