To Daniel Cony

    Philadelphia        29 January 1792

    My dear Sir—

    Your favors of the 16th. & 18th. inst. are before me1—The first relates chiefly to the subject of extending the mail-Line into the eastern Country; on which, tho I could say much in detail, I must refer you to what I have said in my former Letters; and particularly of the eighth instant [No. 65, above], which I conclude had not come to hand on the date of your last, since you make no mention of it.

    Presuming you have no doubt of my disposition to serve every part of the district to the utmost of my power, I shall only observe, in addition to what I have heretofore said on the subject of the post, That the transportation of the mail from Portsmouth to Wiscassett, for the last year, tho far more productive than any preceeding year, brought the Genl. Post-Office in debt more than three hundred and seventy dollars.2 Now unless I could assure Gentlemen, that an extention of the mail farther east, would diminish the proportion between the expence of Transportation & the nett proceeds of the offices, you can form some judgment of the effect any arguments, I could make use of, would have on their minds. You must frequently have noticed how difficult a task it is to convince people of the utility of a measure that draws money from the public Treasury, & in which they do not feel themselves immediately interested.

    But in the present case, through an erroneous judgment, which we are all very apt to form, the argument of interest was on the other side. And I cannot say that an extention of the mail Line to Waldoboro. Camden, or Penobscott; or by a circuitous rout thro’ Hollowell, would diminish this proportion. All the documents and circumstances I am acquainted with tend to prove, that the relative, as well as actual expence must be considerably enhansed.

    In many important instances Maine is considered as an appendage to Massachusetts; and a regulation that benefits the latter is looked upon as virtually extending to the former, tho it does in fact injure, rather than benefit its inhabitants: And this will necessarily be the case, so long as they are one State. It may be replied, perhaps, that if a seperation should remidy these evils, it will induce others of equal Magnitude. This question I have not time now to examine; it is a proper subject for discussion in the General Court, or a Convention of the District.

    The papers you enquire for touching the proceedings of Virginia & Kentucky in the erection of the latter into a seperate Government, I apprehend can be of very little or any service to you—They are lengthy, & consist of several Laws of Virginia authorising Conventions of the District—the proceedings of the Conventions—the final agreement of the two parties on the Terms of seperation, their Territorial Bounds, &c.3

    Whatever is intended to be done relative to a Seperation of Maine ought to proceed from a Legislative Act of the Commonwealth. No other proceedings will ever be considered as legal or any way binding. And it appears to me the first question, in the order of Nature & time, will be, generally, Is the Legislature willing that a Seperation shall take place? In the discussion of this question, there need nothing to be said about Terms, or time; for if the Legislature does not consent, there must be an end of the business; at least for the present.4 But when this is decided in the affirmative, the next, and, perhaps, the most important question that presents itself is this—Are the inhabitants of the district desirous of a Seperation? If they are not, I cannot think it would be right for the Legislature to set them off, and put them out of a Government they have mutally formed, & agreed to live under. The exceptions to this general Rule that may rise out of War, & perhaps some other combinations of circumstances, will hardly require a discussion in the case before us.

    How this will or desire of the people of the District shall be obtained involves another question which I confess myself unable suddenly to decide—It is this What proportion of the inhabitants of the District agreeing to the measure will justify the Legislature to enter into a compact with them to set off the whole District? Will a simple majority of the District justify a deprivation of the minority of their right to the priviledges in the general Government? or must there be two thirds, three quarters or any greater number? Without attempting to fix on this point, I will only observe, that it appears equally wrong policy that a bare majority should decide for the minority, as that a very small minority in the District should be permitted to controul the voice of the general Legislature joined to that of a large majority of the District.

    As to the second question—Are the people of the District willing & desirous of a Seperation? Two modes present themselves of obtaining this will of the people.

    First—directly, from the people themselves assembled, for that purpose, in their Town & Plantation meetings.

    Secondly, indirectly, by a Convention of Delegates, who represent the Towns and Plantations, to be held in some place within the District, and authorised by the Legislature of the Commonwealth. One or the other of these I think must be adopted; and yet I will acknowledge, that neither of them is altogether free from objections when we compare the object in view with either of these modes taken seperately from the other; I should, therefore, wish we might avail ourselves, as far as possible, of the help that both of these modes combined together, might afford us in obtaining a clear information of the will of the people on the subject of a seperation.

