Major Jackson in Europe
MAJOR Jackson arrived in England in July, 1793, and remained abroad for close to two years. During this period he visited France in December, 1793, and Holland during the summer of 1794. Throughout his European sojourn, he was in close association with some of the leading figures of the day. In England he was intimate with the American minister Thomas Pinckney, with the prominent merchant-banker Sir Francis Baring, and with the Marquis of Lansdowne, not to mention many Americans who were in London on business. While in France, he met with the Committee of Public Safety and became embroiled in a personal altercation with Gouverneur Morris. In Holland he saw Henry and John Williams Hope, Wilhem and Jan Willink, Jacob van Staphorst and his partner Nicholas Hubbard, all prominent Dutch financiers. In short, Bingham’s connections gave Major Jackson entré into the ranking commercial society of Europe and an unusual opportunity to report on the momentous events of those years.
Anglo-American relations during Jackson’s years abroad were critical. When France declared war on Britain in February, 1793, that declaration was a signal for the inauguration of a British commercial policy toward neutrals that was bound to increase friction between the two countries. Orders in Council soon made it clear that French property on neutral ships would be seized, that trade by neutrals with the French colonies was to be severely circumscribed. In addition, the British navy revived the hated practice of impressment. These policies, combined with the longstanding grievances stemming from the peace treaty of 1783, brought Britain and the United States to the brink of war. Major Jackson could watch these developments, report on Jay’s mission and his treaty, and rejoice in the passing of the crisis by the time he took ship for America.
The two years of Jackson’s European agency saw tremendous events on the continent. When he arrived, the Jacobins were in the saddle in France, the King had been guillotined, and the Terror was about to start. By the time he left, the radicals were in disgrace, the Thermidorian reaction had occurred, and France was on the road to the dictatorship of Napoleon. These same two years saw the rise of the French armies under the organizing genius of Carnot, their unexpected successes against the seasoned soldiers of Europe, the conquest of Holland, and the final smashing of the First Coalition.
Commercial and financial affairs were in confusion during the Major’s two years in Europe. Revolutionary decrees had broken the power of many a man of wealth in France; the occupation of Holland by the revolutionary armies disrupted the Dutch banking system and led to a sharp reorientation; in England the demands of the war drew large amounts of capital hitherto available for purely commercial enterprises. Against this troubled scene, the United States presented a sanctuary for both person and property. Well before the war, European capital, especially Dutch, had been invested heavily in American government obligations.420 The insecurity which the war brought to European economic activity made America all the more attractive. It was at this critical juncture that Major Jackson attempted to unload some of the Bingham lands on European monied men who were looking for a safe place for their investments.
Bingham was by no means alone in his attempt to sell American lands in Europe. The letters which follow give ample evidence of the activity of American land agents abroad. By the time Jackson arrived, a group of Dutch bankers had already formed the Holland Land Company and purchased a vast area in western New York. Sir William Pulteney and his associates in England had made a similar purchase. In France the Scioto Company had already proved a costly venture for the émigrés involved. And numerous smaller speculations and sales were already being developed. Europe was a happy hunting ground for American agents with American investments to sell, and Major Jackson had the backing and the contacts that promised success.
Whatever his failings as secretary of the Constitutional Convention, William Jackson proved an unusually dutiful correspondent while in Europe. Although a desire to please his prospective brother-in-law, and indirectly his prospective father-in-law, may have contributed to his zeal, he was certainly tireless when it came to reporting his experiences to Bingham. The Major was sympathetic to the French Revolution, and his enthusiasm for events in France must be taken with a grain of salt; but for the most part, the account of his European agency can be left to the letters which follow.421
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 25 July 1793 [BP]
London, Thursday, July 25th 1793.
I have the pleasure, my dear Sir, to inform you that, after a voyage of thirty two days, I landed on Monday last at Portsmouth, whence I arrived in London on the same evening.
The short time that has intervened since my arrival has not permitted me to make many enquiries, and the necessity of being a little made up to fashionable appearance has hitherto prevented me from presenting any of my letters. This conformity to fashion will be completed to-day, and I shall begin, pas a pas, to make my acquaintance.
Our minister422 is in the country with his family. The note, which I have left with his secretary, will probably call him to town to receive the dispatches.
I have seen our consul, Mr. Johnson,423 and from him I learn that the disposition on the part of the administration of Great Britain towards the United States is far from being what either the conduct of our country is entitled to, or the best interests of this should dictate.
Some of our vessels to and from France, as you will have already heard, have been arrested without any justifiable pretext, and, after suffering all the evils of detention, have been dismissed (where they have been liberated, for in some instances they are still detained) without any allowance of demurrage or other reparation. How far this conduct is likely to be persisted in, I am not able, at present to say; but I expect, when I see Mr. Pinckney, to collect such information, as will make a more satisfactory paragraph, in my next letter, on this subject.
The temper of the people towards us, I am told, is friendly, and the wishes of a great number to become our fellow-citizens are most ardent. Indeed it is not possible to accommodate all who offer as passengers in the ships bound to America.
The spirit of emigration is a source of serious perplexity to the ministry, as to allow it is to aid one of the causes of our aggrandisement, and to check it would require an interference on the part of the government, which it would be dangerous to hazard, since an attempt, at the privation of locomotive right, might operate a much more alarming discontent than has yet been manifested.
I presume, and I think with great reason, that this spirit of emigration will, within a short time, have a very favorable influence on the value of American lands. At present, and for some time past, such is, and has been the demand for money, to prop the tottering credit of the mercantile interest, that all its applications are made to that object, and the premium given by borrowers is so high as to occasion the lenders to lose sight of every other consideration but an immediate excessive usury.
The shock of credit has been much greater than we had learnt when I left Philadelphia, and its effects, I am afraid, will be severely felt by some of our merchants. The evil, however, will I trust be but temporary, and will not materially affect the objects of my agency.
About ten days ago, I learn, there was an auction, in Southwark, of some American lands, but it is doubted whether the sales were real; it is rather supposed they were fictitious. The bid for the back land of Virginia was but eighteen pence, that for Pennsylvania lands was six shillings. This I suppose to have been an experiment to ascertain whether there was a disposition to adventure in the purchase of our lands. I shall endeavor to learn the circumstances of the sales, and the names of the parties. The information will make a part of my next letter.
My present communication is, in all its parts, as might be imagined, after but two days arrival, very imperfect. Indeed I have neither had time nor opportunity to inform myself on any one subject, and I write to you, my dear Sir, rather to mark my respect, than to convey certain intelligence. When my letters are delivered, my acquaintance formed, and the sources of information thereby opened, I shall endeavor, by a regular and connected series of communication, to render my correspondence as useful and satisfactory as it is my earnest wish it should be. If at any time it should seem too much detailed, you must ascribe the minuteness to a desire of enabling you to judge particularly of my situation, that you may thereby regulate your advice and instructions.
I have not yet determined who I shall employ to engrave the map, but, within a few days, I shall ascertain who is most likely to execute it well, and on good terms.
The bill on Mr. Paleske,424 indorsed by you to my order (for £200 sterling) is accepted.
July 26. I have just learnt that Mr. H. Hope425 is in London and that he has said, if he was not so old, he would embark in a speculation on the lots in the federal city. A Mr. Walker426 of Georgetown has lately sold a number of these lots to the Dutch, which I understand they mean to improve in buildings to rent. But of this intention I have no certain information, and what I have received comes from persons who may be interested in raising the value of this property.
I shall deliver your introductory letter to Mr. Hope here, and, after our interview, I will give you my opinion of his dispositions.
If it should not be in my power to write to General Knox by this conveyance I pray you to present my affectionate respects to him, and to say that he will receive a long letter by the Pigou.
With sentiments of perfect esteem,
I am, my dear sir,
Your faithful obedient servant
London July 25. 1793.
My dear Sir:
In obedience to your request I wrote to Messieurs Willink427 (a copy of which letter is enclosed)428 and transmitted to them the packet from the bank and your sealed letter. I shall forward their advices to you, regularly, as they are received.
Your sealed letter for Messrs. Hope I also delivered to Captain Elliott.
I have pursued your directions and placed the miniature and bracelets in the hands of Mr. Rundell. The cost of setting the miniature, including a diamond knot, laurel, and cypher, which I have ventured to direct, as being necessary to the complete and correspondent finish of this rich and beautiful ornament, will be from £110 to £115. Well knowing that every gratification where this is intended, constitutes your best enjoyment, I have no doubt of this additional expence being quite consonant to your wishes.429
Mrs. Bache430 has been so obliging as to go with me to the person who makes mangles, and on her recommendation of one, which she says is most excellent, I shall purchase it. The maker asks eleven guineas for it, but I presume he will take ten, which Mrs. B. says it is well worth. It is made entirely of mahogany, and on an improved principle.
I must tell you that Mrs. Bache’s agency in this matter grew out of a wish, which she happened to express, as we passed the ware house (soon after she had called to me in the street, where I first saw her) that Mrs. Bingham had purchased her mangle, when she left Philadelphia, as, in that case, she would have carried this one with her. I shall endeavor to send it by one of the ships now here, conforming to your instructions respecting the freight.
The remainder of your order is yet unexecuted. Perhaps before this letter is closed I shall be able to inform you of its progress.
The public papers will give you all the intelligence I am yet possessed of on the subject of French affairs. It is contradictory according to the different spirit of the prints. These general conclusions may, however, I think be safely drawn.
That the progress of the combined armies is slow and costly, the French defending their towns with a valour and firmness unparalelled in any war. The small town of Conde resisted a close siege of three months, subsisting a great part of the time on horse-flesh, and only surrendered when but 48 hours provision remained.
Valenciennes at this moment baffles the whole force of the combined arms, and the resistance, though the siege has been formed near three months, is more than proportioned to the progress of the besiegers. Every foot of ground is gained with immense loss, and sorties, dreadful in their effects, are frequently made. Four times during the siege have the magazines of the besiegers been blown up by shells from the garrison, and their breaching batteries have been repeatedly stormed and levelled. The loss of the besiegers is said to be three hundred men each day.
The siege of Mentz [Mainz] by the Prussians is equally difficult. A sortie has been made by the garrison, in which they penetrated the Prussian camp, and fired their abandoned tents and quarters. Here, it is said the French fight more like devils than men.
These defences recall the fortitude with which Calais was maintained against the English Edward.
Great dissatisfaction has resulted to the French emigrants from the Prince of Coburg occupying Condé in the name of the Emperor. It is even said that the Marquis de Bouillé has expressed so much discontent, as to be suspected of an intention to throw himself upon his country.431
The French nation is, however, unhappily torn by internal dissension. Three parties are in arms—the Royalists, who are inconsiderable; the violent Democrats, supported by Paris and the Convention; and the Republicans of Marseilles, Lyons, Caen, etc.
Marat, whose opinions ruled in the Convention, was put to death some days ago by a woman, who went from Caen to Paris, with deliberate intent to kill him. She has been executed.
What effect his death may have on the state of parties, or whether it will have any, is quite uncertain. He was certainly a worthless man.
Demourier was in London a short time since, which place I believe he was directed to leave very abruptly. A traitor’s fate attends him. He is despised even by those who seduced him.432
Amid the gloom, which darkens the prospects of France, a ray of hope emanates from the policy of Poland, which is expected to produce division among the powers that seek her dismemberment. The King and a large majority of the Diet have determined to address themselves exclusively to the Empress of Russia. Should this beget a jealousy on the part of Austria and Prussia, the result to France may be most salutary and important.433
July 26. A very intelligent young gentleman, just returned from a tour through France, who I saw at Mr. W. Vaughan’s,434 assures me that the internal situation of that country is infinitely better than her best friends abroad could suppose. He says that it would be almost impossible, but for the occasional appearance of marching troops, to know the nation was at war. Paris is perfectly quiet, and the citizens pursuing their occupations as formerly.
The affair at Nantes between the Republicans and the Royalists was certainly very serious, and terminated in the total discomfiture of the latter, four thousand of whom fell in the streets, which they had entered by different avenues, but in great disorder. The fire from the houses, it is said, was most dreadful.435
The harvest in France is abundant. In Spain and Portugal it is quite otherwise. Our consul tells me that his last letters from Barcelona inform him the price of grain must be very high at least until the harvest of 1794, that wheat was now selling at 8/ sterling a bushel, and flour from 43 to 45s sterling per barrel.
Accounts are received that five American ships, with grain, have arrived at Nantes. If I can get their names I will mention them to you, as I will a list of the vessels which have been arrested by the English, if it is to be procured.
These matters, and any other intelligence which I may occasionally give you respecting the political temper of our good friends here, you may mention without my name, as I find myself very able to suppress any commentary upon them here, and I care not to appear to take a part either way.
I have given your directions to Mr. Brastridge respecting the dishes, which will be made as you desire.
I shall write to you very fully by the Pigou which will sail in about a fortnight. By that time, I shall have delivered my letters, and established my quarters. At present I am at the London Coffee House, Ludgate Hill.
I have thoughts of taking the lodgings which Dr. Edwards,436 who is going into the country, now occupies, in Norfolk Street in the Strand. The position is pretty central, and the street is airy and quiet.
I have seen Mr. B. Vaughan,437 and am to dine with him next Friday. He says the spirit of emigration from this country to America is very high, and hourly encreasing. He is very unqualified in his reprobation of the minister’s438 measures.
You will excuse, my dear sir, the incoherence of my present communications, and I trust you will entertain, with reason, an entire reliance upon my disposition and exertions to approve myself.
Your obliged, affectionate friend, and faithful servant
Sir Francis Baring, his brother John Baring, and their young partner Charles Wall, The House of Baring was one of Major William Jackson’s most likely prospects in his attempt to sell the Maine Lands in Europe. Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, August 1793 [BP]
London, August 1793.
