Virginia, Gunston-Hall. March 25th. 1783.
I thank you for your several Favours, since I had the pleasure of seeing you last; the Receipt of which I shou'd have acknowledged earlier; but have been a long Time disabled, by a very sore Finger, from holding a Pen. Since your last of the 12th Inst. informing me of the Arrival of Capt. Barney &c. I have seen a printed Hand bill, containing the preliminary Articles between G. B. & the U. S. and so far as I am able to judge, they are, upon the whole, as favourable as America, in her present Situation, has a Right to expect. The grand Points are ceded to her; and as for the Payment of Debts contracted before the War, it is no more than Justice requires; nor do I think it wou'd have been sound Policy in us, to have abrogated them, had it been in our Power. The far-fetch'd Distinctions, which have been attempted to be shewn, between this & other Wars wou'd hardly have been approved, or understood, by Mankind in general; and with what Degree of Faith cou'd the Merchants of other Nations have trusted their Effects here, if their private Property was in Danger of being wrested from them, & applyed to our own Use, upon any national Quarrel, & upon Arguments & Principles, in which we shou'd be both Judges & Parties? There can't therefore be a stronger proof of the Weakness, or Wickedness of our Assembly, than their late Instructions to our Delegates in Congress.
I once thought that we ought to risque a long War, in order to bring the remaining British Colonies into our Union; but Time & Reflection have altered my Opinion. I have seen that Lust of Power, so natural to the Mind of Man, prevailing in Congress, at a much earlier Period than cou'd well have been expected. I have seen some of the States, from partial, local, temporary Views, conniving at, and fostering Principles, which wou'd inevitably end in their own Destruction. I have seen our Legislatures trampling under Foot the Obligations of Morality & Justice; and wantonly invading the sacred Rights of their fellow-Citizens. It may not be amiss to have some rival Power at their door, some powerful Motives to restrain them within the Bounds of Moderation. It will at least be a comfortable Reflection, that if our Governments shou'd grow intollerable (which, judging of the future from the Past, is neither impossible, nor improbable) a Man wou'd have some place of Refuge, the Means of sheltering himself from Anarchy, Ignoranc & Knavery— But I hope every thing from Peace: I hope then to see our great National Council, as well as our different Assemblies, filled with Men of honest Characters, & of independent Circumstances and Principles; for until this shall be the Case, our Affairs can never go well. I therefore hope that the preliminary Articles, agreed to by our Commissioners at Paris, will be ratified by Congress; that Capt. Barney may return with them, as speedily as possible; and that nothing, on our Part, may be wanting to hasten so desirable an Event; for I presume his Passport from the King of G. B. is both in & out. I am anxious to hear the Determination of Congress, upon this important Subject; and if there is no Injunction of Secrecy (and I don't see why there shou'd) shall be much obliged to you for the earliest Communication.
The Refugee Barges are lately return'd, & again plundering on the Shores of Potomack; one of their Crews was lately pretty roughly handled by a small Party of Northumberland Militia; they lost two of their rascally Officers, & a few Men; upon which they fled, with the greatest Precipitation. It is a mortifying Reflection, & accords badly with the Ideas of Sovereignty & Independence, that the Power of two States is not sufficient to protect us from a Band of Robbers. I have lately received two or three Letters from Europe, Via Philadelphia, every one of them broken open, & sealed up again there, or at some of the intervening Post-Offices; as almost all the Letters I have had these two years past from Europe have been. The post- Office is a considerable Tax upon the People; under proper Regulations, & in honest Hands, it wou'd be a great Convenience & Benefit to the Public; but by such vile Practices as these, it is likely to become a Nusance to Society. If Congress fail to put it under better regulations, or don't compel the Post-Master general to be more circumspect in the Appointment of his Deputies, the different States will soon be under the Necessity of taking it out of their Hands, into their own. I sincerely wish you Health, and am, with great Esteem & Respect, Dear Sir, Your most obdt. Sert.
P. S. I beg Leave to trouble you with the three inclosed Letters to Mr. Johnston of Nantes, covering Letters to my son George; and as they are Duplicates, beg the favour of you to forward them by different Vessels.—