Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Francis Hopkinson, 20 April 1785

From Francis Hopkinson

Philada. 20th. April 1785

Dear Sir

Your Favour of the 13. Jany. last did not get to hand before the 16. Instt. I am much obliged to you for the philosophical Intelligence you gave me which I have communicated to Mr. Rittenhouse. He is determined to watch carefully the appearances of the Star Eta of Antinous. I have written two or three Letters to you which I hope will get to hand. In one of them I enclosed a model of my further Improvement in the Manner of quilling a Harpsichord which I believe effectually completes that Business. It answers to Admiration in my Harpsichord which has been freely used since last Fall and not one Quill has failed, the Instrument remaining in perfect Touch, which is certainly a very great Acquisition.

I observe well what you say respecting your great Deficiency of American Intelligence and will chearfully supply you with two of our best Papers. I went however this Morning to Mr. Marbois and mentioned the Matter to him, and he tells me you are not aware of the monstrous Expence of Postage which he thinks you cannot get rid of for a Constancy and to such an Amount. I must think further on this Subject, or perhaps wait till I hear from you again, before I fully comply with your Orders. In the mean Time however I shall order two weekly Papers to be sent to me and shall keep them for you. We know little more of Congress here than you do in France—perhaps not so much. They are seldom or ever mentioned in the Papers and are less talked of than if they were in the West Indies Islands. They are settled at New York and according to Report are as little satisfied with their Situation there as they were in this City. They have resolved to build a fœderal City for themselves on the Banks of the Delaware either near or opposite to Trenton. Mr. Rt. Morris, Genl. Dickinson and a Mr. Brown of Rhode Island are appointed commissioners to carry this Resolution into Effect. Mr. Morris sets off for New York Tomorrow on that Business. What is called the Constitutional Party in this State are uppermost and playing the Mischief. They have published a Bill for Consideration which will probably pass next Session to demolish the Bank. The ostensible Reason is that it is incompatable with a free Government, but the real Reason is that Mr. Morris and the Directors of the Bank are not of the present ruling Party. They have also past a most iniquitous ex post facto Law to favour Mr. Holker in his Demands against Mr. Morris. It would be too long a Detail to give you a competent Idea of this Matter. Mr. Marbois has formed a kind of Coalition with Mr. Holker, and Mr. Morris and he are at Odds. This together with the Affair of Lonchamps, which Mr. Marbois has pursued with great Inveteracy have render’d Mr. Marbois very unpopular in this City. The Affair of Longchamps yet remains in Suspence before Congress.

I am very sorry Animal Magnetism is at End. I want much to magnetise our Philosophical Society which still lies in a deep Trance. It will probably come to Life one of these Days and repay the Expectation of the World by giving a full and true Account of the wonderful Visions and prophecies it experienced during its State of Torpitude.

Mr. Rittenhouse has promised me that he will write to you and give his Letter to me to be forwarded, but not by this opportunity.

My Girls desire to be remember’d to their friend, Miss Patty. I am, dear Sir, with great Esteem Your truly affectionate & very humble Servt.,

Fras Hopkinson

The old Apology for a bad Scrawl—Excuse Haste.

I have not had an Opportunity of seeing Mr. Wright.

RC (DLC); addressed: “Honourable Mr. Jefferson at Paris.” Recorded in SJL as received 8 July 1785.

On Robert Morris’ dispute with Holker, there is in DLC: TJ Papers, 10: 1741–6, an 11–page account in the form of a letter from Morris to John Rucker in Paris, dated 18 June 1784, in which Morris authorized Rucker to show the account to various French merchants and bankers and concluded with this further authorization: “If Doctor Franklin, Mr. Adams, Mr. Jay, Mr. Jefferson, or Mr. Barclay hear any thing of this matter represented to my prejudice, you will please to shew this Letter to them and to any others you may think proper or necessary.” Endorsements in the hands of Franklin and Jefferson and the presence of the signed document in TJ Papers show that this instruction was followed. Marbois’ account of the Morris-Holker controversy may be found in his letters to Vergennes of 14 Mch., 5 Apr., and 17 Apr. 1785, in the first of which he said: “quoiqu’on doive regretter que les talens et la grande expérience de cet ex Ministre ne soient pas employés pour le service des Etats unis, nous y perdons cependant fort peu: Mr. Morris est certainement mal intentionné pour nous depuis que nous ne lui sommes plus utiles à rien, et surtout depuis que j’ay eté obligé d’appuier contre lui les interêts de Mr. Holker dans une affaire dont le resultat ne peut manquer de faire une grande breche à la fortune de l’un ou de l’autre.” In the second of these letters Marbois sent a copy of the Pennsylvania law to favour Mr. Holker (all are found in Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., Vol. xxix, 102–7, 150–1, 158–60, 177–81; Tr in DLC). It was common gossip in Philadelphia that the bill had been passed “from envy of Mr. Morris and thro the secret machinations of Mr. Holker and Marbois (who are great friends upon this occasion but far otherwise in everything else). … Mr. Morris has behaved like himself throughout the whole. Some of his friends advised him to speak to some of the Assemblymen, but he refused, and took occasion one evening at the Fire Company to call the attention of the company to a speech he made to Mr. Pettit the head of Reeds party. ‘Mr. Pettit by G.—if you pass that Bill which if you are not all D——d Rascals you cannot do I will be revenged upon you and all your party.’ This intimidated him and he spoke faintly against it but not to any purpose” (Rebecca Vaughan to Catherine W. Livingston, 9 Apr. 1785; MHi: Ridley Papers). On this dispute the elder Holker assured Matthew Ridley that he was “brokenhearted on the occasion” and that he was certain his son’s quarrel with Morris arose from a misunderstanding. Ridley wrote candidly to Morris and to Holker that he thought “both must have been to blame,” though he assured Morris “it is in the anguish of my heart that I do, for I sincerely esteem both and should think myself one of the happiest of men could I be the Instrument of reconciliation between you” (Ridley to Morris, 10 Sep. 1784; MHi: Ridley Papers). To the one who later became his wife Ridley disclosed one ground of his anguish: “The differences between Mr. Holker and Mr. Morris have turned out very unlucky for me. Whilst they are disputing I am suffering. It is cruel hard to be the Victim to the quarrels of others” (Ridley to Catherine W. Livingston, 1 Mch.; also 5 Sep. 1785; MHi: Ridley Papers).

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