I had the pleasure, my dear Sir, of writing to you on the 25th and 26th ultimo by Mr. Bache, since which time I have delivered my introductory letters to those gentlemen, who are in town. Several of them are still at the watering places, or at their seats in the country.
I have seen Sir Francis Baring,439 who has been very civil to me. The first question, however, which his partner, Mr. Wall,440 put to me, was an enquiry after the price of our stocks, in which they appear to be a good deal interested.
I have had no occasion, as yet, which I thought favorable or opportune, to mention the main object of my errand to Europe. Indeed I am persuaded that your opinion, not to hasten the disclosure of it, will be among the surest means to give it effect when known.
I learn from Franklin441 and Constable442 that the necessity, which has heretofore urged the sale of our land in Europe, has been the only cause of its depreciation in price, and of backwardness in buyers. Franklin tells me that, but for this circumstance, Mr. Morris’s lands must have brought more than double what they did, but that all his property in Philadelphia was under mortgage, and that a judgment thereon had been privately given, which compelled the sale to Pultney,443 and that the subsequent sales have been made under similar circumstances, either to pay pressing debts, or to prevent the return of bills with damages upon them.
The last sale to Chaumont was made by Franklin, after young Morris had failed to make a bargain with Church, whose lawyer made some objections to the title. Church was to have given £12,000 sterling. Franklin got £15,000 sterling, from which his commission of ten per cent was deducted.444
How far these forced sales may affect the prices of our lands hereafter, or the disposition to purchase, it is not possible just now to say. You will however collect something of their influence, connected with a reference to the war and scarcity of money, in the enclosed letter from Mr. Colquhoun445 to me, which was in answer to one that transmitted a letter from Colonel Smith.446
Smith, I believe, had observed to him, generally, that I was authorized, if a favorable market offered, to contract for the sale of a very valuable tract of country, and recommended me to Mr. Colquhoun for his advice and assistance.
In answer to this letter from Mr. C. I have written that not knowing exactly what business Colonel Smith had opened to him, I could only thank him very sincerely for his friendly offers, and, as no part of my business was pressing, I should wait the pleasure of seeing him in London.
If the British ministry are sincere in the assurances which they give to Mr. Pinckney (which by the bye I think rather problematical) and we are enabled to keep aloof from the war, I hope that, within the ensuing six months, I shall have applications, either here or on the continent, to treat for the whole or considerable portions of the Maine lands.
Should any of the applications wear the appearance of a very solid speculation, I mean to suggest to the parties the possibility of immediately contracting with their governments for the supply of masts and timber. This, I am persuaded, would give confidence to the negotiation for sale, and, under the present enhanced demand for those articles, would not be unlikely to obtain the attention of the governments, which could not fail to appreciate the lands.
Such a circumstance would render an advantageous sale of all the land absolutely certain, and, on the part of the person treating, would be more likely to obviate what I think will be the principal objection to that country, the degree of cold, than anything else could do, for, in the contract he would receive an immediate reimbursement to a large amount, connected with a probability of refunding the whole purchase money in the same way, and, should no contract be concluded with the government, a person intending to purchase would, in the very suggestion from me, find an additional assurance of success, in the private exportation of masts and lumber. But this can only be mentioned, where appearances may indicate powerful means, on the part of the persons, with whom I may have to treat.
I shall rely, however, on the authentic documents which I possess, recommendatory of the lands for fertility of soil, salubrity of climate, and peculiar advantage of situation, to procure a good price for them, and I have strong hopes that, under a continuance of peace, these recommendations must force themselves on the people of Europe.
Here, my dear sir, let me repeat to you the necessity of urging by every possible means the passing of the law to enable aliens to hold lands in Massachusetts. The advantages, which Pennsylvania derives from her liberal policy on this head are immense, and will tend, perhaps, in equal degree, with any other cause, to make her the richest and most powerful state in the Union, as an early accession of population must give an advance to her agriculture and manufactures, which no other state will be able to overtake. Indeed such a law is almost essential to the sale of our lands in Europe.447
Let the particular survey of the lands be as much hastened as possible, for, if it becomes necessary to sell by townships, the particulars of survey will be very important.
Finding that much depends on a handsome exhibit of the land, I have given the map, from which the plate is to be engraved, to Mr. Faden, the King’s geographer, who promises to complete it in about five weeks from this time, and he supposes the cost will be about twenty guineas. The size will be half that of the small manuscript map, which will be sufficiently large to give a very distinct view of the coast and the country.
I have given a letter of introduction to you to a son of Dr. Priestly,448 who goes to look at the lands in the United States, with an intention to fix on a spot for the establishment of his father and family, who will remove to America when his report is received.
I have seen the doctor and conversed very fully with him on the subject of our country, and he is pleased to say I have raised it, high as it was before, considerably in his estimation. Mr. Russell449 of Manchester, who had his fine house destroyed by the mob, sometime ago, was of the party. They were astonished at the abstract of our exports which I shewed to them and which I have had published with some short observations in the Morning Chronicle. The people here had no conception of their amount, and some of the prejudiced say it is a fabrication although I had it stated in the Chronicle, as being from an authentic official return.
Here let me mention that weekly statements of the market prices of provisions in the several large towns on the continent might be published here with great effect. The prices in Boston would have great weight with emigrants, and be useful in recommending the Maine lands.
The Dissenters are in a state of proscription here—and, to judge from the sentiments of Dr. Priestly and Mr. Russell, who are two of their principal leaders, I should not wonder if they expatriated themselves in a body. Under this opinion I mean to cultivate them with particular attention.
I think your opinions may have weight with young Mr. Priestley, and, in my letter by him, I have requested your advice and attention to him. I have also given him letters to Generals Knox and Lincoln.
A person, who I have reason to suppose was employed by Dr. Lettsom,450 applied to Dr. Edwards the other day for his opinion whether titles to lands would be safest under you or Mr. Morris. Dr. Edwards said it was in one sense a very delicate question, and hardly answerable. He should only observe that Mr. Morris’s fortune was thought to be very great, and his concerns very extensive, that your fortune was certain very great, and he believed your property so circumstanced that nothing, he thought, could possibly affect any titles you might make. Whether any inference was drawn from these opinions I have not heard. It is possible I may hear something of it by and bye.
Dr. Edwards has made a small sale of 5,000 acres of land in Fayette county, Pennsylvania, at three shillings per acre, payable one third down, the residue in annual payments of £100. The doctor told me the land was so indifferent that he could not say much for it which was the reason he sold it so low.
I find the doctor has commissions to sell land for the following persons:
- for H. Drinker451 100,000 acres in Pennsylvania on the York line, limited to 7/6 sterling per acre. This land the doctor says is very good.
- for Judge Wilson452 150,000 acres (sugar tract) limited to one guinea per acre, which, the doctor, he is sure, cannot be obtained.
- for Tench Coxe453 The quantity and price I dont know, but I believe about 15,000 acres limited from two to three dollars.
- for Charles Biddle,454 F. Nichols,455 and Major Macpherson456 in company with the doctor 24,000 acres in Northumberland county, Pennsylvania, limited to a dollar.
Dr. Edwards was in treaty with Dr. Priestley for the sale of Nicholson’s farm (late Govr. Mifflin’s) for which he asked £9,000 sterling, but Dr. P. has determined to wait until he hears from his son.457
An opinion, which, for stock-jobbing purposes, is very industriously propagated by some, that America will become a party to the present war against Great Britain, will certainly, for a time, affect the disposition to adventure in our lands, but I trust it will not be of long continuance, and that the understanding between the two countries will be so unequivocally cleared up, and stated by their respective governments, as to remove this greatest obstacle to the sale of our lands.
The land in Pennsylvania has a decided preference over any now at market (I do not consider the land in Maine as having been brought into the market). The Virginia lands will not be looked at, among other reasons because they cannot be held by aliens.
I beg to be instructed, whether, in case a person should propose to purchase the whole of the land, and be disinclined to treat for the three fourths, I shall be at liberty to contract for the whole of each or both tracts. Your present instruction limits me, in some measure, to the sale of the whole of the Kennebeck, and one half of the Penobscot tract, and it is possible it might be more satisfactory to purchasers, on a large scale, to take the whole of the land, as conveyed by the State to you, deducting what has been sold to Colonel Walker458 and only taking their deeds from you (freed from the settlement duty, which will not be mentioned by me), agreeably to the face of your deeds from the Commonwealth.
The present uncertain state of things between America and England will make a reserved conduct, on my part, still more necessary, but you may be persuaded that I shall lose no opportunity either to gain or to communicate such information, on the subject of my commission, as may contribute in any degree to its accomplishment.
With sentiments of perfect esteem, I am,
Your much obliged and faithful servant
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 21 August 1793 [BP]
London, August 21st 1793.
I have already had the pleasure, my dear Sir, of writing to you by this conveyance, but wishing to separate general information from that which is more immediately connected with my principal business, I shall give you the trouble of reading another letter.
I transmit to you the copy of a letter which I received a few days since from Messrs. Willink. It may possibly reach Philadelphia sooner than letters of the same date sent direct from Holland.
Enclosed are bills of parcels, and bill of lading for three packages, marked WB 1, 2, 3, shipped on board the Pigou, Captain Loxley.
Finding that there was but little chance of sending the mangle on a reduced freight, I preferred putting it on board the Pigou, and I presume the early use of it will be more than equal to the difference of freight.
As no good opportunity might have offered before spring, had I lost the present, to send Mrs. B.s millenary, I believed it best to have them made and sent out now. They are said to be of the very first order, and, judging by the price, I should conclude they must certainly be so.
The plated dishes have not yet arrived from the manufactory.
Within the case of the mangle there is a case containing seven hats and feathers, which I have mentioned to Mrs. B are presents to the ladies. Should it be necessary to take notice of them at the Custom House, they are but of inconsiderable value.
I wish, my dear friend, that facts would vindicate me in a relation of politics favorable to the friends of freedom: but alas! the affairs of France are involved in difficulties apparently almost inextricable, and the cause of liberty is fatally wronged by the unwise measures of her real friends, and the abandoned licentiousness of false pretenders.
Oppressed by an immense external force, and distracted by internal discord, that fine country is threatened with, and is actually suffering the severest calamities, for, although the progress of the confederate arms is so slow and costly as not to promise the most distant completion of their declared object, the restoration of the monarchy, yet there appears to be a settled determination to inflict the most cruel chastisement of war, and to retain the conquests that are made from France, to the use of those who make them.
The manifestation of this policy, it is said, has so dissatisfied the emigrants that they do not merely murmur, but complain aloud of the deep deception, which has been practised against them and their country. Bills, expressive of these discontents, and calling on them to return to the defence of their country against the very powers with whom they are leagued, have been put up at Brussells, and distributed through the other towns of Austrian Flanders. This has occasioned the arrest of some and the flight of others of the emigrants.
Condé and Valenciennes are the only towns which have yet been taken from France. Mentz, which was a conquest from the Germans, has also been recovered. The defence of these places has been marked by a valour and firmness far surpassing all that was expected, and but little flattering to the hopes of the conquerors.
Lisle is thought impregnable within this campaign, and will not be attempted. Dunkirk is mentioned as the next essay of the combined forces, and will most probably, if besieged, be taken. It is said that the last accounts state the Duke of York to be within twenty nine miles of Dunkirk, with thirty thousand troops, British, Dutch, Hanoverians, and Hessians.459
The English grand fleet under Lord Howe is returned after seeing the French fleet, from Brest, off Bellisle. Some accounts say the French were so advantageously posted, and so close in with their own coast, that his lordship could not attack them, although they formed in order of battle. Other accounts says that they outnumbered the English by several ships, and that his lordship was chased into Torbay. Certain it is there has been an immense failure of expectation, on the part of England, in the naval campaign.460
The Dutch are complained of as more than usually tardy (there is certainly an aversion to the war in Holland); and the Portuguese squadron, which came to guard Portsmouth, in the absence of Lord Howe, is scoffed at.
The Spanish squadron is acting in the Mediterranean with Lord Hood, and Toulon was supposed to be their object; but no account has yet been received of any attempt against it. You will recollect that Prince Eugene and the confederates were foiled in an attempt upon Toulon, in the war of the succession. The latest accounts say there had been a violent storm in the Mediterranean, and that the English squadron was forced into Leghorn road.
A Russian squadron is arrived at Copenhagen destined it is said to the Mediterranean with twelve thousand troops on board. Perhaps the negotiation now going on in Poland, whereby Russia proposes to herself a share of that unfortunate country, distinct from Austria and Prussia, and a separate alliance with the King and the republic of Poland, may change the determination of that force—perhaps affect the whole complexion of the war.
In England the war is certainly less popular than it was, and it is thought by some that all the manufacturing towns will follow the example of Glasgow, and petition against it. This disposition, should it prevail, will be extremely favorable to our view of neutrality, and may tend to procure a correction of the late practice of seizing our vessels, under pretext that they had French property on board, or were carrying provisions to France. On this head there have certainly been great abuses committed by the British, and, to my mind, it carries a stronger indication of their disposition to go to war with us, than I could have supposed, as reasoning men, they would have shewn, especially when they reflect upon the following consequences:
That it would lock up all the English capital in our country; suspend, if not reverse, the decree of our court for the payment of old British debts; occasion the loss of an annual consumption of four millions of their manufactures—and that too at a time when their manufacturers are, many of them, literally, starving; expose their commerce to a predatory war, the severest it has ever suffered; and unquestionably, in the event, wrest from them their remaining colonial possessions on the continent.
That the war would greatly injure England is most clear from these consequences, which would certainly attend it; that it would injure us is no less certain. It will therefore become a consideration whether the management of certain points, on our part, had not better be referred to commercial ingenuity than political strife, provided always that we make no national sacrifices.
