Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from St. John de Crèvecoeur, 9 November 1787

From St. John de Crèvecoeur

New York 9th. Novr. 1787


I am much obliged to you for your Last Letter, as well as for the various and Interesting details it contained concerning the State of our national affairs. Great Indeed is the Change Lately brought about in the disposition of that Country; but who Cou’d have foreseen that the Parliaments Shou’d have Shew’d such a spirit of opposition to the Establishment of Provincial assemblies. It wou’d seem as if they were Jealous of that new Institution. Dont you think that the Time is now come to break those antiquated bodys and with the fragments to Establish Supreme Courts, solely for the Tryal of Causes; we see something similar here.—The new Constitution now in everybody’s hands seem also to meet with Considerable opposition, particularly in this State and in Pensilvania. Some people seem considerably alarmed, but yet I trust to the good sense of the Inhabitants. I Trust that every man who attached to the Glorey and happiness of his country, as well as to his property will be for it.—Old as I am I cou’d even fight for the admission of this new federal government—now or never.

If this new Constitution fails I will do every thing in my Power to Leave this country which will become the scene of anarchy and confusion.—What an Interesting Journey your Last must have been! I’d give a good deal to see the Sketch of your observations. I Learnt the other day from Mr. Maddisson with great pleasure, that Congres had reappointed you their Plenipotentiary. May you soon be that of a strongly united nation. Accept the sentiments of Respect and most sincere Esteem with which I am Sir Your Very Humble Servt,

St. John

Mille Compliments a Mr. Short S’il vous Plait. J’ay soigneusement fait passer Touttes ses Lettres et Packets.

RC (DLC); endorsed. Recorded in SJL as received 21 Dec. 1787.

TJ’s last letter was that of 6 Aug. 1787. Shortly after his arrival in Boston, Crèvecoeur had written William Short a pessimistic account of affairs in America. This letter was received in Paris just as the Count de Moustier and Madame de Brehan were about to depart, and the reply that Short gave Moustier for Crèvecoeur is almost an echo of what TJ could have been expected to say if his letter of 6 Aug. had been answered in time for him to have expressed the sentiments himself. For this reason, and also because of the 18th-century habit of sharing among intimates such private letters on public affairs as conveyed news and observations, this letter written at the Hôtel de Langeac by the secretary of the minister cannot be disregarded. Its pertinent passages read as follows: “What you say of affairs in America gives me real uneasiness; and yet I think there is too much good sense among my countrymen to let them lose the advantages of the most happy revolution that has ever been effected. If they could but for a moment Sir have an idea of the sufferings of wretched humanity under despotic governments—if they could consider that the step from anarchy to despotism is but small, they would certainly use all their powers for the permanent establishment of order. If the cause of liberty should fail in America, which may bountiful avert! mankind must set themselves down contented under the domination of Kings and Nobles. But is it possible Sir, that in a country as much enlightened as America—is it possible that where the dignity of man is felt, and where his rights are understood, there should be danger of the one or the other being sacrificed? I think not; and I console myself on that consideration, amidst all the alarms which the letters from that country give rise to. The divisions and party quarrels of the United Provinces ought to be a lesson to the United States—these divisions have opened the door as it were to the Prussian troops—they have entered almost without opposition and are at the moment in possession of the whole country except Amsterdam, and it is expected every day that we shall hear of its surrendering also. A pretty piece of work, is it not Sir, for a whole nation to be thus chastised, plundered, and devoured by a foreign army—for what? because they have thought it their duty to stop on the road and prevent entering their country a woman whom they thought dangerous. Unfortunately this woman was a Princess and the sister of a King, who has an hundred thousand men at his orders. Let the Americans be well aware of admitting among them people whose persons are thus sacred and privileged—it is no matter whether they are called princes, Kings, nobles—under whatever name they may be they are equally dangerous” (Short to Crèvecoeur, 9 Oct. 1787; DLC: Short Papers).

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