Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Francis Hopkinson, 12 March 1784

From Francis Hopkinson

Philada. 12th. March 1784

Dear Friend

I hope you have, e’er this, recovered from your Indisposition. For my Part I have been afflicted with a very severe Cold for these three Weeks past nor have I yet got rid of this troublesome Companion. This Complaint is very general here. I have amused myself during my Confinement in various Ways. I have read Burney on Music which is really a very learned Work, but as I cannot subscribe to all his Doctrine, have made some Remarks as I went thro’ his Work. These I must lay by till I see his 3d. Vol. on popular Music; As my Remarks tend mostly that Way. I have also taken our Street Commissioners in hand as you will see by the enclosed. One might truly say they stunk for a Whipping. I expect some good Effects from this Flagellation. I have the assent of the whole City in my Favour.

Very curious Phænomena have appeared in our political Hemisphere. A certain Party who have been for these three Years past disappointed in their Manœuvres, that very Party who were the most zealous and obdurate Enemies to all Toryism, have with admirable Dexterity taken the most decided and unshaken Tories by the Hand. A Coalition most sudden and most extraordinary has taken place. You may now see those very men who hang’d Roberts and Carlisle hand and Glove with the friends of Roberts and Carlisle. You may see friend McKean, Friend Bryan, friend Serjeant, friend Hutchinson, &c., &c., in gentle Union and pleasing Converse with friend Pleasants friend Warder, friend Emlan, &c., &c., &c. The first attempt of this Junto was the Establishment of a Bank with a View of rivalling and weakening the Effects of the national Bank, but this Scheme will not succeed, as the House of Assembly seem not disposed to countenance it by a Charter. The Second Effort was a Petition to the House to repeal the Test Law and admit all Persons to the Right of electing or being elected, be their political Creed what it may. This had well nigh succeeded; but was finally postponed by the casting Vote of the Speaker. It was remarkable that not one of the Persons who were to be benefited by this Repeal signed any of the Petitions. This would have implied an Acknowledgement of the present Government, but they had address enough to draw in some good whigs and a great many half whigs to sign and countenance these Petitions. Had it succeeded we should have seen every Movement of our Government tending to the Restoration of every Prejudice in favour of British politics. We should have seen the most partial Acts passed in favour of British Commerce, and a most disrespectful Neglect of Foreigners. This State would in the Course of a Year or two [have] been justly branded with Ingratitude. These are my Apprehensions.

I have scarce left Room to tell you that there is a Design on foot to erect two elegant Buildings on the State house Square, one for the philosophical Society the other for the City Library, to which is to be united the Loganian Library. I yesterday drew up the Petition to the House to grant us the Ground necessary for these Purposes.

Mr. Rittenhouse’s Pension goes on swimmingly. It is fixed at £500 pr. Ann. and the Bill I beleive will be pass’d before the House rises.

We have not taken the Affair of the Balloons in hand. A high flying Politician is I think not unlike a Balloon—he is full of inflammability, he is driven along by every current of Wind, and those who will suffer themselves to be carried up by them run a great Risk that the Bubble may burst and let them fall from the Height to which a principle of Levity had raised them.

Adieu. I hope to see you soon. Your’s sincerely,

F. Hopkinson

RC (DLC). Noted in SJL as received 25 Mch. Enclosure (missing): “Some Account of a New Work Entitled Dialogues of the Dead,” published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 10 Mch. 1784, a satire on the unsanitary accumulation of refuse in the Philadelphia streets (G. E. Hastings, Life and Works of Francis Hopkinson, Chicago, 1926, p. 384–6; the “Account” is printed in Hopkinson, Miscellaneous Essays, Phila., 1792, i, 327–39).

The Design … to erect two elegant buildings did not work out precisely as Hopkinson hoped. The Library Company of Philadelphia was in 1784 housed in the second floor of Carpenters’ Hall, where it had been since 1773. The American Philosophical Society initiated the proposal that the Library Company join in a petition to the legislature for permission to erect two balancing buildings on the southeast and southwest corners of the State House Square (Samuel Vaughan to Benjamin Franklin, 8 Mch. 1784, Franklin Papers, Amer. Philos. Soc.). A committee appointed to consider the proposal reported favorably and the joint petition was approved by both organizations. A copy of the text of the petition is in the archives of the American Philosophical Society, as finally approved 13 Dec. 1784. But both institutions wanted to be on the east side of the square and the Library Company withdrew when the Society won out. In 1789–1790 the Library Company erected its own building on Fifth street opposite the Hall of the Philosophical Society; it was designed by Dr. William Thornton and some of the carpenters, plasterers, stonecutters iron-mongers, &c. were paid, at least in part, by shares in the Library Company. At the present time (1952) there is contemplated, in connection with the Independence Hall National Historical Park, a reconstruction of the building designed by Thornton to house the Library of the American Philosophical Society (Charles E. Peterson, “Library Hall: Home of the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1790–1880,” Amer. Philos. Soc., Procs., xcv [1951], 266–85). Vaughan, in his letter to Franklin of 8 Mch. 1784, had urged that the Loganian Library join in the proposal; Franklin before his death in 1790 urged that the Loganian ally itself with the Library Company; and an annex to the Library Company building was made for this purpose and opened in 1794 (same, p. 275–6).

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