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mind, and a trifling accident, in deciding the fate of mankind for ages. De Pradt and Talleyrand were well associated.
I have ventured to send the pamphlet to Washington with a charge to return it to you. The French have a King, a chamber of Peers, and a chamber of Deputies. Voila ! les ossimens of a constitution of a limited monarchy; and of a good one, provided the bones are united by good joints, and knitted together by strong tendons. But where does the sovereignty reside ? Are the three branches sufficiently defined ? A fair representation of the body of the people by elections, sufficiently frequent, is essential to a free government; but if the Commons cannot make themselves respected by the Peers, and the King, they can do no good, nor prevent any evil.
Can any organization of government secure public and private liberty without a general or universal freedom, without license, or licentiousness of thinking, speaking, and writing. Have the French such freedom? Will their religion, or policy, allow it?
When I think of liberty, and a free government, in an ancient, opulent, populous, and commercial empire, I fear I shall always recollect a fable of Plato.
Love is a son of the god of riches, and the goddess of poverty. He inherits from his father the intrepidity of his courage, the enthusiasm of his thoughts, his generosity, his prodigality, his confidence in himself, the opinion of his own merit, the impatience to have always the preference; but he derives from his mother that indigence which makes him always a beggar; that importunity with which he demands everything; that timidity which sometimes hinders him from daring to ask anything ; that disposition which he has to servitude, and that dread of being despised, which he can never overcome.
Such is Love according to Plato. Who calls him a demon? And such is liberty in France, and England, and all other great, rich, old, corrupted commercial nations. The opposite qualities of the father and mother are perpetually tearing to pieces himself and his friends as well as his enemies.
Mr. Monroe has got the universal character among all our common people of “A very smart man.” And verily I am of the same mind. I know not another who could have executed so great a plan so cleverly.
I wish him the same happy success through his whole administration. I am, Sir, with respest and friendship, yours,
TO THE HONORABLE JOHN Q. ADAMS.
MONTICELLO, November 1, 1817. DEAR SIR,-Yours of the 4th of October was not received here until the 20th, having been sixteen days on its passage ; since which unavoidable avocations have made this the first moment it has been in my power to acknowledge its receipt. Of the character of M. de Pradt his political writings furnish a tolerable estimate, but not so full as you have favored me with. He is eloquent, and his pamphlet on colonies shows him ingenious. I was gratified by his Recit Historique, because, pretending, as all men do, to some character, and he to one of some distinction, I supposed he would not place before the world facts of glaring falsehood, on which so many living and distinguished witnesses could convict him. We, too, who are retired from the business of the world, are glad to catch a glimpse of truth, here and there as we can, to guide our path through the boundless field of fable in which we are bewildered by public prints, and even by those calling themselves histories. A word of truth to us is like the
. drop of water supplicated from the tip of Lazarus' finger. It is as an observation of latitude and longitude to the mariner long enveloped in clouds, for correcting the ship’s way.
