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Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The

They dwell very much on American bankruptcies


most obedient, humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.



Paris, October 13,1785.

Dear Sir,

Having been much engaged lately, I have been unable sooner to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of September the 8th. What you are pleased to say on the subject of my Notes, is more than they deserve. The condition in which you first saw them, would prove to you how hastily they had been originally written; as you may remember the numerous insertions I had made in them, from time to time, when I could find a moment for turning to them from other occupations. I have never yet seen Monsieur de Buffon. He has been in the country all the summer. I sent him a copy of the book, and have only heard his sentiments on one particular of it, that of the identity of the mammoth and elephant. As to this, he retains his opinion that they are the same. If you had formed any considerable expectations from our revised code of laws, you will be much disappointed. It contains not more than three or four laws which could strike the attention of a foreigner. Had it been a digest of all our laws, it would not have been comprehensible or instructive, but to a native. But it is still less so, as it digests only the

British statutes and our own acts of Assembly, which are but a supplementary part of our law. The great basis of it is anterior to the date of the Magna Charta, which is the oldest statute extant. The only merit of this work is, that it may remove from our book-shelves about twenty folio volumes of statutes, retaining all the parts of them, which either their own merit or the established system of laws required.

You ask me what are those operations of the British nation, which are likely to befriend us, and how they will produce this effect? The British government, as you may naturally suppose, have it much at heart to reconcile their nation to the loss of America. This is essential to the repose, perhaps even to the safety of the King and his ministers. The most effectual engines for this purpose are the public papers. You know well, that that government always kept a kind of standing army of news-writers, who, without any regard to truth, or to what should be like truth, invented, and put into the papers, whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people, who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper. When forced to acknowledge our independence, they were forced to redouble their efforts to keep the nation quiet. Instead of a few of the papers, formerly engaged, they now engaged every one. No paper, therefore, comes out without a dose of paragraphs against America. These are calculated for a secondary purpose also, that of preventing the emigrations of their people to America. They dwell very much on American bankruptcies. To explain these, would require a long detail; but would show you that nine tenths of these bankruptcies are truly English bankruptcies, in no wise chargeable on America. However, they have produced effects the most desirable of all others for us. They have destroyed our credit, and thus checked our disposition to luxury; and, forcing our merchants to buy no more than they have ready money to pay for, they force them to go to those markets where that ready money will buy most. Thus you see, they check our luxury, they force us to connect ourselves with all the world, and they prevent foreign emigrations to our country, all of which I consider as advantageous to us. They are doing us another good turn. They attempt, without disguise, to possess themselves of the carriage of our produce, and to prohibit our own vessels from participating of it. This has raised a general indignation in America. The States see, however, that their constitutions have provided no means of counteracting it. They are therefore beginning to vest Congress with the absolute power of regulating their commerce, only reserving all revenue arising from it, to the State in which it is levied. This will consolidate our federal building very much, and for this we shall be indebted to the British.

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