The war with France has certainly originated with the King, and is perhaps necessary to both him and his party. To his party because it augments their power. To himself because it is said that the intimation of extraordinary matter (such as the capture of a town, or the gain of a battle) is necessary to recall him from a rest of his late disorder.
The spirit of the people was certainly awed into complete submission by the decisive measures, which the government adopted on its first manifestation.
The alarm, which certain very unqualified doctrines carried to the minds of the men of property (not nobles) strengthened the hands of government, by an accession of the majority of that description, who, with their dependents, make perhaps one eighth of the nation. The persons employed in the administration, including the army and navy, and all the branches of the civil list make another eighth of the nation. The aristocracy, clergy, and their dependents, make another eighth of the nation.
This places three eighths on the side of the present system, and utterly opposed to any change or reform. The other five eighths, made up of very disjointed materials, may desire a change, but, from the discordance of their composition, they are but little likely to produce it.
Nothing, in my opinion, will operate any change but such a persistance in the system of war as must create intolerable pressure of taxation (for it is certainly true that the last feather will sink the camel), and carry an apprehension to the minds of many, who are now contented, that these military measures tend to subvert the supposed portion of freedom that remains to their boasted constitution. This distant prospect of reform is the more to be lamented as, however specious the structure of this government is, when viewed only in theory, in practice it is at once the most absolute and oppressive.
Their representation (the basis of what they call their freedom) is, as you well know, unjust and impure as inequality and corruption can make it. The other organs of the government are exactly what might be expected from this vital defect.
The enclosed copy of Lord Grenville’s answer to Mr. Pinckney461 will give you some idea of their disposition towards us. I confess I think the event of peace or war with America yet doubtful, and if I did not expect more from their fears than from their justice, or the disposition of their rulers towards us, I should pronounce that war would happen. Our country will do well to prepare for the worst.
Late accounts say that Barrere, the present leader of the Convention, is likely to reconcile the contending parties in France, which is the more probable as, although a very decided Republican, he has never courted either party. If he effects this immense object, the invaders will do well, in the present temper of the nation, to look to their safety.
The Spaniards have received a decisive defeat on the side of Bayonne. This is published in the Madrid paper, and the loss is said, in that paper, to be very nearly what the French make it.
The Queen, it is said, has been acquitted.
Mr. Pitt has been decreed by the Convention to be the enemy of the human species. I suspect the charge would have fallen, with more propriety, elsewhere.
I hold it necessary, for several reasons, to give you the following account of an affair that happened here some time ago.
Mr. Boylston, who left Boston about the year 1776 and came to England, with a fortune of £100,000 sterling, which he has since increased to £180,000, is the person to whom Colonel Smith sold the 400,000 acres of land for 2/ an acre, which he had bought of Constable for 1/. For the payment, Mr. C. had received Boylston’s acceptances, and made complete conveyances of the land, Boylston becoming the proprietor. A late verdict of a jury before Lord Kenyon, upon an issue out of chancery, has found that Boylston was a partner in the house of Lane, Son and Fraser, quoad their commission business, whereby, it is more than probable, his property, as far as it can be touched, will be affected by their debts. This has occasioned him to be arrested and imprisoned. Since his imprisonment he has made, and sent to America, a deed of the abovementioned land to Govr. Hancock, Mr. Gill, and others of Boston, in trust for the endowment of certain colleges and hospitals in New England, his native country. And, declaring that the decision of his being a partner, in the house of Lane, Son & Fraser, is unjust, he refuses to revoke the deed, and is determined to abide any rigour of the law rather than do so.
His acceptances to Constable were not paid, and I am afraid (between ourselves) all who have been concerned in the land must suffer, perhaps a total loss.462
Having reason to believe that your indorsement was requested and may have been given on certain paper, which this transaction may affect, I have given you this relation of facts, which, by taking some pains, I traced this afternoon.
August 22nd. The rumour of war between America and England has been very strong within a day or two. It is pretended that a cutter has arrived at Plymouth with intelligence of an embargo having been laid on all the British shipping in our ports, and such is the credulity of people here that the report is nearly equal to certainty.
Twelve guineas have been given at Lloyds to ensure peace with America for six months, but this insurance has not been done to any amount.
On being asked at Lloyds whether I believed the report of war, I told them that there was one reason why I did not believe it, which would probably have weight, if considered with attention.
The Constitution had not left the happiness of our country so entirely at the disposal of one man, as to place the power of peace and war in the will of the Executive, but had expressly devolved that important power on the Legislature. That Congress were not to be in session before the first Monday in December unless specially called by the President, and, as that had not been done, there could be no foundation for the report that America had declared war. And, as far as the opinion of an individual might go, I thought they might be assured that the option of peace or war, with America, would be with the government of Great Britain, for I was persuaded the disposition of the U.S. was decidedly for peace, and would so continue, unless changed, by an unjust and pointed provocation, into hostility.
Excepting the town of Liverpool, I believe the commercial interest of this country will be firmly opposed to a rupture with America. The manufacturing interest most certainly will, and I should suppose the landholders would not think it necessary to the safety of their estates to break with us. Under these considerations I cannot suppose the minister will venture on a war with America, whatever the King’s or Lord Hawkeburys463 wishes may be. They are certainly ill disposed towards us.
I take every occasion to discourage the idea of a war with America, by assuring those with whom I converse that, although our force and our resources would be nearly double what they were in the Revolution, and, as being a foreign war, we should be united to a man in carrying it on, yet we are so well persuaded that peace is essential to the true happiness of a nation, that it would only be on the injurious molestation of our neutral rights, we should resort to the sword. But, if once drawn, we should not use it merely in defensive operation, and they, who might form so false an estimate of our force, as wantonly to provoke us into war, might have serious cause to repent their folly and injustice.
Dr. Cutting,464 who is just returned from visiting Ireland and Scotland, says it is with extreme difficulty that the most vigilant and active conduct of the military can controul the disposition to commotion, in these quarters, and he thinks that, within no distant period, all their vigilance and activity will be in vain. The fire, he says, is but smothered, and must soon break out in flame.
I wish most sincerely it may be otherwise, and that their reforms may proceed on milder principles, for, without any interest in their affairs, I should regret exceedingly the disorder and distress that must attend the violence of vindication.
The following is an extract of intelligence under the head of “Vienna August 5.” It is generally reported “that the French Princes, as well as the Royalists under General Gaston, had written to Prince Coburg and demanded an explanation of his proclamation published in the town of Condé, namely, ‘That he took possession of that town in the name of his imperial Majesty.’ That general is said to have answered ‘That his proclamation was plain enough, and required no explanation.’”
An express arrived last night from the adjutant general of the Duke of York’s army with intelligence that several Dutch regiments having been detached to dislodge the French from the village of Lincelles had at first succeeded, but the French, being reinforced, had rallied and driven the Dutch from the village with great loss; that the first, second, and Coldstream regiments of guards had recovered the post, and taken some pieces of cannon, among them two that had been taken from the Dutch. Sir James Murray’s return makes the loss of the guards one lieutenant colonel and one lieutenant killed, three lieutenant colonels and three captains and lieutenants wounded, and about two hundred rank and file killed and wounded. The loss of the Dutch is not stated, nor is that of the French known. The work, it is said, was soon after abandoned by the English.465
This is the last article of news from the Continent.
I pray you, my dear Sir, to cause the enclosed letters for General Knox and Mr. Lewis, which are nearly transcripts of the political intelligence to you, without Lord Grenville’s letter, which I give only to yourself, to be delivered to them. The other two letters I recommend to your particular care.
With every wish for your happiness and those who are dear to you, and with the most affectionate sentiments of esteem I am
My dear Sir,
Your much obliged, and faithful servant
Should a rupture take place between America and England, I shall quarter myself upon our minister, with whom I have the pleasure of a very friendly acquaintance.
An abundant harvest throughout France has made bread cheap and plenty at Paris.
The Queen it is said has been acquitted, and is removed from the prison of the Conciergerie.
A person, who has conversed with the messenger who arrived last night from the Duke of York, tells me that the Dutch and English are at variance in the army, the latter abusing the former most violently for their conduct in the affair of Lincelles.
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 27 September 1793 [BP]
London, September 27th 1793.
My dear Sir:
Since my last letters to you, which went by Captain Loxley (to whose care I confided Mrs. B’s mangle and millenary) I have had the pleasure to receive the original and duplicate of your letter, begun on the 30th of June, and continued to the 10th day of July, together with its enclosures.
It would afford me the greatest satisfaction, as being the grand desideratum to the accomplishment of my business here, to confirm your supposition of a very essential change in the political aspect of Europe, particularly the detaching of Great Britain from the confederacy of combined powers, but this desireable event has not yet taken place, and, although I think peace much more probable than when I last wrote to you, yet the period of the war is still problematical, and negotiation may, or may not, be entered on before the spring.
As this is the hinge on which the speedy success of my objects in Europe must turn, I will detain you for a few minutes to examine the probabilities either way.
The war, I have already informed you, originated with the King. Very unquestionable authority assures me that it is only through him that it is continued. The nation are certainly tired of it, as being both unpleasant and unprofitable. The petition from Glasgow speaks the language of the people, and I think it very probable that other petitions, to the same effect, will be prepared before the meeting of Parliament, which it is said will be early in November.
The campaign has been very arduous and bloody, and, in general, unsuccessful on the part of the Allies. The loss of men, artillery, and stores has fallen very heavily, indeed, upon the British, Dutch, and Hanoverians. The army, under the Duke of York, since its separation from that of Prince Coburg, has lost ten thousand men, the greater part of its baggage, all its heavy artillery, eight hundred barrels of gunpowder, and all the shot, shells, and stores that were prepared for the siege of Dunkirk.
The covering army, under Marshal Freytag, was routed with great loss of men, standards, field-artillery, etc. etc., the Marshall, and Prince Adolphus of England both wounded.466
The Dutch army, under the hereditary Prince of Orange has been nearly destroyed, their artillery and military chest taken, some general officers among the prisoners, the Princes of Orange, and Hesse Darmstadt among the wounded. Six battalions, in one place, put to the sword, and the carnage, elsewhere, dreadful.
So complete was the blow given to this army that the Prince of Orange writes to the States-General, from Bruges, that he is unable to state particulars. Small parties of the fugitives are said to have been separated upwards of fifty miles. Some accounts say it was like the dispersion of dry leaves by an autumnal blast.467
These accounts are principally from Leyden—a studied obscurity is observed in all the official communications.
The French General Houchard contents himself with telling the Convention “that the will of the nation has been executed.” Marshal Freytag’s army was beaten on the 6th, 7th and 8th of September, the Duke of York about the same time, and the Dutch on the 10th and 13th.
This dissipation of the British, Hanoverians, and Dutch, has occasioned the Prince of Saxe-Coburg, General Clairfait, and General Beaulieu to abandon their different projects, and to consolidate their force. It is said they intend to make an attempt against the principal French camp at Cassel, which is the head quarters of the army of the north, and which, it is said, has been lately reinforced with one hundred thousand men.
The exertions of France are inconceivable, and such as astonish all Europe. The measure of raising the whole mass of male citizens capable of carrying arms, which was regarded as most irrational, has, by a dextrous policy of Barrere, been turned to effectual account. Having prepared the public mind for this stupendous effort, he said that so much was not, then, necessary and he should only propose the selection of the young men from 18 to 25.
This highly acceptable modification of the first decree was cheerfully adopted and a portion of its effects may be collected in the consequences that followed to the Duke of York, the Prince of Orange, and Marshall Freytag, and in the repulse of the King of Prussia and General Wurmser, before the lines of Weissembourg, and in the advantages over the insurgents.468
One of the Spanish camps, on the side of the Pyrenees has been stormed and taken with their baggage, artillery, and tents standing.
Opposed to these successes, however, Prince Coburg has taken Quesnoy. Lyons is in insurrection (as was Marseilles, since taken by the Convention troops), and Toulon has been basely surrendered, with 21 sail of the line and 5 frigates, to Lord Hood, all of which his Lordship has stipulated to take possession of, and to hold in trust, for Louis the 17th and, after the war, to be restored to France.
This convention, between Lord Hood and the Toulonese, is said to offend the Allies, as it recognises the constitution of 1789, and it is thought the ministry will be much perplexed by it on the meeting of Parliament.
The army, which took Marseilles, joined by the army of Italy, is now besieging Toulon, and Lyons is besieged by the army under Kellerman.469
Having thus stated to you the situation of the several armies, and the various success of the campaign, we will proceed to examine the probabilities, arising out of these and other circumstances, for and against an early peace.
On this question Great Britain, considered as a people, and as a government, is certainly at variance with herself.
The King, who is passionately fond of the Duke of York, had certainly planned for him a separate establishment, to have been formed out of conquered provinces, to which the Duke’s ambition had readily assented. The Prince of Wales, who only wishes for money to defray his expences, and who knows, that this wish will be best accomplished by cultivating his father, gives in to all his opinions.
These considerations place the three most influential characters in the nation on the side of war, with very powerful auxiliaries in the same sentiment.
On the other hand the war has become very unpopular with the nation at large; many individuals being beggared by its effects, and all of them (excepting only men in office) more or less injured. The commercial and manufacturing interests are decidedly against it—and I think the additional twelve millions of debt, which will be brought before Parliament, must awaken the country gentlemen to a serious sense of its consequences.
The minister, with whom office is so much a hobby, as to be absolutely necessary to him, is said to be capable of making a very short turn, and it is supposed that, finding the national current setting against the war, he will be very likely to change his opinion on short notice.
Should this be so, there is very little doubt that in the Cabinet, where he carries three measures in four, propositions for peace would be brought forward which would ultimately depend upon the King, the preponderance of whose wishes or apprehensions would be the deciding influence.
This I take to be a true state of the question in this country.
In Holland, where an indiscriminate tax of two per cent upon all property has been laid to maintain the war, they are heartily tired of it, and wish for nothing so earnestly as peace.