    Suppose, then the Legislature should Authorise a Convention, in the District of Maine of Delegates from the Towns and Plantations. When the delegates are elected let the numbers for and against the seperation be taken in each Town & Plantation meeting & certified to the Convention; all which shall be published. After the subject has been examined in the Convention, & each member has observed all he wishes to say for or against the measure, the Delegates shall dissolve the Convention; & lay the returns of the Towns and Plantations for & against the Seperation that had been made to the Convention before the people in their Town & Plantation meetings. These meeting[s] may either be held by adjournment from the meetings that elected the Delegates, or be called especially for the purpose. At this meeting I would have the final Question taken, & Returns made to the Governor and Council, who shall lay them before the next Legislature at their next Session; and if it appears, from these returns, that the number of people, in favor of a Seperation, equal the majority before agreed upon by the Legislature as the proper number to controul the minority, the Legislature shall then proceed to agree upon take further measures necessary to agree upon the Terms and time of a Seperation.

    In all matters that relate to the forming of Government, or changing one for another, I prefer the voice of the people, expressed in this manner, by themselves, to that expressed through their Representatives or Delegates—Hence tis not necessary for the Convention to express any sense they may have in a Conventional Capacity. I have therefore proposed my Convention simply as an organ or means of conveying the sentiments of each Town and Plantation on the subject to every other through the District—This appears to me important; for it is rational to suppose in this, as in most questions that are to effect the people dispersed over a large Tract of Country, that individuals may have a species of hypothetical opinion—that is—they may concieve the goodness of the measure depends much on the disposition with which others may view it—Individuals, & perhaps whole Corporations, in the County of Lincoln, may be of opinion that a seperate Government would be beneficial, provided the people of York are hearty in the cause, & should vote for it if they were sure of this fact: but would be cool and indifferent to the measure if they knew that a great part of this or any other County were exceedingly averse to the idea and were determined to vote against it.

    Now by means of this Convention not only the numbers for and against the measure in each Town will become known to the people of every other Town and Plantation; but the reasons and grounds of their opinions will be examined and discussed in the Convention & then go forth among the people in all parts of the District; and give every one an opportunity of comparing his judgment and the reasons on which it is founded with the sentiments of others.

    In some such manner the people will be able to form a right Judgment on the question of Seperation; and to which I shall most cheerfully subscribe.5

    By several mails I have sent to our friend [John] Avery, the Secretary [of the Commonwealth], the News-papers containing a long and valuable Report of the Secretary of the Treasury, on the subject of manufactures6—which, after he had read, I requested him to deliver to you. I think you will read the Report with pleasure—

    By a late Portland paper I understand the inhabitants of that place are about presenting to the Genl. Court, a petition praying for some assistance, by Lottery or otherwise, in building a Bridge from Noyes’s point across back-cove to Portland point7—If this can be accomplished it will very much serve that Town; and as it appears to me, do injury to nobody. It will considerably shorten the distance of people who are travling east and west, and have business to transact in the Town of Portland.

    The number of Lotteries that, for a year or two past have been carried on by the Government, with some other circumstances which have unfortunately become associated with them, has created a prejudice against that mode of raising money.8 But I differ from those who look upon Lotteries, well regulated & instituted for the purpose of building Bridges, causeways and other works of public utility, to be injurious to the Community. Some people think it is enough, when they want to blast a measure, to compare it with something that is already odious & condemned by people in general. Hence we so frequently hear Lotteries compared to Gaming—And it is asked, with an air of solemn conviction, if gaming is not prejudicial to the public as well as to Individuals? Now I think, if any one position in politics is capable of moral certainty it is, that Lotteries, as before described, are not at present injurious to the people or public—And if my Letter were not already too long I would enter a little into detail on this subject to shew the error many people have run into, when they compare Lotteries to Gaming, & conclude the former must be pernicious because the latter is so—But I must bid you adieu, for this time; perhaps I may resume this subject again hereafter—

    I am, my dear Sir, with great esteem & respect yours. &c.

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    FC, TFP