On the subject of weights and measures, you will have, at its threshold, to encounter the question on which Solon and Lycurgus acted differently. Shall we mould our citizens to the law, or the law to our citizens? And in solving this question their peculiar character is an element not to be neglected. Of the two only things in nature which can furnish an invariable standard, to wit, the dimensions of the globe itself, and the time of its diurnal revolution on its axis, it is not perhaps of much importance which we adopt. That of the dimensions of the globe, preferred ultimately by the French, after first adopting the other, has been objected to from the difficulty, not to say impracticability, of the verification of their admeasurement by other nations. Except the portion of a meridian which they adopted for their operation, there is not another on the globe which fulfils the requisite conditions, to wit, of so considerable length, that length too divided, not very unequally, by the 45th degree of latitude, and terminating at each end in the ocean. Now, this singular line lies wholly in France and Spain. Besides the immensity of expense and time which a verification would always require, it cannot be undertaken by any nation without the joint consent of these two powers. France having once performed the work, and refusing, as she may, to let any other nation re-examine it, she makes herself the sole depository of the original standard for all nations; and all must send to her to obtain, and from time to time to prove their standards. To this, indeed, it may be answered, that there can be no reason to doubt that the mensuration has been as accurately performed as the intervention of numerous waters, and of high ridges of craggy mountains, would admit; that all the calculations have been free of crror, their coincidences faithfully reported, and that, whether in peace or war, to foes as well as friends, free access to the original will at all times be admitted. In favor of the standard to be taken from the time employed in a revolution of the earth on its axis, it may be urged that this revolution is a matter of fact present to all the world, that its division into seconds of time is known and received by all the world, that the length of a pendulum vibrating seconds in the different circles of latitude is already known to all, and can at any time and in any place be ascertained by any nation or individual, and inferred by known laws from their own to the medium latitude of 45°, whenever any doubt may make this desirable, and that this is the particular standard which has at dif
ferent times been contemplated and desired* by the philosophers of every nation, and even by those of France, except at the particular moment when this change was suddenly proposed and adopted, and under circumstances peculiar to the history of the moment. But the cogent reason which will decide the fate of whatever you report is, that England has lately adopted the reference of its measures to the pendulum. It is the mercantile part of our community which will have most to do in this innovation; it is that which having command of all the presses can make the loudest outcry, and you know their identification with English regulations, practices, and prejudices. It is from this identification alone you can hope to be permitted to adopt even the English reference to a pendulum. But the English proposition goes only to say what proportion their measures bear to the second pendulum of their own latitude, and not at all to change their unit, or to reduce into any simple order the chaos of their weights and measures. That would be innovation, and innovation there is heresy and treason. Whether the Senate meant more than this I do not know; and much doubt if more can be effected. However, in endeavors to improve our situation, we should never despair ; and I sincerely wish you may be able to rally us to either standard, and to give us an unit, the aliquot part of something invariable which may be applied simply and conveniently to our measures, weights, and coins, and most especially that the decimal divisions may pervade the whole. The convenience of this in our monied system has been approved by all, and France has followed the example. The volume of tracts which you have noted in the library of Congress, contains everything which I had then been able to collect on this subject. You will find some details which may be of use in two thin 4to vols., Nos. 399, 400, of chapter xxiv. ; the latter being a cellection of sheets selected from the “ Encyclopedie Methodique,"
If conforming to this desire of other nations, wė adopt the second pendulum, of that for our foot will be the same as į or 1 of the second rod, because that rod is the pendulum as to 2. This would make our foot inch less than the present one.
on the weights, measures and coins of all nations, bound up together and alone ; and the former a supplement by Beyerlé. Cooper's Emporium too, for May 1812, and August 1813, may offer something. The reports of the Committees of Parliament of 1758-9, I think you will find in Postlethwaite's Dictionary, which is also in the library, chapter 20, No. 10. That of Mechain and Delambre I have not, nor do I know who has it.
I have lately seen a book which your office ought to possess, if it has it not already, entitled "Memoire sur la Louisiane, par M. le Comte de Vergennes, 8vo, Paris, chez Lepetit, Jeune, 1802." It contains more in detail the proofs of the extent of Louisiana as far as the Rio Grande than I have ever before seen, and its author gives it authenticity. It has been executed with great industry and research into the French records. This reminds me of a MS. which Governor Claiborne found in a private family in Louisiana, being a journal kept (I forget by whom, but) by a confidential officer of the government, proving exactly by what connivance between the agents of the compagnie d'occident and the Spaniards these last smuggled settlements into Louisiana as far as Assinais, Adais, &c., for the purpose of covering the contraband trade of the company. Claiborne being afraid to trust the original by mail without keeping a copy, sent
It arrived safe, and was deposited in the office of State. He then sent me the copy on the destruction of the office at Washington by the British, apprehending the original might be involved in that destruction. I sent the copy to Colonel Monroe, then Secretary of State, with a request to return it if the original was safe, and to keep it if not. I have heard no more of it ; but will now request of you to have search made for the original, and if safe, to return me the copy. I propose to deposit it with the historical committee of the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, for safe keeping. I have no use nor wish for such a thing mysef, but think it will be safer in two deposits than one. My recommendation to Colonel Monroe, was to have it printed. I have barely left myself room to express my satisfaction at your call to the important office you hold, and to tender you the asurance of my great esteem and respect.