Spain has much to lose, and nothing to gain by the war.
A longer continuance of the war, by exhausting, will leave Prussia at the mercy of his imperial neighbours. And to the disposition for peace, which may be entertained on the part of England and Prussia, may be added the dissatisfaction, doubts, and jealousy, which the conduct of Russia, in attending solely to her own affairs, in Poland and elsewhere, has occasioned within the last four months.
The disposition of the German circles will depend entirely on the controuling power of the Emperor, and he, with the Duke of Savoy, appear to be altogether decided for war. But, if left to themselves, they will not dictate but receive the peace from the French Republic.
A comparison of these circumstances inclines me to hope that negotiations may be entered on this winter, which will be productive of peace in the spring—to which I most devoutly say Amen!
You will readily conceive that the apprehension of a rupture, between America and England, must have had a very unfavorable influence on my intentions here, since it has hitherto prevented the disclosure of my views. Indeed it became a conduct of necessity to be very reserved, and, excepting to Sir Francis Baring, who I am perfectly assured will do every thing in his power to promote the objects of my business, I have not unfolded the purpose of my visit to Europe, otherwise than by general observations on the great advantages, which must accrue to the capitalists of Europe, from the investment of money in American lands and other property.
This apprehension of a war between America and Great Britain has considerably abated, and will, ere long, I hope be entirely removed.
There have been no American vessels lately brought into the ports of England, and I understand that the Court of Admiralty has made due allowance for demurrage and expences to some vessels, whose cases have lately been decided on.
It has been one of my principal cares, since I have been in London, to discredit the rumour of a rupture between the two countries, and, from the opinion which some people here are pleased to entertain of my acquaintance with the affairs of our country, I am happy to find that my observations have had some good effect.
I flattered myself, the other day, with an expectation of some conversation with Mr. Pitt, having received an invitation from the Corporation of Trinity House to dine with him, but just before dinner, the news of the Duke of York’s disaster was announced and the minister became very grave, and silent for the rest of the day.
I have passed three days with Sir Francis Baring at his seat in the country, where I have received the most hospitable and friendly attentions. He appears to be a very amiable and intelligent man.
He desires me to be assured that they are not words in course, when he tells me that he is sincerely disposed to serve me, and will do every thing, in his power, to promote the object of my visit to Europe.
Sir Francis thinks with me that the dispatch and success of my business will very considerably depend on the turn which general politics may take, and more particularly on an unequivocal good understanding being established between England and America. On this last subject I know that his opinions are less apprehensive than they were, when the letter from their House was written to Mr. Willing and yourself.
The three days I passed with him I regard as most profitably appropriated, as I had an opportunity of conversing very freely with him on a variety of subjects relative to America.
On our return to London I gave him a prospectus, which he took down with him to Bowood, where he and Mr. Hope, of Amsterdam, passed some days together on a visit to the Marquis of Lansdown.470
He (Sir F.) tells me that he comprehends the objects of my business, and that he shall be happy, if either on referring the parties, with whom I may have negotiations, to him, for his opinions, or on my own reference to him for any information, he can promote its success. He says it is also possible he may have it in his power more directly to serve me.
He tells me that he has some intention (though he has not yet mentioned it) of making a short visit to Holland. If, without appearing to seek it, I can be of his party, I shall endeavor to go to Holland under the auspices of his acquaintance, but this must be determined by what delicacy will require on the occasion, for, although I have great confidence in his disposition to serve me, and promise myself much assistance from his countenance and advice, in the prosecution of my business, yet I shall be cautious of seeming to expect too much, or by any thing like intrusion, of lessening his favorable inclinations.
Among the proofs of Sir Francis’s good will, I have one in the favorable impression given to Lord Lansdown, who, although I have not yet seen him, or sent your letter, has given me two pressing invitations to visit him at Bowood. In the last he says “Lord Wycombe471 will be with me about the 27th or 28th, and I know he will be very happy to meet you.”
His Lordship’s handsome invitation determines me to go to Bowood, where I shall pass six or seven days, which I shall be able to do, at this time, without interrupting the progress of my main object, and perhaps with collateral advantages to it.
I have seen Mr. Hope, but it was only for a moment, as I did not know he was in town till a few minutes before he left it. He has given me a very civil invitation to visit him in Holland, which I shall do when I go there.
Several other gentlemen, to whom I have letters, are still at their seats, or at the watering places.
Your observations respecting the influence which peace would have on the sale of American lands are certainly just. Multitudes of Europeans, wearied of war, and the uncertainty of any long continuance of peace, naturally attached to their governments, will certainly change their country and their government. But the French emigrants, that is to say those who have already left France, will not be great purchasers. These unfortunate men are miserably poor, almost without exception, insomuch that I doubt whether their whole number (including their Princes) would be equal to such an object as the Maine lands. You can have no idea of their distress.
The men of that nation, with whom I should expect to negotiate, would be the discontented of either party, who, to preserve their property, have remained at home, and who will remove from under a government, which may be odious to them, the moment they can do so, with safety to themselves, and the security of their effects.
As to any negotiations by Monsieur Bonnet,474 I confess I am at a loss to conceive with whom they are to be made. The emigrants have no means, and he cannot go to France to find persons who have. I shall not fail however to make still more particular enquiry on this subject. In the mean time it cannot be necessary to caution you against any contracts, that may either lock up your property, or expose it to eventual loss.
I did not receive your letter, which enclosed those from the Viscount Noailles,475 until five or six days ago. Of course the two, which he has sent to me, addressed to Count Charles Noailles,476 and the Marquis Duras,477 being directed “London,” I have not yet delivered, not having yet found out where they live. He has also sent several letters to tradesmen, without particular direction; if I can find them, the letters will be delivered, and I will pay their bills. This, between ourselves, I shall do, in the present instance, as the sum will not be beyond £10. But the execution of any future orders of that sort, by me, will depend upon their amount.
I noticed in my last letter the preference which would be given by purchasers in Europe to the lands of Pennsylvania in consequence of her liberality of tenure. It is unnecessary to repeat to you how advantageous a similar law, on the part of Massachusetts, would be to the disposal of the Maine lands, for, although I believe that purchasers may offer under the naturalization act of Congress, yet the sanction of a State law would hold out great additional inducement, and remove what, perhaps, might be made an argument for a reduced price.
The lands in Pennsylvania are preferred on other accounts. More pains have been taken to impress favorable sentiments of that state than of any other, and the opinions of its climate, soil, productions, situation, and even its state of society are higher in Europe than I was aware they could have been in relation to the other parts of the United States.
I really believe it is possible, at this time, with the aid of a particular survey, and power to sell in accommodating tracts, to make very handsome sales of some of your lands in Pennsylvania.478
I shall wait for your further instructions respecting sales, whereby the purchaser may have his option of being off within a given time. I believe it will be found a very advantageous mode of selling the lands.
I have been in company with Mr. Arthur Young,479 and I intend, on his return to town (which he left the day after I dined with him at Mr. Pinckneys), to cultivate his acquaintance, and turn it to the best account. He is appointed secretary to the Board of Agriculture lately instituted in Great Britain. He is very unreserved in declaring his favorable opinions of America, and I am much inclined to believe him sincere.
I shall take measures for informing myself of the transaction, wherein Stadnitzki480 dissuaded the House of Haselgreen481 from the purchase of the Genesee lands, and I will endeavor to learn whether Messieurs Haselgreen are still disposed to adventure in the purchase of American lands.
I have not yet seen Mr. Chaumont’s proposals for settling his lands on Lake Ontario. When I have examined them I will certainly point out those fallacies, which truth and prudence shall authorise me to detect and expose.
I am not less concerned than you will be that it is not in my power to communicate more pleasing intelligence of the progress of my business than this letter contains, but I persuade myself you will be satisfied that the circumstances which have hitherto controuled any attempts at negotiating sales of the land, were sufficient to render the reserve which I have practised not only prudent but necessary.
To have disclosed my intentions at a time, when the scarcity of money, and the demand for it, were such as to afford but small hope of finding purchasers, would have been highly improper, had there been no other cause for keeping back. To have brought the lands into the market, at the very moment, when a war with America was, by many people, regarded as inevitable, would have been an infallible means of depreciating their value so much, as might have greatly affected it, after the apprehension of war had subsided.
I have therefore confined myself, in my conversations, to statements of the advantages, which must accrue to the purchasers of American lands, and to dissuasive arguments against a war with the United States.
The belief, which some people here entertain that I came to Europe on public business, combined with the circumstance of my having been secretary to the President (both of which some silly letter writer in Philadelphia has highly emblazoned to his correspondent here, and which you will find has been published in the London prints) has procured an attention to my observations against the war with America, which they might not otherwise have received. Indeed I have very good reason to suppose they have had some beneficial public effect.
My endeavors to justify the favorable opinion, which General Knox and yourself have entertained of my competency to the commission, with which you have entrusted me, shall be unremitting, and I hope you will be fully persuaded of my devotion to the objects of it.
I pray you to present my respectful regards to General Knox, to whom I did myself the honor of writing a long letter by Captain Loxley.
With the most perfect esteem, I am, my dear Sir,
Your faithful, obedient servant
William Bingham, Esquire
I believed I should have been able to have enclosed some copies of the map, but Mr. Faden tells me it will not be finished before next week.
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 2 October 1793 [BP]
London October 2d. 1793
I had the pleasure, my dear Sir, of answering your letter of the 30 June–10 July (the only one I have yet received), by Captain Allen of the Mohawk, who sailed for Philadelphia two days ago.
Since my letter by Captain Allen, it has occurred to me that lands in America may be exchanged with persons in France for property there, which they may be desirous, in this way, to secure against contingencies, or with a view to leaving the country.
Should you think this an eligible mode of disposing of your land either in Pennsylvania or in the District of Maine, I will cheerfully undertake the negotiation, and visit France.
Indeed it appears to me so probably advantageous that it is possible, unless your next letters should point to some other objects, I may go to Paris, within this month, to feel my way, anterior to the receipt of your instructions.
My idea at present is that the land should be exchanged either with individuals, in small tracts, or with a society of persons, in greater quantities, for lands or other property in France, which property should either be re-disposed of and the money invested by immediate remittance, or that it should continue the property of the persons, to whom it might be conveyed (say yourself or some persons as your trustees) to await the issue of the war.
Your instructions, should you adopt this idea of disposing of your land, will explain your intentions as to the mode and nature of the transfer.
I pray leave to communicate an opinion which I entertain that it is possible to form a contract in the way that Colonel Smith did,482 but better modified and arranged.
Should I find such a project practicable, would you so far give it your countenance as to assist me, by recommending houses in America as agents to conduct it?
There should be no risk to them, for I would not engage but under a previous advance of funds, so established, as to be satisfactory to the most scrupulous commercial men.
I do not know how far this idea is susceptible of effect; but I think, if it can be realized, I may as well attempt it as another.
Your countenance and advice in the undertaking will greatly oblige me.
I desire to be most affectionately remembered to Mrs. Bingham and her sisters and to Miss Bingham and Miss Maria.
All that a grateful sense of obligation and an affectionate esteem can make me,
I am, my dear sir,
Your sincere friend and faithful servant
It is also said that the left wing of the Allies before Weissembourg has been beaten with great loss.
The exchange on Paris has risen to 9d, ½ sterling the livre. It has been as low as 4d and 5d.
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 8 November 1793 [BP]483
London, November 8th 1793
My dear Sir:
Since I wrote by the last packet, I had an opportunity, by an indirect conveyance, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th of August, accompanying the plans of your Pennsylvania lands.
In my preceding letter I intimated my intention of visiting France, under an expectation of being able to dispose of your lands by favorable sales or in exchange for property in that country.
The very rigorous measures which the Convention have lately thought proper to adopt in regulating the intercourse with other nations, combined with the uncertainty how they might receive the accounts from America, respecting Mr. Genet, have hitherto deterred me from carrying this project into effect. Indeed the want of powers (not having received those which you say Mr. Lewis was to prepare) would have prevented me from doing any thing more than feeling my way.
It is now said that Mr. Genet’s conduct is highly disapproved, that he is recalled, and that the disposition towards America is more favorable than ever. Should this account be confirmed, and the powers to sell the lands be received, I shall immediately go to Paris, where I think it will be practicable to negotiate a sale of the lands which would produce the money sooner than either here or in Holland.
For this purpose I would take passage in an American vessel for France and, addressing myself directly to Monsieur Barrere, who is at the head of the Committee of Public Safety, I would produce my letters from the President, Mr. Jefferson, and Mr. Pinckney, who will give me any passport I may wish. I would state to Mr. Barrere and his colleagues that, being commissioned to make a sale of certain valuable lands in the United States (which from a perusal of the prospectus they would find so peculiarly situated and circumstanced as to be capable of furnishing to France such quantities of masts and timber for her navy, and such supplies of lumber to her colonies, now so much wanted, as no other country could afford) I had as an American citizen, the friend of France, determined to place the plans and the prospectus before the government of the Republic, to give them an opportunity of pre-emption should the advantages appear to be such as to induce a purchase of the lands on public account, which might be done with great facility by means of trustees, either French or Americans. Or, should the Government decline making a public purchase, I would then request from the Convention (which I think they would readily grant) a permission to treat with individuals for the sale or exchange of these lands for property in France, and an authority to invest the purchase money, or the property for which they might be exchanged, by remittance or otherwise as I should see fit. This, under the existing laws which regulate the intercourse with foreigners, would be necessary to give confidence to those who might be inclined to treat, guard against depreciation, and assure validity to the transaction.
Besides the chance of making a sale to the Government, to whom the possession of these lands must certainly, on account of the timber, and at this particular juncture, be an object of great importance, and for which, in the present abundant state of their treasury, they could make immediate payment, an authority from the Convention to treat with individuals, should they decline to purchase on public account, would give great confidence, and, in my opinion, be very likely to induce to a private sale.
