Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Brown Cutting, 16 September 1788

From John Brown Cutting

London Sepr. 16. 1788


Your respective favours of Sepr. 4th and 9th are before me. For both but especially for the last accept my sincere thanks. Truth and certainty are always most grateful to the human mind. Your mode of conveying them and the important objects concerning which you enlighten me, render what is naturally pleasant particularly interesting and grateful. As my passage to South Carolina must be regulated by the intelligence I obtain concerning the probability of a speedy, or more retarded commencement of the operations of the general government, as well of the assembling of the legislature, of the particular state to which I am about to resort, I think you may depend upon the fidelity of my correspondence for some weeks yet to come. Especially if the new Congress do not meet until March; and more especially if the circular letter from the Convention of New York shou’d prevail upon two thirds of the states, and among these Carolina, to suspend the functions of that body until another general convention can be convoked to consider and decide upon amendments. Or even if the following alteration of the general constitution shou’d by any mean[s] take place as insisted upon by New York, namely “That the judicial power of the United States, in cases in which a state may be a party, does not extend to authorise any suit by any person against a state”; I fear my proposed negotiation with the state of South Carolina wou’d be baffled, or rather so evidently promise to be abortive as not to be worth attempting.

The August Packet tho’ momently expected is not yet arriv’d here from New York. By the next post I hope to announce to you the accession of North Carolina which I look to receive by the packet, since it seems she was to sail three days later than the date of any of the papers I inclose. Among these papers you will observe a transcript of the conventional letter from New York, and certain other articles, which I have with some industry collected and committed to writing for your entertainment. The sources whence I derived most of those extracts were not to be purchased nor even purloyn’d. To Mr. Parker who will be in Paris when this arrives, I have also inclosed an additional newspaper or two, which he will communicate. Those transcripts and these newspapers taken collectively contain the most recent information of american affairs that can be furnish’d from England. Even if you have ’em already, or fresher intelligence, the bulk of my dispatch will at least evince the energy of my zeal to amuse you. Mr. Barlow will thank you for a perusal of the letter dated Muskingum, as he is personally, poetically, and patriotically, interested in the prosperity of that district. As a supplementary satisfaction both to you Sir and to him, I can inform you that the destruction of New Orleans accidentally by fire has open’d a friendly intercourse between the inhabitants of the Spanish and american territories; pro tempore (ex necessitate rei) a brisk and augmenting commerce is now carrying on to the mutual benefit of the respective parties. Tobacco, Lumber and Grain, with other agricultural articles have been plentifully supplied by our people who in return have been kindly received and handsomely paid in Mexican dollars. How natural such a commerce is and how impracticable to be fetter’d by the one government or the other a few years must demonstrate. I never look over your map of that country without wondering at the short sighted sagacity of our neighbours in attempting to restrain and prohibit a stream of commerce which will take its own course and shape its own channel naturally, and therefore, irresistably. Never do I consider the character of the people who inhabit it without rational delight. A hardy laborious race of independent, civiliz’d freemen, equally distant from the ferocious desine of conquest and the enervation of luxurious refinement, endued with a keen sense of the rights of man, possessing them in their utmost social extent, and neither like the ancient romans or the modern britons disdain to deny any one of them to a single human creature. No nation bordering upon territory of the United States has aught to fear from us excepting only that the mildness of our laws and the wisdom of our political institutions, if too strongly contrasted by harsh edicts and weak regulations, might tempt the subjects of any arbitrary potentates in our vicinity voluntarily to commute themselves into free citizens and thus become attached to the first empire that mankind have ever erected on the solid foundation of truth, reason or common sense.

Why the people from whom we so lately seperated shou’d continue to cherish enmity against the United States I cannot discern. Yet that this is the case is too manifest to need any illustration whatever. Nor is the sentiment limited to him or to his peculiar dependents, who might be expected to feel a double portion of personal as well as political mortification. On the contrary it seems to extend to almost every rank, order and party in the kingdom, or at least to a majority of them. Newspapers, altho’ much of the stuff they contain is nugatory and fallacious, especially in England, where the corruption of the best things is sure to commute them into the very worst, yet they are still tolerable indicia of the opinion of political parties that support their editors. I have therefore inclosed the morning Herald the most distinguish’d opposition paper in the country, on account of a fabrication said to be from Virginia, which demonstrates the enmity that I suppose pervades all parties here, so far as a party newspaper can demonstrate it. For it seems that however english parties differ in other points, in this one of dislike to us and our national prosperity they all cordially unite. I have the honor to be with great consideration and attachment, Your Most Obliged & Obed. Servt.,

John Brown Cutting

P.S. Your letters for South Carolina were forwarded by Col. Trumbull, in the London Packet Capt. Cushing.

