Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Barnes, 25 October 1799

From Joseph Barnes

Hamburg Octr. 25th 1799

Tho’ you will have recd. the particulars, yet revering as I do the Liberal principles of modern Philosophy—esteeming you the first Patron of these of genuine Republicanism & virtue, & of Universal Philanthropy; Should violate my feelings & do injustice to you, my most worthy friend, were I not to congratulate you & felicitate myself on the recent momentous events in favor of the principles in question.—

In Swisserland Massena, having kill’d & taken near 30,000 men & most of the Camp equipage Ammunition & Cannon has almost broken up the Austro-Russian army there—

In Holland, Brune, has completely defeat’d, & finally expell’d the English & Russians with that which ought to be the fate of all who attempt to impose fetters on those who dare to be free, disgrace and contempt— advice being reced. that the English have compromis’d to immediately withdraw, to compensate for all the conflagrations & devastations committ’d on their part, to restore the fleet to the Dutch, & give up 8000 French Prisoners, mostly Seamen!!!—

And what completes the Triumph of the French & my exultation is, Bonaparte, having kill’d & taken, in Short; annihilated the Turkish Army who came against him in Egypt—& what is remarkable, having Left his Army triumphant & in good order he is arriv’d in France! for what, is not yet known, but no doubt on Some extra-important object; probably to resume the command in Ittally & annihilate the German Empire; while the Victorious Army in Egypt may revolutionize all Turkey, & then attack the Monster of the East whose execution is Suwarow.—

Whether these objects will be immediately effect’d or not time must demonstrate—but this in my Opinion is beyond all question, that the Fates have decree’d, which recent events demonstrate, the great Liberal principles Shall prevail; & by degrees, I hope, pervade the Universe—when the whole Human race may become one great family, Revere one great Common beneficent Parent—Nature—& only rival each other, who shall be the most useful, render most Service, or most contribute to promote the Public weal, as the only true Means of his own happiness; the primary object of all who come into existance.—

Thus contemplating ’tis with the most inexpressible pleasure I anticipate not only that the Anti-philanthropists in America must yield to the all powerful Fates—but that the rappid Strides made by them in favor of Adams attempt’d new creation in the Unit’d States, or Assumptive power, will have So open’d the Eyes of the People, that, as Soon as France is Settl’d in peace they will So Modify the Constitution of the Unit’d States as to put it out of the power of any Combination ever thereafter to Succeed in Similar objects:—by destining the President to be chosen, as the Representatives, by general Suffrage, devesting him of all negative on the Laws, & Vesting the Legislative power in one House of Representatives was made Sufficiently numerous—No Navy—No Army—but a well Arm’d and Organis’d Mass—one uniform Liberal System of Education—of Morality & Virtue thro’ out the the Union at the National expense; over which,—not fanatics, but Philsophers Should preside—&c &c

As all circumstances indicate an approaching, I hope permanent, peace between the United States & the French Nation, I anticipate with feeling Satisfaction, that as the English will of course on that event attempt to intercept our Vessels destin’d to the ports of France, a rupture will So far take place as to give a happy pretext, as Suggest’d in my Last, of declaring null & void the infamous treaty made by Mr jay; & an opportunity as the English are now circumstanc’d of making one almost of our own diction.—

My Objects in the Useful Arts &c being necessarily Suspend’d & of course will So remain ’till the present convulsions Subside & general peace establish’d,—

Presuming on your favorable disposition, I need not re-capitulate the circumstances & motives which induced my Solicitude in the interim to be otherwise useful to my fellow citizens, & to proffer my Services as Suggest’d in my preceding Letters, but rest, assur’d, that nothing in your power has nor will be Omitt’d to promote my wishes of preferment to the office of Consul of the Unit’d States Should any Open especially in any principal port of France or the West-Indies—or Such […] you may consider me qualify’d for.—

Being only happy in proportion as I am instrumental in promoting that of other’s, particularly those whom I esteem, my highest ambition would necessarily be to demonstrate by Actions, that I was worthy of the trust confid’d to me—to merit & receive the Eclat of my fellow beings is the Summit of my wishes.—These Sentiments will ever predominate in my mind, with my first wishes for your happiness & Speedy preferment to the first Chair in the Union, my worthy friend, for the present Adieu.