There are many persons in France, who earnestly desire to remove their property and to invest it elsewhere. These people, if sanctioned by an act of the Government, would not, I think, hesitate to embrace such an occasion. In any event I hold it worth the essay, and, unless your next letters (which I am, indeed on every account, most anxious to receive) should point directly to some other object, I shall certainly make the trial.
Other reasons, very operative, have strengthened my opinions on this subject. The sequestration of all the property in France belonging to subjects of the powers at war with the Republic has so affected the monied men of Holland as to do away, in a great measure, the hope of an early and advantageous sale in that country. The loan which will be proposed here by the minister at the meeting of Parliament locks up, at least for a time, the great capitals of this country, and sales in detail would be a tedious operation unequal to the supply of such sums as you say will be wanted early in the ensuing year.
Should the government of France make the purchase I have little doubt but they would agree to make a certain advance. Their treasury is very rich just now, and, if the object appears to them in the light I hope it will, I think they will wish to secure it, and to bind the bargain.
Should the negotiation be made with individuals, I think there is equal reason to expect an anxiety to avail themselves of such an opportunity to translate their property, especially if sanctioned by the authority of Government, and that to effect this they will be willing to come under a guarded advance of perhaps one half the purchase money.
It is possible I may be too sanguine; but, really, after placing this project in every point of view, it appears to me more likely to realise your wish, of receiving a considerable sum early in the year than any other I can imagine.
The confidence which I shall manifest to the Government, in addressing myself immediately to them must, I think, procure for me a favorable disposition, and, in the present state of affairs, that will be a great attainment.
I shall take the plans of your Pennsylvania lands with me, and, as far as your powers may authorise, I shall endeavor to make advantageous sales of them.
As I have not mentioned my intention of visiting France to Miss Willing, I pray that it may not be made known until I write to you from thence. She might be alarmed for my safety, although I do not think there is the smallest risque.
I enclose to you the plan of the Main lands which I have had engraved here. I hope you will approve the style in which it is executed.
In a former letter I expressed some opinions to you on what appeared to me to be the prospect of Mr. Bonnets effecting a sale of his lands. Those opinions are not changed and I do not believe he will be able to realise his expectations.
The very rigid decrees of the Convention cuts off every hope of drawing property out of France without a legislative sanction. The emigrants have expended the little property they brought away with them and are utterly incapable of making any purchase. So poor indeed are they that Mrs. Church told me the Prince de Poix was forced to write to his brother, Monsieur de Noailles, to make him some remittance from America, and his situation is no worse than that of every unfortunate Frenchman who had left his country.
Mr. Bonnet is still here. He has gone to live with an English family at Clapham-common to improve himself in the language. He tells me that the object of the company is to settle the lands. He intends going some time hence to Brabant. They gave 10/ P [a]. currency per acre. They had resold about five thousand acres to fifty German families at 18/ sterling per acre, before he left America.
Mr. Constable tells me that Mr. Morris had not touched any part of the purchase money—that it was to have been obtained in Paris, and for this purpose young Mr. Morris had been directed to go there, but, after taking his passage for Havre, he thought the ship too much crowded for his convenience, went to Ostend, Brussels, Spa, and thence to Geneva, when the last accounts from him were dated. This had occasioned a delay of two or three months, during which time the decrees respecting the removal of property had passed, and Mr. C. says he does not believe he will be able to get a livre, especially as the property belonged to Mr. Talon, which will enhance the difficulty of remitting it.484
After informing you, generally, that the grand allied army, under the Prince of Coburg, was beaten on the 16th of last month by the French army of the north under General Jourdan, with a loss, it is said, of ten thousand men (the Brussells’ account states the loss of the Allies at four thousand) and forced to raise the siege of Maubeuge;485 that the French lines at Weissembourg were carried by the Allies; that Lyons has been reduced, the insurrection in La Vendée totally suppressed, Toulon besieged by the army under General Carteaux, reinforced by that which took Lyons, and the unfortunate Antoinette put to death, I must refer you to the public prints for the particulars.
The most alarming accounts have been received, by the way of New York, of the dreadful effects of a malignant fever in Philadelphia. In a list of the deceased, transmitted by Mr. Field, I observe the names of several persons with whom I was acquainted. This has excited the most painful anxiety for the fate of dearer friends, which is only abated by the hope that many of them had removed to Bellevue, where they would continue until this baneful malady had disappeared.486
Your silence, my dear Sir, for I have not received a line from you of later date than the 18th of August, contributes not a little to encrease my fears. I pray God that the earnestly desired information of your safety, and of those who are dear to us both, may soon arrive to relieve me.
To Mrs. Bingham, to her sisters, and to Miss B. and Miss Maria I desire to be most affectionately remembered.
My dear Sir,
Your most obliged
and faithful servant
William Bingham, Esquire
I pray you to present my respectful and affectionate compliments to Mr. Willing, General Knox, and Mr. Lewis.
Mr. Willing and Mr. Lewis are mentioned as having been attacked by the disorder, from which they had recovered.
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 1 December 1793 [BP]487
London, December 1st. 1793
My dear Sir:
In my last letter, of which duplicates were sent by the way of Boston and New York, I intimated my intention of visiting France, under an expectation of being able to make sale of the Maine lands either to the Government or to individuals.
Subsequent events having equally corroborated this belief, and confirmed my opinion that, in the present state of money-matters in England and Holland, nothing can be done in either country, I shall, within two or three days, embark for France, where, by the aid of my papers, and a particular passport, which I have already received from Mr. Pinckney, I shall have a very favorable introduction to the persons, who now wield the strength and resources of that immense nation.
How the project may eventuate nothing short of prescience could now determine. But, if probability, or conjecture, founded on facts, ought to sanction any undertaking, I am certainly justified in this.
The disposition of the French towards America was never more friendly than at this time.
Take the following instance. To prevent depreciation a decree was passed some months since, fixing a maximum of price on every article.488 This being thought too low by the Americans, who had property in France, a deputation (for, in fact, we have no minister there)489 was appointed to attend the Convention with a remonstrance, in consequence of which a commission was nominated, which, in concert with the American deputies, should investigate, and report facts. This has resulted in a purchase by the Government, by which, among other articles, tobacco was taken at fifty four livres per 100 lbs., one fourth to be paid in bills on this country, which have been accepted, the other three fourths in specie, with liberty either to take the crowns out of the country, or to invest them in merchandize.
Indeed every act of the Convention towards us is fraught with friendship, and nothing is wanted to perfect the intercourse between us, but a person, as representative of the United States, who is not utterly disagreeable to the Republic.
Nor is the favor of France confined to good-will merely. Their Government is, at this moment, richer than all the rest of Europe put together. I state to you an authentic fact, when I tell you that at this time, there is upwards of fifty millions of pounds sterling in their treasury in gold and silver. Assignats have risen to par, and the purchasers of national property prefer paying in coin to paying in paper.490
How, in the name of astonishment, you will exclaim has this been effected? The process, my dear Sir, has been very short and not altogether chemical.
The churches have yielded up all their furniture, and the silver apostles have become the agents of freedom—whether wisely or otherwise I leave to the casuists to determine. An hundredth part of the contribution will be decisive with me of its utility, and I hope Mr. Barrere and his colleagues will think the application of such a mite, to the purchase of masts and naval timber, a prudent and necessary measure.
Naturally sanguine in all my hopes, I may, in this instance, indulge an excess of expectation, but I am well assured that the game is worth the candle, and therefore I will play at it.
Mr. T. W. Francis491 goes with me. We have lived together in London on terms of the most friendly intimacy, and I have found him a very agreeable and intelligent young man. His visit to France will partake at once of business and pleasure, and his society will be to me a very grateful circumstance.
As there is not the smallest degree of personal hazard in my going to France, I have believed it best to mention it directly to Miss Willing, to whom I pray you to deliver the enclosed letter.
The accompanying news-papers, which are the best edited in London, will give you the public intelligence, and I pray you to present them, with my most respectful compliments to Mr. Willing.
As it is probable I shall be able to decide on the success of my business in France, within a short time after my arrival at Paris, I think I may return to London in all the month of January. Should opportunities offer to write to you from France I shall not neglect to embrace them.
Lest any accident may have happened to your letters I think it necessary to repeat that I have not received any from you of a later date than the 18th of August. The consequences of this to me, besides the disappointment of not hearing from you, will present itself to you on your receiving my letters by the Pigou and the Mohawk.
I shall request Sir Francis Baring to take care of my letters during my absence from London.
My best and most affectionate regards are offered to my dear friend Mrs. Bingham, and to the young ladies, whose commissions I shall not fail to execute with pleasure and punctuality.
I beg you, my dear Bingham, to mention me with affection and respect to Mr. Lewis and General Knox, and to be persuaded of the inviolable attachment, with which I am
Your ever faithful and affectionate
William Bingham, Esquire
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 30 April 1794 [BP]
London April 30th. 1794.
My dear Sir:
In the last letters, which I had the pleasure to write to you from London, I informed you of my intention to go to France, and I then stated the reasons, which induced my visit to that country.
I have now to regret, no less than you will, that the chasm in my correspondence cannot, at this time, be filled up with such information as would be entirely satisfactory to us both.
I have already given you a detail of my proceedings while at Paris, but, as the transmission of letters from France is very precarious, I will here repeat them in abstract.492
On landing at Boulogne Mr. T. Francis, who was the companion of my journey, and myself were so unfortunate as to be involved in the arrestation of a Mr. Russell of Boston,493 who was in the same vessel with us, and who happened, very innocently, to have in his possession two letters, given to him by an American gentleman in London, which contained assignats intended as a remittance to a merchant in Paris. The assignats, on examination, were found to be forged, and, although we were furnished with regular passports, and our papers and baggage had been examined by the municipality, and declared to contain nothing suspected, yet Mr. Francis and myself were forced to share the fate of Mr. Russell, and were sent with him, under arrest, to Abbeville. There we were detained eleven days, the absence and indisposition of the representative of the people, at that place, having prevented us from being heard.
When we had an opportunity of stating to him who we were, he said it would be necessary that we should go to the Committee of Surety General at Paris, but, as he was satisfied we were friends to France, he should only direct a commissary to attend us and he did not doubt but we would be immediately released.
On our arrival at Paris we found that our minister had done nothing more in our behalf than to lay a letter, which we had written to him from Abbeville, before the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and had there let the matter rest.
The multiplicity of business before the Committee of General Surety prevented our being heard for several days. At length we obtained a hearing, when they declared that they were satisfied that we were irreproachable patriots, returned us our portefeuilles and trunks unopened, gave Mr. Russell the assignats after marking them false, in order that his friend might recover his money from the broker, who had sold them in London, at the same time presenting us with a very ample passport to protect us during our stay.
As soon as I was at liberty I waited upon the Comite de Salut Public, who are the executive power, produced my letters from the President, Mr. Jefferson, and Mr. Pinckney, and was extremely well received by them.
Having communicated to them a message with which I was charged by Mr. Pinckney, and having fully answered all their enquiries respecting our country, thereby satisfying them that the dispositions towards France, were most friendly, they declared themselves extremely pleased to learn such a contradiction of the sentiments and conduct of our minister, Morris, of whom, among the severest reproaches I ever heard uttered, they made the following observation, which I pledge my truth to you is a literal translation of what was said.
“The only intercourse we have had with Morris was on the subject of a woman, the wife of an emigrant, condemned by the law, and, in the discussion of that question, he sought to produce a quarrel between the two countries.”494
They told me they had asked for his recall, and they could not doubt, after their compliance with a similar request on the part of the American government that a man so obnoxious to them would be immediately removed. This is a hateful subject and I will not dwell on it. You will have heard much of it before this reaches you, as I understood that all the captains of the American ships at Bordeaux, in number about one hundred and twenty, had resolved to present a memorial against him.
Having thus announced myself to the Comite de Salut Public, and, as I believe, obtained their favorable attention, I lost no time in entering on the business which had carried me to France.
I stated in a memorial that “being charged with the disposal of certain valuable lands, in quantity about 2,000,000 acres, situated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and lying on the Atlantic Ocean, abounding in the best masts and an inexhaustible quantity of naval and other timber, and capable of furnishing immense supplies of lumber and provisions to the colonies, I had conceived that the acquisition of these lands (which might be made through the medium of trustees) would, at this moment, be an object of high importance to the Republic, and I had therefore, in consonance with the wishes of the proprietors, determined to place the purchase of them in the offer of the Committee.”
This memorial I accompanied with a translation of the prospectus, and I further stated that if the government should agree to purchase, one half of the amount would be received in an assignment of so much of the debt due from the United States to France, the other moiety to be paid for either in specie or bills of exchange. The price nine livres tournois per acre.495
This memorial, which I delivered to Lindet the member who has the department of commerce and supplies, was held under advisement for a considerable time, and I had great reason to believe it would have led to a very profitable negotiation for the proprietors. It was however finally determined that although great advantage might be derived to France from the timber and provision raised on these lands, it would be inconvenient for the Government to make the purchase.
Being at this time convinced, that if I could obtain the countenance of the Government to a sale of the lands to individuals, there would be numerous purchasers, I presented a second memorial requesting the autorisation of the Government to that effect, and, as an inducement to grant it, I proposed to stipulate on behalf of the proprietors, that, in case they were allowed to export half the purchase money in specie, or in good bills of exchange on London, Holland, or Hamburg, the remaining half should be loaned to France during the war, under the guarantee of a provisional assignment of an equal sum of the debt due from the United States to France.
I had every reason to believe that this request would be complied with. Indeed Lindet told me that the offer had placed the Committee in such a situation as made it very difficult for them to decide between their wish to benefit therefrom (besides the advantages that would result from the possession of these lands), and their unwillingness, at this time, to seem to countenance the translation of property from France, or the emigration of her citizens.
