Virginia Gunston-Hall December 18. 1788.
Capt. Fenwick's Letter from George Town last Week, per the Post, having miscarryed (as most of my Letters via Alexandria do) I knew nothing of the Ship Washington being so near sailing, until I was informed, this Evening, by Express from Capt. Fenwick, that the Ship wou'd be down to-night, or early to-morrow Morning; so that I have very little Time left to write to you by her. I have not received any Letter from you, since your Arrival at Bourdeaux, but one of the 15th. of Augt. per the Coulteana Capt. Limebourg, via Norfolk; and that so soon after your Arrival, that you was then able to give me little Account of your Affairs, or Situation, or how you liked the Place; I hope to be particularly inform'd, in your next Letters. I wrote you by Fitzgerald's Brig, & also by Capt. Gregory; who was so obliging to call on me on Purpose, & promised to deliver the Packet with his own Hand: by one of these Opportunities (I now forget which) I sent you the Proceedings of the Virginia Convention, & informed you of the then State of American Politicks.
North Carolina has rejected the new Government, unless previous Amendments, almost the same with the subsequent Amendments proposed by Virginia, can be obtained; Rhode Island has yet done nothing decisive on the Subject. New York, discouraged by the Adoption in Virginia, with a Majority in their Convention of two to one against the new Form of Government, received it; upon the Minority's agreeing to recommend unanimously, Amendments similar to those of Virginia, & voting a circular Letter, from their President, Governor Clinton, to invite the Concurrence of the other States, in an immediate Application to the new Congress for calling another federal Convention, to consider them—the other States have all adopted. Connecticut, Jersey, Pensylvania, Delaware, & Maryland without recommending any Amendments—New Hampshire, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and (I think) Georgia, with a Recommendation of Amendments. The Virginia Legislature, now sitting, have taken up the Subject, upon the Ground of the New York circular Letter, & by a large Majority, have voted an Application to Congress for immediately calling a federal Convention, to consider the Amendments proposed by this, & the other States; their Address to Congress for this purpose is a very firm & in my opinion, proper one; they have also wrote a Circular to the other States, desiring their concurrence. Your Brother George will send you a Collection of American Papers, in which you will see the Particulars.
Colo. Richd. Henry Lee, & Colo. Grayson, are appointed Senators for this State. Mr. Madison was proposed, but lost his Election by a considerable Majority. Virginia is divided into ten districts, as nearly equal as circumstances will admit; the Rule of Computation being the number of Militia in each County; each District to chuse one Representative (who has been a Resident in the district for 12 Months last past) to the new Government; and it is thought the Elections will go, very generally, in favour of Men, who are for calling a federal Convention, to make Amendments. Our District consists of the Countys of Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William, Fauquier, Stafford. & King George; several candidates are talked of by the other Party, vizt. Ludwell Lee—Dr. Stuart—Mr. Fitzhugh of Chatham—Levin Powell, & Martin Picket; but they will hardly, I suppose, be foolish enough to start more than one. The Gentlemen for Amendments have not yet fixed upon a Candidate, & I doubt we shall be at a Loss for one; several who have been applyed to having refused; if we can prevail upon a proper Person to offer, I think there will be little Doubt of his Succeeding. Mr. Jas. Monroe of Fredericksburg (late Member of Congress) opposes Mr. Maddison in the Spotsylvania & Orange District, & it's thought will carry his Election. Beverly Randolph is chosen Govr. of Virginia, in the Room of young A-—ld.
Several of our late Convention Acquaintance are appointed Members of the federal Senate—John Langdon Esqr. from New Hampshire—Caleb Strong Esqr. from Massachusetts—Dr. Johnston, & Oliver Ellsworth Esqr. from Connecticut, Patterson Esqr. from Jersey, Robert Morris Esqr. from Pensylvania, George Reade & Richard Bassett Esqrs. from Delaware.
So much for Politicks—For domestic Occurrences, I refer you to your Sisters; who I make no Doubt, will give you a satisfactory Detail.
Your Partner, Mr. Joseph Fenwick, has written to me, to desire my Interest in getting him the Appointment of Consul in Bourdeaux; upon talking with your Brother George, upon the Subject, I find he had recommended the same thing to you, before you left Virginia; a Circumstance I was not before apprized of; but as Mr. Fenwick has written to me to recommend him, before he knew of your previous Intention (indeed before your Arrival in Bourdeaux) your Brother George & I are both of Opinion, that it will be proper to make the Application for him, in Preferrence to you, for several Reasons—first because he is an older Man, &consequently has more Experience—secondly because he will probably remain longer in France—and above all, because we wou'd avoid giving the smallest cause for any Jealousy, or misunderstanding between you. You may therefore assure Mr. Fenwick that what Interest I may have, with our new Rulers shall be most cordially exerted in his Favour, as soon as the new Congress meets; tho' I have no Reason to expect my Interest will have much Weight in the new Government, having, as you know, warmly opposed it, in it's present Shape, both in the federal Convention, & our own. In my Opinion, a Letter of Recommendation from our Minister, Mr. Jefferson, wou'd have a good Effect. Pray excuse me particularly to Mr. Fenwick, for not writing to him, by this Opportunity; the Ship's sailing so suddenly, & unexpectedly, has not left me time; & I cou'd have said little to him but a repetition of what I have said, & shall say to you.