Jos. Barnes

P.S. have Since made another tour up the Country—have acquir’d a tolorable knowledge of the German, & Shall Shortly of the French Language also—

The presumption, is, I Shall remain here this winter, & go into France next Spring—’tis certain the French have declar’d war against Hamburg, & Laid an embargo on all Vessels in their ports belonging to this City—’till, I Suppose it pays Millions for having given up Napper Tandy & his colleague’s which added to the immense failures here will much oppress the Citizens of Hamburg—Should you have occasion, address for me to Care of Mr Pitcairn Consul of the U.S. Hamburg—

RC (DLC); torn; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. V. P. of the U:S. Philadelphia pr Nymph. Cap. Green”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Feb. 1800 and so recorded in SJL.

In the 1780s Barnes, a brother-in-law of James Rumsey, had overseen construction of prototypes of Rumsey’s designs for mechanically powered boats. During Rumsey’s dispute with John Fitch over who had primacy in the development of steam propulsion, Barnes wrote Remarks on Mr. John Fitch’s Reply to Mr. James Rumsey’s Pamphlet (Philadelphia, 1788). The conflict with Fitch involved patent issues, and in 1792 Barnes published a Treatise on the Justice, Policy, and Utility of Establishing an Effectual System for Promoting the Progress of Useful Arts, by Assuring Property in the Products of Genius (Philadelphia, 1792; see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 1225). Following Rumsey’s death in 1792 Barnes went to Europe to oversee matters related to the inventor’s estate (James Thomas Flexner, Steamboats Come True: American Inventors in Action [New York, 1944], 87–9, 98, 129; Ella May Turner, James Rumsey: Pioneer in Steam Navigation [Scottdale, Pa., 1930], 4, 180-1, 189-91, 201-2; WMQ, description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892– description ends 1st ser. 24 [1916], 165; 25 [1916], 21–4, 314; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , 19:63–5; Vol. 16:590–1; Vol. 20:733–4; Vol. 26:108, 715–16).

André Massena commanded the French Army in Switzerland. Taking the initiative before Coalition armies could concentrate against them, the French, beginning on 25 Sep., routed separate Russian and Austrian forces in the vicinity of Zurich and drove a newly arrived Russian army under Alexander Suvorov out of Switzerland. In Holland, a combined Russian and British expedition had landed in August, capturing the Dutch fleet, and advanced toward Amsterdam in hopes of overthrowing the Batavian Republic and restoring the House of Orange. Defeated by Dutch and French forces under General Guillaume Brune by early October, the invaders had to abandon the effort and negotiate a withdrawal from the Netherlands, returning the sailors captured with the Batavian fleet but not the ships (T. C. W. Blanning, The French Revolutionary Wars, 1787–1802 [London, 1996], 250–6; James Marshall-Cornwall, Marshal Massena [London, 1965], 87–96; Simon Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands, 1780–1813 [New York, 1977], 391–6).

Bonaparte left Egypt in secret and was widely acclaimed in France on his sudden appearance there early in October. In Paris he had private discussions with political leaders who hoped to bring about a change in the government, and beginning on 18 Brumaire (9 Nov. 1799) the coup began that would dissolve the Directory, ensure compliant legislative councils, and give Bonaparte executive power as consul (Stewart, French Revolution, description begins John H. Stewart, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution, New York, 1951 description ends 758–67).

Suwarow: the Russian general, Alexander Suvorov.

Suggest’d in my last: according to SJL Barnes had written from Hamburg on 20 July 1799. TJ received that letter, which has not been found, on 2 Nov. Also recorded in SJL, but missing, are letters that Barnes wrote at London on 30 Oct. 1797 (received 3 Feb. 1798) and at Frankfurt-am-Main on 10 Apr. 1799 (received 11 July).

In February 1802 TJ appointed Barnes to the office of consul in Sicily (JEP, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends 1:406–7).

In November 1798 the senate of Hamburg had yielded to British pressure and authorized the arrest of four men, including the Irish radical James napper tandy, who was returning to Paris after a failed attempt, with French backing, to foment a rebellion on the coast of Donegal. In September 1799 the city government allowed the transfer of the prisoners to Britain for trial. France subsequently imposed a fine of 4½ million francs on Hamburg (DNB, description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography, 2d ed., New York, 1908–09, 22 vols. description ends 19:355–6).

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