In a third memorial I endeavored to obviate these objections. But, after a great deal of reasoning and personal conversation with the members, I perceived that the necessity of confining the attention of their citizens to the immediate theatre of the revolution, prevailed over every other consideration, and I was forced to relinquish the expectation of obtaining the countenance and authority of the Government to the sale of the lands to individuals.
As a transaction of this magnitude, and at this time, would have been unsafe, unless sanctioned by the Government, and would only have exposed the parties to censure, perhaps to punishment, I was under the necessity of abandoning a project, which, for a long time I had reason to hope would have eventuated in complete success.
The motives and expectations, which induced the essay, I have stated in other letters. They will, at least, exempt it from blame, and leave nothing to regret but a failure of present success, for I am well assured if these lands are not disposed of elsewhere, they will, on the peace, which I still hope cannot be very remote, command a ready and advantageous sale in France.
The price, which I placed on the land was certainly high, but, in no degree, would it have operated against the sale.
I fixed it at nine livres per acre for two reasons: the first an assurance that, such was the disposition in many people to remove their property, as by a subdivision of the 2,000,000 acres into 1,000 actions of 2,000 acres each, that price would have been readily obtained; the second was to compensate by a very good price, that is to say four and a half livres in hand, for the delays that might attend the reimbursement of the loan to the Government, which was to be their inducement to countenance the sale, and permit the export of the other half of the purchase money.
This summary of my excursion to France will be sufficient I hope to shew that every thing, on my part, was done, which justice to himself and his constituents required from a zealous and faithful agent, and the motives, which I must beg leave to repeat, will I doubt not justify the measure.
At the time I determined on going to France it was impossible to do any thing in this country. All the monied men were waiting the opening of Parliament, and every shilling was reserved to speculate in the expected loan. The decrees of the Convention respecting the money held in their funds by foreigners had, as I was told by Sir Francis Baring, deeply affected the monied men in Holland, and greatly checked the spirit of speculation there.
Your letters intimated that you would have occasion for a considerable sum of money within a short time.
Having no powers to make partial or complete sales of either the Maine or Pennsylvania lands, I could not expect to do any thing in that way, and the chance of effecting a contract for the Maine lands, which might have produced a payment in advance, was only to be expected in France, for the reasons I have already stated.
Indeed I had every reason to conclude that there was great probability of effecting such a contract. I knew that individuals would eagerly embrace an opportunity of translating their property, if authorised thereto by the Government, and I supposed that the consideration of obtaining masts and timber for their marine, combined with the loan of half the purchase money, would have had great weight in deciding the Government to accept my proposals, and to countenance the sale. That any other considerations would outweigh these was yet to be tried, and I believed I could do nothing so good, while waiting for your powers and further instructions, as to endeavor to form a contract for the Maine lands in France which might have been completed in America, and upon which a considerable sum might have been procured in advance.
Under the influence of these opinions, and the anxiety attached to my own situation, I resolved to encounter every difficulty or even hazard that might attend the execution of them, and to go to France. That my expectations have not been realized is less to be lamented, when it is considered that, in the attempt, I have had an opportunity to explain facts to persons in France, and to establish a predilection in favor of the speculation, which, in some future way, may be turned to very good account. Indeed I am convinced that whenever peace takes place, France will be as likely as any other country to furnish purchasers and good prices for American lands.
Believing, therefore, in the advantages which may eventually result to the concerned from my visit to France, I do not otherwise regret it than as having occupied more time than I intended it should have done. This was occasioned by circumstances, which I did not foresee, and could not controul.
The unpleasant affair of the arrestation consumed several weeks. The Comité de Salut Public were some weeks in deciding on my different applications, and, after receiving their decision, I was detained in waiting for a conveyance to leave France.
The Austrians refused permission to pass their posts, and the route by Switzerland being very distant, and disagreeable, owing to the badness of the roads, I was compelled to wait until an opportunty offered, by an American ship, from Boulogne to the Downs, where Mr. Francis and myself arrived a few days ago.
On my return to London I had the pleasure to receive your letters of the 15 of October, 26 of November, 8 and 11 of December, which is the latest I have received.
As you mention in your last letter that you should send me the patents of the Pennsylvania lands within a short time, I am almost inclined to believe that they have been addressed to me at Amsterdam, and I have written to know whether there are any letters for me there. Should I learn that there are letters for me there, I shall set out immediately for Holland, but as these papers must be essentially necessary, I have believed that it would be best either to hear from thence or from America before I go.
Mr. Constable tells me that the rejection of the bill to enable aliens to hold lands in the State of New York has had a very serious effect on the persons concerned in the purchase from Mr. Morris, and I am afraid will greatly affect the sale of lands, situated in those states, where this tenure is not allowed. It must however give a great spring to speculation in the lands of Pennsylvania. I wish, therefore, exceedingly to receive your patents, as I think the present a very favorable time for a sale of those lands.
I have mentioned my intention of going to Holland to Sir Francis Baring; he says he will give me letters to all his friends there, particularly to Mr. Hope. I have endeavored to sound him on the subject of speculation in American lands, and it does not appear to me that he would be indisposed to such a speculation as might be relished by Mr. Hope. Of this I shall be able to give you particular information on my arrival in Amsterdam.
Should Mr. Hope and Sir Francis Baring agree to take a concern in your lands, perhaps the objection of tenure to those in the District of Maine, might be surmounted by some such plan as Pultney and Hornby496 have adopted, with respect to the lands bought of Mr. Morris, i.e., having them held in the names of persons who are citizens. In this manner Pultney and Hornby’s lands are held in the name of Williamson.
But, as I have formerly observed to you, it is of inestimable importance to procure such a law as that of Pennsylvania from the State of Massachusetts.
I shall not fail to profit of your opinions respecting any negociations I may have with the Dutch merchants, and I shall endeavor closely to pursue your advice in my intercourse with them.
The observations, in your letter of the 26th. of November that “the success of our projected sales is essentially connected with the peace of Europe” is particularly true as it respects a large sale, and a belief that both the Dutch and English would be slow to speculation in our lands during the war, was an additional reason for my going to France.
It is not possible to conjecture when peace may take place. The encreased energy of the French Republic may possibly produce it after the present campaign, but that is very doubtful, as the disposition to carry on the war appears to be correspondently encreased on the part of this Government, which is now at the head of the Confederacy, and administers most profusely to all its wants.
Perhaps, however, a provident care on the part of some monied men in this country and Holland, who may wish to guard against any very disastrous consequences of the war, will enable us to do something in the sale of the lands before the peace. This will be rendered still more probable if the next accounts from America should state that the repeal of the Order of Council respecting American ships has abated the disposition to war. Indeed such intelligence is almost necessary to a tranquil residence here, for, although the people of this nation are disposed to peace with us, yet I doubt much whether a part, at least, of the Government would not be pleased with any thing that looked like aggression on our part, and would furnish a plea for open war. So careless of consequences are proud and ambitious men.
From my observations in France I am convinced that no probable reverse of fortune can induce overtures for peace from that country. Assured as they now are of their union and strength, I am certain the leaders of that nation will never listen to any thing short of an unqualified recognition of the Republic.
This consideration makes the opening of the campaign, which, by the accounts received here, has been unfavorable to the French, on the side of Flanders, the more to be regretted. It is said that they have failed in two attempts to relieve Landrecy, which is besieged by the grand army of the Allies, commanded by the Emperor in person, and it is also said that in these attempts they have lost a considerable number of troops and cannon. It would seem however that their efforts have been very strenuous, as the Austrians alone confess a loss of six thousand killed and wounded.
On the side of Luxembourg the French army of the Moselle has beaten that of the Allies under General Beaulieu, and forced them to take shelter under the guns of that fortress.
In Italy they have taken the seaport of Oneglia from the King of Sardinia and it is said that, in Spain, they are marching against Barcelona.
Notwithstanding the check which they have received towards Landrecy, I have not a doubt that the issue of the campaign will be favorable to the French. Their forces and treasure are immense, and their means of encreasing it inexhaustible.
Of the disposition of the Allies to continue the war, and of the disparity of their means, compared with that disposition, you may judge from the circumstance of a loan being opened in London, for the Emperor of Germany, for two and a half millions sterling, at the enormous interest of eight per cent.
This loan, which is under the management of Boyd Benfield & Co.,497 it is supposed will not succeed. Sir F. B. is of that opinion, and he thinks that, upon its failure, the disposition to adventure in American speculations will be greatly encreased.
We can no longer be surprized that monied men should be backward in land purchases, however inviting, when such temptation as eight per cent is held out to them for the use of money. And yet this circumstance may very soon combine with other considerations to produce an opposite effect.
Sober men cannot reflect on the present situation of Europe without alarm both for their property and personal quiet. The information, which is every where diffused, of the safe and happy condition of America hourly encreases the disposition to emigrate to that country, and must soon be very operative in producing speculations in every description of property in the United States. Nothing but the dogs of war and watchful shepherds now keep the sheep within their respective folds. As I intend giving to Mr. Willing a similar detail of the state of France with the enclosed,498 I will here conclude this letter, to ensure time for writing him by this opportunity. I shall resume my correspondence to you, if the vessel should not have sailed, as soon as I have finished my letter to him or by the very first conveyance.
The land which it is said Constable sold for 8 livres,499 did not bring him eighteen pence. It was selling some months ago, or rather it was offered for sale, in France, for eight livres in assignats, which, at the exchange, was not more than 17 or 18d sterling.
I believe that he had entered into some contract for it, on which he might have received a small advance of money, but I have reason to think, from his own information, that he did not expect to receive on a final sale beyond eighteen pence per acre for it. The situation of this land is such that it can never be expected it will sell for as much as the land in the District of Maine. I pray you to present my most respectful and affectionate compliments to Mrs. Bingham and the young ladies, and to believe that I am, with the most sincere and affectionate regard,
My dear sir,
Your much obliged and faithful Servant
William Bingham, Esquire
William Jackson to [?], Paris, April, 1794 [BP]500
France at this moment exhibits such scenes as the pencil of Salvator Rosa would have been well employed to delineate, abounding in light and shade, which is at once splendid and awful.
To use the language of a living artist, and one fonder of gilding than Salvator, “France is, in truth, an armed nation.” Her exertions and firmness seem well proportioned to the resistance, which her situation requires, and far exceed the expectation, which our limited acquaintance with the power and resources of such a nation, resolved to be free, could have excited.
No longer resembling Venus attended by the Graces, she now represents Minerva followed by the Fates. You must pardon this imagery. It is really necessary to convey an idea of facts, or to describe the change, which has here taken place. Indeed, it is only by what, in common parlance, would be accounted extravagant hyperbole, that one can express the situation of this most extraordinary people.
Wherever you move, or to whatever quarter your attention is turned, nothing meets the view but warlike preparation.
Every consideration is sacrificed to public exigence, every contribution of property or service, which the public necessity requires, appears to be cheerfully made, and, in the few instances, where reluctance may exist, terror supplies the absence of patriotism, and operates its full effect.
Age and infancy are employed in extracting from the earth (and, by a late refinement in chemistry, from vegetables) the thunders, which youth and manhood are to direct, while the cares of domestic life are altogether devolved on the female part of the society.
Fifteen armies, forming a force, which I do not think exaggerated, of twelve hundred thousand men, are now in the actual service of the Republic, and it has been surmised that a part of the second requisition would be made before the opening of the campaign.
Should this additional effort be deemed necessary, the coalesced nations of Europe must unquestionably yield to the momentum of an individual power exceeding in numbers and array all that the world has hitherto exhibited.
Perplexed by the variety of interesting objects, which attract my attention, I am really at a loss where to begin in giving you the details of these formidable and stupendous preparations.
The first requisition has been carried into complete effect, that is to say, all the unmarried men of this extensive nation, from the age of 18 to 25, whatever their situation or fortune (for neither money nor substitutes would exempt them from service) have joined the several armies of the Republic, which they have augmented with a force of six hundred thousand.
These levies have been incorporated with the ancient corps, and have been under a strict discipline for several months.
The cavalry has been so considerably encreased as to require that the swords, exceeding thirty inches in blade, should be taken from the infantry for their use. The augmentation is upwards of 50,000, and the remounted exceeds 30,000, the whole force in cavalry being at least 100,000.
So that, in this arm, which, during the last campaign, was the weakest part of their composition, I am persuaded the French will be equal to the combined forces.
The artillery, so formidable in the last campaign, has received an addition of two thousand pieces for field service, and, judging from its former effect, must I think be absolutely irresistible.
The fuel, which is to nourish this immense volcano, is, as I have already intimated to you, prepared by those hands which are otherwise unable to serve their country, and, under the direction of persons well skilled in the process, saltpetre is produced in astonishing quantity.
I have daily opportunity of observing its product in the several sections of Paris, and the operation is the same throughout the Republic.
And yet, amidst all this din and preparation of arms, the country is more carefully and extensively cultivated than in any former period. You will ask by whom? By old men, by women, and the youth of both sexes, under the age of eighteen.
This I can assure you from personal observation, wherever I have travelled not a single spot is neglected. The very avenues and approaches to the chateaux are ploughed, even walks in the gardens of the Tuilleries are sown and planted, and no country presents a more promising appearance, in agriculture, than France does at this moment.
It has become a public care with the several municipalities to plant those grounds, which were formerly appropriate to pleasurable purposes, with useful vegetables, and, to this end, regular institutions are established.
The value of the potatoe is known, and sufficiently appreciated to remove every apprehension of want. Indeed so promising is the grain, now in the ground, that I am persuaded, from my information of the present state of their granaries, the quantity on hand and the ensuing crop will furnish an advance of provision for at least two years.