RC (DLC). Enclosure: An eightpage MS in Cutting’s hand consisting of transcripts or extracts of the following: (1) “Extract of a letter from Poughkeepsie dated July 11th 1788,” stating that when the convention met, Lansing proposed three classes of amendments to the Constitution, explanatory, conditional, and recommendatory; that the bill of rights was in the first class; that the conditional category included the following (i) that there should be no standing army in time of peace unless Congress by a two-thirds vote decreed otherwise, (ii) that there should be no direct taxes nor excises levied on American manufactures, (iii) that the militia should not be ordered out of the state except on the previous consent of the executive, and then for no longer than six weeks without the approval of the legislature, and (iv) that there should be no interference in elections, unless a state neglected or refused to provide for them; that Lansing, in reading the amendments, observed they had been changed not only in form but in substance as well; that the first of these, Melancthon Smith’s, was debated several days and had the effect of doubling the house of representatives in the first instance and increasing it at the rate of one member for every 20,000 population until it reached a maximum of 300; that, after reading the amendments, Lansing proposed an adjournment and the appointment of a conference committee to reach a “quick and friendly decision,” and the Convention thereupon appointed a committee of fourteen consisting of an equal number of supporters and opponents of the Constitution, and then adjourned; that when the committee met, Jay proposed that nothing could be effected until the word “conditional” was erased; that this caused an hour’s debate, but, the antifederalists refusing to give up the point, the committee dissolved without accomplishing anything; that in this committee Melancthon Smith and William Jones, both anti-federalists, proved to be moderates, but all others were “quite violent.” (2) “Extract of another letter of the same date, “stating that that morning Jay had brought forward the great question by a resolution to adopt the Constitution; that “he spoke forcibly and commanded great attention”; that “the Chancellor [Robert R. Livingston] also spoke with his usual energy and brilliancy” and “Our worthy Chief Justice [Richard Morris] was also on his legs,” while Smith, Lansing, and Geo. Clinton spoke against the resolution and in support of a conditional adoption, which the federalists considered as a rejection under another name and protested against. (3) “Extract of a letter from one of the Delegates from the County and City of New York in the Convention at Poughkeepsie: dated July 23d 1788,” stating that he had not written before because his mind was too much agitated and there was nothing pleasing to say; that things have changed, and that a motion had that morning been carried in committee “for striking out the conditional part of the proposed ratification, and merely inserting our confidence in the forbearance of Congress to exert certain powers until the propos’d amendments shou’d receive a consideration,” which motion was carried 31 to 29; that the whole Southern district (except Tredwell), “four of the Dutchess County members and Mr. Williams from Washington voted in the affirmative, the Governor, Judge Yates, and Mr. Lansing” being in the minority; and that he now begins to believe all will go well, or at least that “we shall obtain the substance of what we are aiming at.” (4) “Circular Letter from the Convention of … New York, to the Executives of the different States,” stating that “We the members of the Convention of this state have deliberately and maturely considered the Constitution proposed for the United States”; that “Several articles in it appear so exceptionable to a majority of us, that nothing but the fullest confidence of obtaining a revision of them by a general convention, and an invincible reluctance to seperate from our sister states, cou’d have prevail’d upon a sufficient number to ratify it, without stipulating for previous amendments”; that they had noted amendments had been proposed and anxiously desired by several of the states, as well as by New York, and they thought it of “great importance, that effectual measures be immediately taken, for calling a Convention, to meet at a period not far remote; for we are convinced, that the apprehensions and discontents, which these articles occasion, cannot be removed or allayed, unless an act to provide for it be amongst the first that shall be passed by the new Congress”; that, since it is necessary that two-thirds of the states apply for such an act, they “earnestly exhort and request” the legislatures of the several states to take the earliest opportunity of making it, which they expect the legislature of New York to do; that it “cannot be necessary to observe, that no government, however constructed, can operate well unless it possesses the confidence and good will of the great body of the people; and as we desire nothing more than that the amendments proposed by this or other states be submitted to the consideration and decision of a general convention, we flatter ourselves, that motives of mutual affection and conciliation will conspire with the obvious dictates of sound policy to induce even such of the states, as may be content with every article of the Constitution to gratify the reasonable desires of that numerous class of American citizens, who are anxious to obtain amendments of some of them”; that amendments advanced by New York do not arise from local views but apply equally to