The Debates in the Virga. Convention are published, at least one Volume of them; as soon as I can get them, I will send them to you; tho I believe they will hardly be worth your Attention; being, I am told, very partially garbled, by the Short-hand Writer, who took them down, & published them. This I always expected; as I understood the Man was a federal Partizan; and they, you know, as well as I do, stick at Nothing. He had the Audacity to desire the Sanction of Convention Authority for his work, even before he begun it, and got a Member to make a Motion for that Purpose, on the first Day of the Convention; but upon the Impropriety & Absurdity of it being properly exposed, by Mr. Henry & myself, the Member who made the Motion (George Nicholas) was ashamed of it, & withdrew it; so that they came out with no other Sanction, than the Credit of the Publisher. Some of the Fœderalists (as they call themselves) revised &corrected their Speeches; & I know that some of the principal Gentlemen on the other Side were privately applyed to, by the Short-hand Writer, to do the same; but treated the proposal with Contempt.
One thing with Respect to the Appointment Mr. Fenwick desires, I had almost forgot to mention; I fear some Difficulties may arise from it, and being of Opinion, with Mr. Fenwick, that such an Appointment wou'd be advantageous to the House, I wish to have it in my Power, by proper Information on the Subject, to obviate them—Hitherto, I believe, there has been only one American Consul —a Consul-general, in France; unless the Arrangement is altered, it is probable Mr. Barclay will be continued; it may be necessary therefore to shew, that a particular Consul will be requisite at Bourdeaux, or in it's neighbourhood, for that part of the Kingdom.
I am told there are a great many young Irishmen in Bourdeaux; if we may judge of them from the Samples we have here, they are neither safe or reputable Companions. I trust I am as free as most Men, from illiberal national prejudices; but yet I wish you to converse with them, with Caution, & to avoid, as far as good Manners will permit, all Intimacy with them; your not being able to speak french will naturally lead you into Company, & Intimacys with those, whom you can converse with easily; this you must guard against, & submit to a little Inconvenience, to avoid greater Evils; and I hope you will soon acquire the french Language.
In a Letter Capt. Fenwick shewed me from his Brother, I observe Mr. Whitesides of London makes you an Offer of a Credit of £1000. Ster: upon his House, &c. You are obliged to Mr. Whitesides for his Friendship, & ought to return him Thanks for the Offer; but I wou'd, by no Means, advise you to accept it: the Custom of drawing, & re-drawing being the most dangerous, in my Opinion, of all mercantile Expedients. Put yourselves in no Man's Power—an Accident, or a sudden unexpected call for Money, you cou'd not pay, might ruin you in a Moment; a sufficient Reason, surely for avoiding accepting Credits, further than you can clearly & safely see your Way thro' if you take them at all; and if the Business of your House becomes considerable (as I think it will) your neighbouring Merchants & secret Rivals, will look upon you with a jealous Eye & seize any Opportunity of destroying you: the older I grow, the more Experience has convinced me, that there are few Men to be safely confided in—Rani Nantes in gurgite vasta.
Stick to your first Principles of giving no Credits yourselves; especially in America, where large Credits must infallibly ruin you, & small ones are not worth the charge of collecting. By giving extensive Credits you may, indeed, acquire a large Fortune, upon Paper; but you will never have one, any where else. Diligence Frugality & Integrity will infallibly increase your Business, & your Fortunes. If you can content yourselves with moderate things at first; you will rise, perhaps, by slow Degrees, but upon a solid & safe Foundation.
It is terrible thing for a Man to spend the Prime of his Life in Business, to no other Purpose than to ruin himself, & others; and yet this is the Case with the greater Part of those who are call'd Men of great Enterprize—Men of deep Speculation &c. Your Business (after the House comes to be generally known) will depend entirely upon the Prices you can render for the Commodities consign'd you, & the Prices of the Articles you send in Return. No Man will long continue any Business, unless he finds Gain in it.
I have written to most of my Friends in the different States, informing them of your plan, & recommending the House. From the Answers I have receive, I have Reason to think, you will meet with Encouragement, both from the Eastward & Southward; I think it wou'd be proper for you to write to the Gentlemen of your Acquaintance in the late federal Convention, & in Boston.
I have spoken also to a great many of my Friends in Virginia; most of them express a Desire of giving your House a Preferrence; but vague Promises of that Sort, are little to be relyed on. I enclose you a List of some of those I wou'd advise you to write to.
The Crop of Tobo. this Year in Virginia is a common one, as to Quantity, neither very great, nor small—the Quality bad, & I think the Price in the Country will be rather low; not more than 18/ to 20/ Virga. Curry Per hund. upon Potomack & Rappahannock. I applyed to some of my Assembly Friends lately, recommending the shipping to your House a Quantity of the public Tobo. recieved for Taxes. I don't yet know the Result; I am sure it wou'd be to the advantage of the Public; but I fear our Finances are too low, & the public too needy, to adopt such a Plan.
When I saw Capt. Fenwick, about a Month ago, I was speaking to him, about chartering a small Ship, to load with Wheat, upon Consignment; I think one might be speedily filled up, &cou'd put a considerable Quantity on board her myself; but I have not heard, whether he had determined on doing it, or not.
I have not yet received any of my Rents, or got any of my own Crops prized, & therefore am unable to send you any Tobo. by the Washington, but shall send some by the first Ship, which loads here, for your House in the Spring.
Pray let me hear from you often, & particularly, and believe me, dear John, Yr. most affectionate Father
Your Brother Thomson, & his Family, have just moved from Gunston to his own Seat of Hollin-Hall.
Your Brother Thomas is at the Academy in Fredericksburg.
I enclose you, by this Opportunity, the first Bill of a Set of Exchange for the Sum of 710... 5°... , Tournais, dated Novemr. 18th 1788, drawn by Capt. James Fenwick, on Messrs Fenwick Mason & Company, Pble to me or my order, for money I advanced him, for the Company's Use here. This Bill is to be placed to your Credit, in Part of your Capital, in the House of Fenwick Mason & Compy.; as Per Endorsation.