You may be assured the idea of starving France is as unfounded as it is unworthy. The variety of soil and climate in this extensive country reduces the chance of a general failure in their crops to a very remote possibility; and the invigorating energies of property and freedom have more than balanced the deductions from their agriculture occasioned by the call of their peasantry to the frontiers. Indeed a very considerable proportion of their farming was always done by the women of France, who still continue to cultivate the ground.
Take a single illustration of my supposition that their granaries are well stocked. The price of bread in Paris, at this moment, is not half as much as in London. True it is browner, but it is more nutritious.
Extensive manufactures of useful fabrics continue to flourish, and even the most refined articles of luxury are not neglected. Of the former I have carefully observed the cloth-manufacture at Abbeville, which is in full vigor, and of the latter I have visited the Gobelins, where the most exquisite productions of the needle and the shuttle still continue to charm and astonish: this last is continued as a public establishment.
Even the palaces and pleasure grounds of the ci-devant royalty are respected as national property, and as such are carefully preserved. The greater part of the furniture has been removed from Versailles. Some of the paintings remain. Those by the best masters have been sent to the gallery of the Louvre, which is now the national musaeum, where the collection greatly exceeds any other exhibition of the fine arts in the world. It is under the direction of a committee appointed to protect the arts, and is maintained in the most superb style. Such is the war which these Goths and Vandals wage against the Arts!
The late Queen’s favorite residence of St. Cloud remains as when she occupied it. The paintings will be sent to the museum and the furniture will be sold.
In remarking on the agriculture and manufactures, I have digressed from the subject of public force, to which I return.
The operations of the northern army appear to engage the greatest degree of attention, and from its composition, as well as its situation, this part of their force seems destined to the most arduous and important service.
Including the detachments, on the side of Dunkirk, and the garrisons, which, without hazard to their posts, may be called into field service with the main body, I do not suppose this army amounts to less than 254,000 men, composed nearly in the following manner
Artillery attached to Corps
In addition to this immense force, no less formidable by the decided superiority of their artillery, the improved state of their discipline, arms, and œconomical arrangements of supplies, than by their numbers, the army of the Moselle may, by a rapid movement to its left, be brought into full co-operation, and at very short notice, with the army of the north, for experience has demonstrated that they are capable of forming these sudden junctions by transporting their troops in carriages.
That they are disposed to effect whatever a profuse application of money can accomplish must be admitted, and that the means are in their power cannot be denied.
Their treasury is, at this time, by far the richest in Europe, perhaps more abundant than all the rest of Europe, and, immoderate as their expenditure appears, the sources of their supplies seem but to encrease with the streams that flow from them.
On this subject also it is fair to remark that the persons who direct their fiscal arrangements have been long enough in office to give to them all the advantages, which result from method and established order. Of this a very strong proof was given some days ago by Cambon, in his report on the state of their finances. He therein asserts (which he dared not to do without foundation) that a diminution of 170 millions of livres per month, had been made in their disbursements, leaving the actual expenditure about fifty four millions sterling per annum.
Enormous as this sum may appear it is not immoderate compared with their resources, for, however extraordinary, it is true, that, including the estates of the Crown, the clergy, and the emigrants, at least one third part of the whole property of France is in confiscation. Such had been the tendency of the ancient regime to absorb and concentrate the national wealth in the hands of the few!
This fact is well understood by the men of property, who have remained in France, and the reflections, which arise from it, have fully decided them to go with the revolution, and to support it at all hazards. They are now aware of the worst that can happen to them under the Republic, and they know full well that the confiscated property is more than competent to the expences which have been, or may be incurred to maintain the war, whereas a counter revolution would not only place the expences of the war to their charge, but prostrate the residue of their property to the indemnity of those who have emigrated.
These influential considerations of property, by which the more wealthy part of the people now in France are actuated, aided by the enthusiasm of some, the fears of others, and the resentments of all against their external enemies, have not only subdued all spirit of revolt, and condensed the public opinion in favor of the revolution, but appear to me to have decided the nation literally to adhere to their declaration “to live free or die.”
This reasoning may seem to some minds, on a first view, to be too positive, but compared with facts, and analysed by the test of experience, it will be found true in every result.
I would now state the respective strength and composition of the other armies of the Republic, but, as their operations are not likely to be equally interesting or decisive with that of the north, I have been at less pains to obtain particular information respecting them. That which is intended to act against Spain will, I think, be the next efficient in force, and impressive in its operations.
The direction of their military measures is said to be confided to a committee of officers of high professional talents and distinguished service. Two of them, it is said will go to the army of the north, the others will remain at Paris.
Besides this Board of Officers, there are members of the Convention, as Commissioners, with each of the armies, who, among other duties, superintend the oeconomy of the staff arrangements, and watch over the supplies.
A controuling authority, that may be termed unlimited, is vested in the Comité de Salut Public, which is composed of the following members, classed according to the influence, which I think they respectively possess.
Robespierre, Billaud de Varennes, St. Just, Barerre, Jean Bon St. André, Collot d’Herbois, Couthon, Carnot, Cambon, Lindet, and Prieur.
Robespierre is certainly the apex of this pyramid. Barerre, in point of talents, may be considered as one of its ablest supports. Lindet, whose application is even distinguished, where all are unremitting, is the member to whom the department of subsistence is devolved. St. Just is very eloquent and popular with the Convention. Jean Bon St. Andre has been selected for his energy of character to regenerate the marine, and is now at Brest. It is said that Billaud de Varennes and Carnot are to go to the army of the north. Collot d’Herbois and Couthon are very influential with the popular assemblies. Prieur is less distinguished than either of his colleagues. The removal of Danton, La Croix, and the other deputies, who were executed with them, and the extinction of Hebert’s party, will give a stability to the power of this all influential body, which nothing will be able to shake, and will enable them to call forth the remaining resources of this inexhaustibe people, perhaps to apply them still more efficiently than they have even yet done.
Viewed in the light I have here placed it, the picture of France is pleasing and splendid. But there are shades, which abstract from its beauty, and which a regard to truth makes necessary to confess and to expose. They proceed less from native defect than from accident, and may, therefore, be softened, perhaps be entirely removed.
In a course of conquest it is to be feared that the lust of dominion, incited too by a spirit of vengeance, may lead this people, already the happiest nation on the globe in geographical position, to grasp at possessions, which, far from encreasing, would, eventually, abridge both their power and their happiness.
The retention of Savoy I regard as a decided affair, and irrevocable. And, unless negotiations for peace are soon entered upon, I should consider the annexation of Austrian Flanders and the Dutchy of Luxembourg to the French Republic, as neither improbable nor remote. These conquests, should they be made (and that a nation of 28 millions of people, situated as France is, being compelled to become a nation of soldiers, should atchieve [sic] whatever conquest they attempt, is but too probable), these conquests, I say, may be more susceptible of restitution for her islands, but even that I think would be doubtful, as, with the extension of her territory, her other means of obtaining the restoration of her colonies, must be dangerously encreased.
This is a case for the consideration of those whom I have neither the wish nor the power to influence, but I am satisfied that more political reflection ought immediately to attach to it, than they, to whom it is most interesting, seem disposed to give.
As inauspicious to the happiness of France, and the future peace of Europe, I can only regret, and deprecate, the near possibility of such an event.
The difficulty of organizing their government, after peace, would form a darker shade than it does, if we did not reflect that the Constitution is already prepared, that the nomination to office, as well as the knowledge which qualifies to select characters, would be almost exclusively in the possession of the Comité de Salut Public, and that long continuance in office has already designated the individuals for the stations which they ought respectively to fill. This is, nevertheless, a source of serious apprehension, as it regards the internal peace of France, and will be deserving of all the attention which philosophy and philanthropy can bestow upon it.
To the assuasive touch of time we must refer the obliteration of those remembrances, which may nourish individual resentments for some time to come. They will not extend beyond the present generation, perhaps they will be extinguished with the war that occasioned them.
It is, however, to be confessed and lamented that they cloud the prospect.
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 24 June 1794 [BP]501
London June 24th. 1794.
I had the pleasure, my dear Sir, of writing very particularly to you by the ship Theresa for Philadelphia. I have since had the pleasure to receive your several letters of the 18th, 23rd and 26th of January, 17th of Febbruary, 11th of April, and 6th of May.
The last of them enclosed the map of the lower tract of the Maine lands, with the rivers laid down from survey, excepting the eastern branch of the Machias, the survey of which was not received in time to be inserted. There will be no difficulty in explaining this circumstance to the satisfaction of those who may be concerned, and I think every person, who inspects the map, will be persuaded, from the actual surveys there laid down, that there cannot be a better watered country.
After carefully perusing all your letters, and comparing the instructions, which they contain, with each other, and applying the result of the whole to the existing circumstances of this country, of Holland, of Flanders, and of France, I was perfectly convinced that no possible plan, for the disposal of the Maine lands could promise either so early or so advantageous an issue, as prevailing on the Houses of Hope and Baring either to become concerned in the speculation largely or partially, or to undertake the management of the sale and loan as stated in your letter of the 8th of December.
To this conclusion I was likewise carried by several indirect conversations which I had with Sir Francis Baring, in which I thought I discovered a disposition to adventure in a large landed speculation.
Believing therefore that I was sufficiently authorized by the intimations I had received from you—knowing that the sooner so important a matter was put in train the sooner your wish, to avail yourself of funds from this source, would be accomplished—and being assured, from Sir Francis Baring’s friendship and discretion, that no evil could result from the disclosure to him, I stated to him that I had reason to suppose, from my letters, that you would engage in an extensive land speculation, provided Houses in Europe, as respectable as Messrs. Hope of Amsterdam and Barings of London, would agree to be concerned, either as parties in the purchase, or as managers of the concern in Europe, or as both. That I knew such a connexion would be preferred by you to any other that could be formed, as you wished to procure for the lands that degree of respectable support, in negotiating for them, to which their soil, superior situation, fair character, and clear title gave them the best founded claims. That I was empowered to make this communication to him for the purpose of its being imparted to Mr. Hope, provided he, Sir Francis, was himself disposed to the undertaking, and that, without pressing his answer, I should for the present refer it to his consideration.
In a subsequent conversation Sir Francis informed me that Mr. Hope, to whom he had written, objected the very uncertain state of things in Europe, occasioned by the war, to entering into the concern, as its success must be considerably impeded thereby. Sir Francis told me, at the same time, that he was rather inclined to think, with me, that the uncertain state of things, particularly in Flanders, into which the French arms seemed to threaten a dangerous progress, would induce many wealthy persons to make this kind of investment of their property, but that he thought the apprehended rupture between America and England might have a seriously unfavorable influence on the negotiation.
Since the arrival of Mr. Jay502 we have renewed our conversations on the subject, as it is very generally supposed, here, that his mission will restore a good understanding between the two countries, and preserve to both the blessings of peace. Under this belief I have determined to leave London for Amsterdam on Friday next, and I should do so sooner, but Sir Francis is gone to Exeter, whence he will not return until Tuesday, and it was agreed between us that I should wait his return. He gives me very particular letters to Amsterdam. He says that a personal interview between Mr. Hope and himself will be necessary to determine whether they will engage in the concern or not, and he will go to Amsterdam towards the last of July or beginning of August. In the intermediate time I shall have an opportunity to make acquaintances and the necessary enquiries to rule my conduct, either as to this operation, or to some other in the case of its eventually falling through, which, by the bye, I do not very much apprehend.
I think the plan of a loan, which you gave in your letter of the 8th. of December, is more likely to obtain than any other. Sir Francis is of the same opinion, with this exception, that instead of the subscriber being only entitled to six or even ten years possession of the 3 per cent stock, it ought to be a perpetuity, which would be selling the land at 3/1 sterling per acre, which according to the idea entertained of the price of American land, and the magnitude of the object, would be thought, by many people, high enough.
I told him that, considering the peculiar advantages of these lands, I thought the terms of a share being 1,000 acres at 7/ sterling per acre—£350., with the interest on 3 per cent stock, to that amount, to be received by the subscribers for a term of 6 or 10 years, at the utmost, and then to revert to the original proprietors of the land, would be sufficiently inviting to fill a subscription, to the amount of two millions of acres immediately. However, as it was not yet determined that the two Houses would come into the concern, we did not discuss the terms any farther.503
I shall be glad to receive your definitive instructions, as to the lowest terms, on which you would agree to dispose of the Maine lands.
To guide your decision on this head, I will state to you what appears to me to be the present situation of Europe, and the disposition of the people as connected with the acquisition of property in the United States, whether with an intention to remove thither, or on speculation, as an object of profitable transfer.
Political opinion being the basis of every other in this relation, I must begin with that, and the French Revolution being the main pivot of that opinion, France is first to be considered.
In my letter of April, I gave you a very particular, and, as events have verified, a very just statement of that country, its military force, fiscal arrangements, agricultural improvement, manufacturing interests, and general intentions.
To guard against the accident of non-transmission, I now enclose a third copy of that paper. You have only to recur to the great events, which have lately taken place, to perceive that my facts were correct, and the inferences, drawn from them, true. What remains to be fulfilled is hourly happening.
The Allies are beaten in every direction, and the war, which they supposed would be vigorously offensive, is now reduced, on their part, to a very doubtful defense indeed.
The Spanish army of the eastern Pyrennees has been compelled to surrender prisoners of war, all the passes of the Alps have been forced, and the French are now besieging, or may have already taken Turin. Very bloody battles have been fought in Flanders, where the advantages have been on the side of the Republic, or the issue doubtful. The last accounts from thence are most alarming to the Allies. Clairfayt, in an attempt to relieve Ypres, which is besieged, has been defeated with the loss of his artillery and baggage, and the place is said to have surrendered with a garrison of seven thousand three hundred men.
