To David Sewall

    New York City        7 February 1790

    Dear Sir,

    Your favour of the 29th. Jany. dated at Portsmouth [New Hampshire], came to hand last evening—Nothing very striking has turned up since my last, which, if I mistake not, informed you, the Report of the Secretary of the Treasury was postponed for the consideration of the House, to the second monday in this month—which is tomorrow1

    This postponement, I begin to suspect, has contributed more to a diversity, than an agreement of sentiments in the minds of members—When the Report was first read there was a considerable tranquility of mind resulting from a general expectation of something good—something that all would assent to—But this fortnight of examination has prepared many for long speaches, & obstinate perseverance—And I have reason to believe, that some have been astute in inventing arguments to defend, rather than convince—

    There will arise two parties in the House; one for high, the other for low interest—And these, proteus like, will put on various appearances—but one general, tho confused, impression of Interest will be the great actuating spring; while public good, public faith, national credit, character, dignity & Reputation will be the garments under which it will conceal itself—

    The presses, in this City & Philadelphia, begin to teem with strictures on the Secretarys Report; and general observations on the subject of Finance2—Nobody is disinterested—Every one either holds securities, or what is tantamount thereto, has friends who do, and wishes for six per cent. on the debt—or has none—& therefore, under the pretence of pleading the cause of the great majority who has been obliged to part with them at 2/6 on the pound, thinks it will be unjust to redeem, or fund the securities at their apparent value3

    This oposition of sentiments, tho from the same cause, makes me think of the Manichean System—of a good & bad principle in nature—while each contends for its object neither obtains it compleatly—Hence in the natural world there is light & darkness—pleasure & pain—good & evil—So it will be in our political world—Whatever measure shall finally prevail it will be marked with justice & injustice—goodness & wickedness, benevolence & cruelty, rectitude & iniquity according as the person viewing it shall find himself, (extensively considered) affected thereby.

    There are two periods in society fortunate for philosophy & speculation—the buding of great Revolutions & human events into existence—and their termination & decline. The intermediate space is frequently a time of Tranquility & repose—the mind partakes of the general state of things around it, & is scarcely roused into thinking for many Ages—

    God is seen in Thunder, tempests & earthquakes—but overlooked in the regularity & harmony of Nature—

    It is our Lot to live in the first of these periods—And on many accounts, I think it more pleasing, than the latter—As the sensations, in viewing youth, strength & beauty, are more lively, animating & pleasureable, than such as arise from a transcript of old age & the decay of nature—

    To be a little more explicit, than heretofore, upon the Judicial act [Punishment of Crimes Act]—It is the general opinion of all I have conversed with that there is no need of particularly directing who shall signe a death warrant in case of a conviction of felony—but the Courts having power to try & condemn—have, consequently, power to carry that sentence into execution—Nevertheless, Congress may pass a Law, whereby execution shall be stayed till the sentence be laid before the President—and a Warrant issue from him—but ‘till this is done, the full power of carrying the Sentence into execution is in the Court—

    In my next, I shall be able to give you some particular account of the business of Finance—

    Brother Gardnier is flourishing away like the green-bay-tree. I can hardly tell where he will stop in his Reformation4—It seems, by his speech, in a late paper, that he has attacked the associations of Ministers—as well as the Bar-calls of the Lawyers5—& looks upon them equally illegal—I dont know how he is viewed by the members of Court—but I shall wonder a little if he dont make them suspect his views before he has done—

    I am, dear Sir, yours &c

    * * *

    ALS, Papers of David Sewall, Old York Museums, York. Addressed to York; franked.