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Wearied with the perplexities and Embarrasments of public life, sickened by the Ingratitude and Baseness of Mankind, and sighing for the felicity of Domestic peace, He is about to leave the Mazy paths of politics, and War, and Return to the still, unvariegated scenes of the sequestered Roof.
I hope, sir, you will not be led by the Contrast which your own manner of Life Exhibits, (amidst the Intrigues of statesmen and the pleasures of the Court of Versailles) to Disapprove the Resolution. Were you now in the State of Massachusetts you might perhaps see Reasons sufficient to lead you to a similar Determination. But I shall leave it to some more Descriptive hand to Give you a true Idea of our present situation.
A state of War has Ever been Deemed unfriendly to Virtue, but such a total Change of Manners in so short a period I believe was never known in the History of Man.1
When Rapacity and profusion, pride and servility, and almost Every Vice is Contrasted in the same Breast, when a society is without Virtue, and Government without Energy, it is then Necessary some Masterly hand (who Can trace the sources of Human action) should take the Helm and New Form the Characters of the people.
When such a Genius will arise, or when Contingent Circumstances will permit its Exertion must be left till He who Rules the Empire of Creation shall by the Fiat of His Finger Commission some Agent Endowed to Execute the Benevolent purpose.
But though such an Happy Event may not soon take place yet I believe the Idol which has been set up in Susa, whom all but Daniel and the Righteous three have Fallen Down and Worshipped, will soon prove to be an Image of Clay, instead of pure Gold, and that will be sufficient to Destroy the Adulation paid the Brittle pageant though perhaps not to Root out the spirit of Idolatry.
It is probable the Next you Receive from Mrs. As will Give you an account of a superb Entertainment made this Day
1 Impressed by the spirit of the times Mrs. Warren wrote a poem "On The Genius of America weeping the absurd Follies of the Day. October 10, 1778" which is in her volume of Poems, 246.
by the Count De Estainge.1 Some Domestic Avocations obliged me to Decline the Invitation or I should Gladly have joined the Little Circle at Braintree, and made one of the party, but as I had once been on Board the Languedoc I was not impelled by Curiosity. With me the speculative would have been the principle part of the Repast, and ample as is the Field which this Connexion, and the Circumstances leading to it afford, I thought I might as well Enjoy it in my own Apartment, as in the saloon of a Marquiss, or the state Room of the first Count in France.
The squadrons of the House of Bourbon, fortifying the Harbour, Riding in the port of Boston, and Displaying the Ensigns of Harmony, are Events which though precipitated by the Folly of Britain, have outrun the Expectations of America. And as there has not yet been time to prove the sincerity of either party, I think most of those officers who Remember the Late War, (when we Huged ourselves in the protection of Britain) Look as if they Wished, Rather than believed ancient prejudices Obliterated, and half doubting our Friendship, Reluctantly hold back that Flow of affection which in Reallity we are ready to Return in full Measure, while the younger part unconscious of injuries, Discover an Honest Joy Dancing in their Eye, and Every Feature softned by the Wish of Mutual Confidence, Extend their arms to Embrace their New allies.
I am not about to Characterize those Respectable strangers which appear in our Capital, I am not Enough acquainted with their Language and Manners to judge with precision. Yet I think while the Errand on which the Count De Estainge came out Excites our Gratitude, the Dignity of his aspect Commands our Respect, and his Reserved affability (if I may so Express it) Heightens our Esteem. But he is Certainly an unfortunate officer. I wish he may yet win some palm of Victory before he Returns to the arms of his sovereign.
I have been in Company with the Marquiss Lafayette but a few Minits, but am told this Character Needs not an American pencil, having Reached a hight far beyond his years before he Crossed the Atlantic.
1 Familiar Letters, 342.
Are you, sir, acquainted with Mrs. Holker? A seperation at such a Distance from a partner possessed of so many accomplishments must be very painful. Penetrating and active, sensible and judicious, the Consul acquits himself in the Eye of the public whilst the politeness of his Manners and his agreeable Department insures his Welcome at Every social Board, and I Could not but Wisper my friend portia when he Lately made me a Visit that she was not the only Lady who sacrificed at the shrine of public utility, the best blessings of Friendship.
Yet such is Human Nature that Man is seldom known by his Demeanour, and the first favorable impression is too Frequently Forfeited by Guilt or Indiscretion Long before the Conclusion of the Drama. I therefore only Mention two or three Distinguished Characters among us just to Remind you of a proposal of your own from which I now Expect to Reap Great advantages.
Are not the Customs and Manners of Cotemporary Nations More Especially if Drawn by a hand Remarkable for its perspecuity, More Interesting and Entertaining than the Dry uncertain Narations of distant ages? The politest Court in Europe must afford Variety indeed.