all states of the union; that “Our attachment to our sister states, and the confidence we repose in them, cannot be more forcibly demonstrated” than by approval of a government which “many of us think very imperfect; and that they request the governor to lay this communication before the legislature, “being persuaded that your regard for our national harmony and good government will induce you to promote a measure which we are unanimous in thinking very conducive to these interesting objects,” signed by George Clinton “By the unanimous order of the Convention.” (5) Extract from a letter dated “New York Aug. 9 1788,” stating that, on the preceding Monday when the question was “under consideration for filling up the blank in the ordinance for organizing the new government, where the Congress shou’d meet, it was carried for ‘Baltimore’—seven to six”; that on Tuesday a motion to reconsider was lost; that on Wednesday a motion to strike out “Baltimore” and substitute “New York” was carried by the votes of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and South Carolina; that Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina voted in the negative and Georgia was divided. (6) Extract from a letter dated “Newport Rhode Island July 31st 1788,” reading: “The unconditional ratification of the fœderal constitution by New York, hath blasted the last hopes of the anti-fœderal Junto in this state as they find themselves reduced to this mortifying alternative—‘Adopt the Constitution, and you may yet retain your sovereignty; but if you reject it, your territory shall be partition’d among your neighbors.’—Upon receiving the interesting intelligence of the ratification of the new Constitution by New York, great demonstrations of Joy were manifested by our citizens. The bells echoed the joyful tidings, and the colours displayed the triumph over anarchy. No town on the Continent coud be more unanimous in their sentiments—none more unfeign’d in their gratulations, as none had experienced in so great a degree the scourge of fraud and licentiousness.” (7) Copy of the proclamation issued by President Benjamin Franklin and the Executive Council of Pennsylvania, 9 July 1788, stating that, whereas several evil-disposed persons had conspired to oppose the execution of the laws in Luzerne county by seizing, carrying off, and holding as prisoner Timothy Pickering, an officer of the government, they offered a reward of $300 each for the apprehension of John Jenkins and John Hyde and $100 each for the arrest of their followers; to this Cutting added the following note: “NB. Col. Pickering is retaken and safe—several killed or wounded on each side.” (8) “Extract of a letter from a Gentleman at Muskingkum (Ohio Country), June 11th, 1788,” reading: “On our arrival here we found that the eight acre lots were laid out on the bottom adjoining the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, which caused some of them to be twelve miles distant from this City; therefore to expedite the settlement, and that it may be as compact as possible at first, we caused 1000 lots of three acres each to be laid out upon the high lands adjoining the City, and finish’d drawing for them yesterday (a majority of the agents being present). This we found to be absolutely necessary that the people who have come, and are coming on, might have some employ until the meeting in July, at which time some farther conclusions will be had. The eight acre lots appear to be equal as to soil, all as good as land can be. I find this place to be most beautifully situated; better land cannot be wished. I believe it will soon not only be the glory of America, but the envy of the World. The rivers are gentle and easy to be ascended by boats suitable for the purpose. They abound in excellent fish. The climate is moderate and healthy. The City is laid out on the most beautifully elevated spot of earth I ever saw; in full view of the two pleasantest rivers in the world. Boats are continually passing up and down the water to and from Kentucky and New Orleans. The Indians are friendly and the treaty is to be in July. Rights have been sold here at four hundred dollars a right in cash since I came, but now are not to be had so low. I have heard ten dollars per acre offered for land here, and the money to be paid down. The ancient ruins cause much speculation; a particular description of these and many other things here I shall be able to give you at my return; which will be as soon as the treaty is over.” (9) Copy of the resolution of Congress of 5 July 1788 ratifying the loan of 1,000,000 guilders made by Adams on 13 Mch. 1788 and directing that Jay send three copies to TJ by separate conveyances; and a copy of the resolution of the same date appropriating $20,000 in addition to the $14,000 already appropriated for the expenses of the Indian treaties, for extinguishing the claims of Indians to lands already ceded and for extending a purchase beyond the limits fixed by previous treaties.

The lyrical description of the Muskingum lands, offsetting in part the disturbing news of the Clintonian antifederalists of New York and their somewhat unctiously-phrased but thinlyveiled appeal to others of similar views elsewhere (especially the faction led by Henry in Virginia), must have appealed to TJ as well as to Joel Barlow, though the latter’s interest was more personal than patriotic or poetic, for he was in Europe as representative of the Ohio Company “which sold in the West many acres to unhappy Frenchmen” (DAB description begins Dictionary of American Biography, 20 vols. description ends ).

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