James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Cooper, 14 September 1810

From Thomas Cooper

Northumberland Sepr. 14th. 1810

Dear sir

I feel myself much indebted to your kindness in sending for the books mentioned in my letter. I had omitted to mention a treatise on the manufacture of Glass by M. Bois D’Antic,1 but Mr Warden in making general Enquiries, will not fail to have this work also suggested to him. In England there is not one treatise on the Subject, and the doors of every manufactory are closed upon a stranger, so that we are compelled to resort to the french press for information not else where to be had, altho’ the processes of Great Britain may be superior in many branches of manufacture.

The exertions made here to establish manufactures and to render ourselves in some degree independant of Great Britain in this respect, will excite much attention, much jealousy, much hatred, and much fear, among the mercantile and manufacturing monopolists of that country, whose bigotry and rancour are fully adopted by the sciolists in political economy particularly among the literary lords, such as sheffield,2 sidmouth3 and I rather fear, Lauderdale,4 who ought to know better. Be it so: oderint dum metuant;5 at least so much we may say of the Ministry of that Country, who possess most impracticable understandings as to any matter of right in which this country is concerned. The middle class however, the literary gentlemen, and the writers by profession on statistics and political Œconomy in that country, are wise enough to adopt it as an axiom, that the surest way to wealth and prosperity for any country to pursue, is to promote the industry, knowledge, wealth, and prosperity of every other country also. The traders of England, in their individual capacity, well know that the richer their customers are, the more they will be able to buy; but the people of England do not, and the ministry will not know this.

I fear the prejudices among the common people of this Country founded on the Assessed Taxes under Mr Adams’s administration, will form an unpleasant obstacle to an accurate return upon the Census now taking. In this County, the Germans in particular, were so averse to giving information, that Genl. Wilson6 who is appointed by the Marshall to collect the facts in this County called upon me and requested I would explain the subject in some way to them, which I did (and as he tells me with very good effect) in the inclosed Letter,7 which was translated & published in some of the other german counties at the same time.

The Plan adopted by Congress to make the present Census answer the purpose of a Statistical view of the United States occurred to me above two years ago, and a bookseller in Philadelphia, undertook to print a prospectus of a statistical periodical publication if I would draw up one for him. I send you a copy8 of what I hastily put to paper then, because it notices two works that ought to be in the Congress Library viz The Agricultural Surveys of England,9 & Buonaparte’s work of the same nature in France.10 I rejoice that in this Country, my proposal is now likely to be effectually superceded.

I have written to Mr John Vaughan of Philadelphia to assure you that he will see the expences paid of any package that may come for me from France, in such manner as you may direct. The best return I can make for your kindness is to promise that when the books do come, they shall be used so far as my health and leisure will permit, in propagating the knowledge they may contain. I remain with great respect sir Your obliged friend and Servant

Thomas Cooper

RC and enclosure (DLC). For surviving enclosure, see n. 7.

1Cooper was probably referring to Paul Bosc d’Antic (1726–1784), a French scientist and doctor, who published in 1761 a treatise Sur les moyens les plus propres à porter la perfection et l’économie dans les verreries de France.

2John Baker Holroyd, first earl of Sheffield (1735–1821), was the most prominent defender of the British mercantilist system after American independence and the author of a number of pamphlets advocating commercial restrictions against the U.S., of which the most recent was The Orders in Council and the American Embargo Beneficial to the Political and Commercial Interests of Great Britain (London, 1809).

3Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844), had been first lord of treasury and chancellor of the exchequer between 1801 and 1804. He was not known particularly as an author, although a number of his speeches on finance and other matters were published as pamphlets in the early nineteenth century.

4James Maitland, eighth earl of Lauderdale (1759–1839), was in opposition to the Perceval ministry, but he had published in 1804 An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Public Wealth, and into the Means and Causes of Its Increase (Edinburgh), a tract which received a harsh notice in the liberal Edinburgh Review, 4 (1804): 343–77.

5“Let them hate, so long as they fear,” a fragment from the tragedy Atreus by Accius, was also, according to Suetonius, a maxim frequently quoted by Caligula (E. H. Warmington, ed., Remains of Old Latin, Loeb Classical Library [4 vols.; Cambridge, Mass., 1935–40], 2:382).

6William Wilson of Chillisquaque (d. 1813) had served in the Revolutionary War and the Pennsylvania ratifying convention of 1787 (Pa. Mag. Hist. and Biog., 11 [1887]: 272–73).

7Cooper probably enclosed a copy of a letter to the citizens of Northumberland County that had appeared in the Northumberland, Pa., Sunbury and Northumberland Gazette on 31 July 1810. In it he justified the collection of census data on the grounds that the government needed to measure the resources of the nation in order to determine whether the U.S. could end its dependence on European nations, particularly France and Great Britain, and thus ground future policies on “ascertained facts, instead of uncertain conjecture.” The clipping has been mistakenly attached to the verso of Cooper’s 9 July letter to JM.

8Enclosure not found.

9Cooper was most likely referring to the General View of Agriculture, a series of regional surveys of British agriculture compiled and published after 1793 under the auspices of the Board of Agriculture (see J. D. Chambers and G. E. Mingay, The Agricultural Revolution, 1750–1880 [London, 1966], p. 73).

10Cooper was probably alluding to the annual departmental reports and cadastral surveys furnished by Napoleonic prefects, many of which were published after 1815 in “La Statistique agricole” series of the Statistique de la France (Maurice Agulhon, Apogée et Crise de la Civilisation Paysanne, 1789–1914, vol. 3 of Histoire de la France rurale, ed. Georges Duby and Armand Wallon [Paris, 1976], p. 52).

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