Are you, sir, as much in the Good Graces of the parissian Ladies as your Venerable Colligue? We often hear he is not more an Adept in politics than a Favorite of the Fair. He has too many Complements of Gratulation and Esteem from Each quarter of the World to make it of any Consequence whither I offer my Little tribute of Respect or not. Yet I would tell him as a Friend to Mankind, as a Daughter of America and a Lover of Merit, that no one more ardently Wishes for the Continuance of his Health Vigour and usefulness, and so disinterested is my Regard, that I do not wish the patriotic sage to leave the soft Caresses of the Court of France. Least his unpolished Countrywomen should be more apt to Gaze at and admire the Virtues of the philosopher than to Embrace the Man.
Every Article of Intelligence both from the Field and the Cabinet you must have from your Numerous Correspondents and Every Anecdote of Lesser Moment Worthy your Attention you Receive under a signature more pleasing than mine.
But when you Look over the List of your Friends and Recollect their impatience to hear from you, you will not forget that few, very few, will be more Gratifyed with the Notices of your Welfare or the Intimations of your Regard, than Your sincere and very Humble Servant,1 1
SAMUEL ADAMS TO JAMES WARREN
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 20th, 1778
MY DEAR SIR: I am much pleasd with the Respect lately shown to the Count D'Estaing and his Officers, but not with the Etiquet of your publick Entertainment. The Arrangement of the Toasts was not perfectly agreable to my Idea of Propriety. This may be thought unworthy of Notice. But there is no Appearance made by the Publick but, like that of a private Individual, adds more or less to its Honor or Disgrace. Besides, Things which detatchd and by themselves are justly considerd as Trifles light as Air, when they are connected with and made Parts of a great Machine, become important and do good or Hurt. The Monarch and Kingdom of France preceeded the Congress; and the Army and Navy of France that of America. Nations and independent sovereign States do not compliment after the Manner of Belles and Beaus. The superior Respect paid to the General and Army of America to that shown to the Congress, viz. by the Addition of a feu du joie, I suppose was conformable to the Practice of all wise States in giving a just Preference to the Military above the civil
I A letter from Samuel Adams to James Warren, October 17, 1778, is in Writings of Samuel Adams, iv. 75.
2 "On Friday last, at the invitation of the Government of this State, the Count D' Estaing and his officers dined at Faneuil Hall, with the Honourable Council and House of Representatives, the Continental military officers in the land and sea service, the gentlemen of the civil and ecclesiastical order, and a great number of other gentlemen thought not less than 400, were seated at once at the several tables in the Hall. The entertainment was splendid. The genuine joy was never observed to rise higher upon any public occasion; and the toasts, and every circumstance thro' the day, express'd it in the most lively manner; the great and mutual pleasure diffused by the present happy Union between France and these States; which British tyranny has now rendered so important to the interest of both nations." Independent Chronicle, October 1, 1778.
Power. It must be confessed it is grounded on Principles truly and altogether Republican. Yet the old fashiond Whiggs murmur at it; and with a Mixture of Pleasure and Indignation contrast the present with past Times when it was made a Capital Point, to keep the former under the Controul of the latter. Men are prone to Idolatry; and some who seem to scorn the worshiping Gods of other Nations, will bow down to graven Images of Gold and Silver, and, strange Infatuation! of Wood in the form of an Ass an Ape or a Calf, no matter what, if it be the Work of their own Hands. In Truth, my Friend, the Congress appears to be in an awkard Situation. While they are exerting their utmost Influence, on all proper Occasions, to support the civil Authority of the several States over the military, there are some Men, even in that State which my Partiality had almost led me to pronounce the most respectable in the Union who would have less Respect shown to them than to the Creatures which they have made. Tyrants have been the Scourges and Plagues of Mankind, and Armies their Instruments. These have been said by ignorant Flatterers and Sycophants to be the Vicegerents of the Almighty to punish Men for their Sins, and therefore not to be resisted or contrould. The Time may come when the Sins of America may be punishd by a standing Army; and that Time will surely come when the Body of the People, shall be so lost to the Exercise of common Understanding and Caution, as to suffer the Civil to stoop to the Military Power.
I will finish this Scrawl with an Anecdote. Not many Days ago a Sherriff of the County of Philadelphia attempted to serve a Writ on the Person of the Count Pulaski. He was at the Head of his Legion and resisted the Officer. A Representation of it was made to Congress by the Chief Justice who well understands his Duty and is a Gentleman of Spirit. The Count was immediately orderd to submit to the Magistrate, and informd that Congress was determind to resent any Opposition made to the civil Authority by any of their officers.1 The Count acted upon the Principle of Honor. The Debt was for the Support of his Legion, and he thought the Charge unreasonable as it probably was. He was I Journals of the Continental Congress, XII. 974.