The greatest apprehension is entertained for Ostend, Bruges, Ghent, and Brussells. Courtray, Menin, Dixmude, and Roupalaer [?] are already taken. It is even confidently reported that the retreat of the Allies, from every part of Flanders, is resolved on, and the routes for their several Corps marked out. Should that be the case, and the Emperor’s last manifesto is highly indicative of it, they cannot halt on this side of Breda, and will, most probably, be compelled to cross the Rhine.
It is this morning announced that the French have brought four hundred thousand men to bear on the Flanders frontier. Certain it is that the merchants are sending away the property from Ostend, and that the utmost alarm prevails here among those who are interested in its safety.
Should the tide of success continue to flow in favor of France, and there is yet no symptom of reflux, Flanders must be evacuated by the Allies, and the Rhine become the boundary.504
The late naval victory,505 obtained by Lord Howe, which was certainly decisive, inasmuch as one seventy four of the French was sunk, and six taken, with incredible slaughter and damage to both fleets, has had no other consequence to the British than to augment their marine with six old ships, while the battle secured to the French the great object, for which it was hazarded, the safe entrance of the whole fleet from America into L’Orient, not a ship being lost or missing.
This reinforcement of sailors and supplies will enable them to refit their ships immediately, and it is thought, even here, that their grand fleet will be at sea before that of England.
This battle, it is said, was never equalled. The deaths and damage in the English fleet, are without precedent. Three of their admirals lost their limbs (one of them, Bowyer, since dead), several captains, and twenty odd lieutenants killed, and an astonishing number of officers of all ranks and seamen killed and wounded, several of their ships totally dismasted. The returns published are curtailed.
The English officers, among other proofs of incredible decision on the part of the French, state that one of their ships fired into another, that had struck, until she rehoisted her colours, and that the Vengeur, a seventy four, continued to fire her upper deck guns, while the water ran into the lower ports, and that she sunk with colours flying, and shouts from her crew of “Vive la republique.” Not a ship that was taken possession of had struck her flag.
All that has been related of Grecian and Roman valour and patriotism, is realized, at this moment, in the daring courage, and decisive conduct of this unrivalled nation, and whatever misrepresentation may charge, or even facts establish against them as excesses, let the situation of France be dispassionately considered, and much of the imputation will disappear. She has, until very lately been, literally, in the situation of a blockaded fortress, where the first law of nature not only authorized but enjoined the most summary suppression of mutiny and revolt.
It is nevertheless true that some uncalled for severities have been inflicted, which appear to reproach the clemency, perhaps to arraign the justice of the nation. But is no allowance to be made for human passions and resentment? Is no consideration to be given to the barbarities exercised against them? Are we to expect from men the forbearance of angels, or do we confine our sensibility to one description of sufferers?
We weep over a single death by the axe, and breathe not a sigh to the fall of thousands, who perish by the murderous sword of ambition. Away with the false distinction—disavowed of justice, and scarce entitled to compassion.
These reflections are due to the situation of France. They are intended to palliate, not entirely to excuse her excesses. But while we admit those excesses, it becomes us rather to extenuate than to magnify them.
Never, never, let America forget that France not only fought and bled for us in our own quarrel, but that she has been, and is now fighting our battles. Yes, it is incontrovertibly true that the successes of her arms have at this very time shielded us from a war, which was certainly meditated, and would as certainly have been carried into effect against us but for these successes.
Gratitude is a bright gem in individual character. Why should it not irradiate the brow of nations?
To return to the situation of affairs. The successes of France augur an entire change of circumstance throughout Europe. Popular doctrines will, of course, progress with them, and an alteration of system in the political establishments will produce great change of opinion among individuals. Whether these changes will influence, and in what degree they will influence the dispositions of the people of Europe towards America is now to be considered.
I am decidedly of opinion myself that the interests of our country, in all their relations, are intimately connected with the successes of France.
A humiliating sense of departed consequence will incline one class of them to abandon their own country, and apprehension for the safety of their property will influence another. A third description, not as obnoxious to either of these sensations, will seek retirement from the struggle, between the contending parties, which may yet be protracted for years. And a fourth party, the men who trade in money, will anticipate the intentions of the other three, and adventure in American property, which investment will either secure their money, or turn it to great account, as events may make most eligible.
These expectations and conclusions, which I think well grounded, are decisive with me that the general outlines of the sale and loan, as sketched in your letter (should the loan be opened under the management of Messrs. Hope and Baring) ought to be adhered to, unless it should be thought proper to extend the term of holding the 3 per cent stock, by the subscribers, from six to ten years. This would render it more inviting, and greatly accelerate the subscriptions.
Sir Francis told me that if there should appear to be a well grounded expectation of carrying it through, he did not think there would be any difficulty in obtaining an advance of money on the loan.
I am very strongly inclined to think that this will be the best mode of disposing of the lands in Maine and that the larger the concern is, the more likely will Messrs. Hope and Baring be to take an interest in it.
It will be an easy matter to order such part of the loan to be subscribed on your own account, or for General Knox, as would reserve to you eventual profits to the amount you might think proper.
Perhaps it might be best, should it be determined to fix the shares at a thousand acres each, to say that five hundred should be taken in the upper, and five hundred in the lower tract, or in similar proportions, if the shares are not fixed at a thousand acres.
I shall expect to receive your instructions by the earliest opportunity. But should Messrs. Hope and Baring accede to the concern, and it should appear, after making the necessary enquiries in Holland, that any evils are likely to result from delay I shall think myself authorized, under my present instructions, to consent to the opening of the loan on the terms stated in your letter of the 8th. of December.
A share to consist of 500 acres in the upper, and 500 acres in the lower tract, say 1,000 acres at 7/ sterling, £350., with the conditions, as mentioned in your letter respecting the 3 per cent stock, extending the term of the stock being held by the subscribers to ten years, provided I find it impossible to carry the loan through at the limitation of six years.
I should suppose that these terms would obtain attention from persons disposed to invest their property in American land, and I flatter myself they would be satisfactory to you and General Knox. It will certainly be my study to render the terms more advantageous for you, if I find it can be done. I mention these as the lowest I would consent to without your farther instructions.
The moment of apprehension for the stability of the governments, and the security of property, in Europe (and that is perhaps as high at present as it will be) is certainly the best time to bring these proposals into view.
A favorable issue to Mr. Jay’s negotiation will be highly propitious to the success of such an operation, and should his mission eventuate satisfactorily to both nations, and the Houses of Hope and Baring agree to take an interest in the concern, or to manage the loan, or both, I should have little doubt of complete success.
Nothing but the undecided state of public affairs could have prevented me from visiting Holland before this time, with a view to forming arrangements for the disposal of the lands. But, as there was every appearance of a rupture between America and England, which would necessarily have affected Holland, I believed it best to postpone my visit until the political hemisphere had assumed a more settled aspect. Nor can there be any cause to regret the delay, since any attempt to negociate under such unfavorable auspices as the expectation of war with America, must have resulted in disappointment, and had a direct tendency to discredit future operations.
On the other hand an assurance that there will be no difference between England and America will give a spring to every kind of speculation in American property, and strongly combine with the progress of apprehension and discontent in Europe to induce purchasers of every description to come forward.
There is another inducement, and I think it a very strong one, to this plan for disposing of the lands in Maine. As Sir Francis Baring tells me that money may be procured in advance, under a favorable expectation of completing the loan, the proprietors will be enabled, without any sacrifice of property, to raise the money that is wanted to settle with the State. At the same time they will be able to reserve, for additional eventual profits, any quantity of the land they may think proper.
Should the loan be opened before your instructions are received, it will be on two millions of acres including the whole of the Kennebeck million. This will leave three hundred and twenty five thousand, two hundred and forty acres to future disposal, besides the quantity which you may order to be subscribed for on your own or General Knox’s account.
I flatter myself, if this arrangement is carried into effect, it will meet your entire approbation. Every thing, however, will depend on the question of peace or war between England and America. If peace is the result, and I think the formidable aspect of France almost ensures it, I augur a very happy and speedy termination to my business on this side of the Atlantic, to the shores of which, in such event, I shall certainly bid a hasty and an eternal adieu.
Should I have any reason to suppose after I have seen Mr. Hope that it is not probable he will enter into the concern, I shall look out for purchasers of townships agreeable to the idea which you have suggested. But, in this I shall proceed with due caution, as it may be expedient to wait the result of Sir Francis Baring’s interview with Mr. Hope before I take any other steps.
A short acquaintance with what is doing in Amsterdam, or likely to be done there, will enable me to give you more particular advices from thence, which I shall not fail to do.
I shall beg Sir Francis Baring to cause the letters that may arrive for me to be forwarded to Amsterdam.
With sincere affection, and perfect esteem,
I am, my dear Sir,
Your obliged and faithful servant
William Bingham, Esquire
W. Jackson To Bingham, London, 26 June 1794 [BP]506
London June 26. 1704
My dear Sir:
You will perceive by one of the enclosed extracts from the news papers of this morning that the French are proceeding with irresistible force in their conquests in Flanders. The other extract contains very interesting information, which I have heard confirmed by several merchants, of the state of Mr. Jay’s negotiation. The substance of the one is a consequence of the other, and, in my opinion, entirely owing to the success of the French arms.
I breakfasted yesterday morning with Sir Francis Baring, when we renewed our conversation on the subject of the land speculation, previous to my departure for Holland, which I had fixed for to-morrow, but which Sir Francis wishes I would defer until Tuesday to give him time to write.
He told me that their House would not wish to enter, single handed, upon such an undertaking, and he supposed that Mr. Hope’s first opinion would be against being concerned and that his coming into it would be the result of reasoning and a fair examination of facts.
In the event of the two Houses undertaking it, Sir Francis said it would be necessary that the powers to be given to them by you should be ample and complete.
We talked over three different plans, which I stated to him. The first, a sale of the land, unconnected with stock, in shares of 1,000 acres each, at prices proportioned to situation. The second, a sale, connected with a loan, in shares of £500 sterling each, subscribers to receive 3 per cent stock of the United States to the amount of £500 sterling to be held in perpetuity, and a deed in fee of 500 acres of land in the upper, and 500 acres in the lower tract, the situation of the several lands to be determined by lot, when the subscription was completed. The third, a sale, connected with a loan, in shares, of £350 sterling, subscribers to receive 3 per cent stock of the United States to the amount of £350 to be held by them, and the interest thereon to be received by them, for a term of ten years, and a deed of 500 acres in the upper, and 500 acres in the lower tract; the situation of their several lands to be determined by lot.
Sir Francis thinks it would be best to propose two plans at the same time. The one, a sale of the lands unconnected with stock, the other a sale connected with stock. This, by holding out an option, would be more likely to succeed than if the disposal was confined to one mode, and, having ascertained the disposition of the public mind, it would be easy to carry that which was found, upon experiment, to be least acceptable to that which was most so.
In contemplating that mode of disposing of the land which is connected with stock, and which I think would be the most inviting, I would beg leave to suggest the expediency of preparing for it, by contracts for 3 per cent stock upon time. This, in my opinion, under the present appearance of an amicable adjustment between America and England, will not only be a prudent, but a safe and profitable speculation, whether the sales of the land should proceed in the way proposed, or in any other. Verbum sat.
Being desirous to avail myself of the post to overtake Mr. Francis, who set out for Falmouth yesterday morning, and having nothing else of particular moment to impart at present, I must conclude, with my best compliments to Mrs. Bingham and the young ladies. Assuring you, my dear Sir, that I am,
Your ever faithful servant
Mr. Francis took with him our common stock of news papers which he will offer to your perusal first.
W. Jackson to Sir Francis Baring, Amsterdam, 20 July 1794 [BP]507 (Duplicate of the copy of a letter to Sir Francis Baring, London)
Amsterdam July 20th. 1794
My dear Sir Francis:
I had the honor to address a short letter to you on the 9th instant, since when I have not had the pleasure to hear from you.
Having previously furnished Messrs. Hope with the pamphlet descriptive of the lands in the District of Maine, I had a conversation with them, in which I disclosed the purport of my visit to Amsterdam.
They admitted that the proposed speculation in these lands, which they believed to be founded in fact, held out great invitation, but (as you intimated to me you thought they would do, in the first instance) they declined engaging in the concern, alledging the present situation of public affairs, and their desire, under that situation, rather to contract than to extend their engagements.
When the conversation had reached this point, Mr. Henry Hope was called out of the room. It was renewed by Mr. William [s] Hope and myself, and on my stating to him, among other propositions the following plan for the disposal of these lands, which I considered as neither involving responsibility nor any great degree of solicitude to your two Houses, should they engage to undertake the management of the concern, he seemed to think it did obviate these objections, and seemed to listen to it as susceptible of effect. Perhaps I was mistaken in this supposition, and it is the more probable I was, as we parted without coming to any conclusion.
I submit the plan to your consideration, as your reflections thereon will either demonstrate that it is practicable, or shew that, as not obviating the objections made generally to the project, the Houses ought not to engage in the undertaking, in which case I shall beg pardon for the trouble which I have occasioned to you, and, regretting that my first wish, to engage your two Houses in the concern, has failed, I shall proceed to execute it in some other way.
It is necessary that I should preface this plan, which appears to me absolutely certain of effect in disposing of these valuable lands, by observing that the present precarious and indeed alarming situation of public affairs in every country of Europe, must strongly incline the considerate men of all classes of the community to make such partial investments at least of their property as, in any eventual disorganization, may secure some dependency which will be beyond the influence of changes so much to be deprecated and so much to be feared. For this influential reason I should suppose that every prudent man would avail himself of an opportunity to make the following investment of a small part of his property.
Suppose a sale of two millions of acres of land in the District of Maine, connected with a loan (if an exchange of 3 per cent stock of the United States for the money paid admits of that name) should be opened under the management of Messrs. J. and F. Baring and Co. of London, and Messrs. Hope and Co. of Amsterdam on the following terms:
The whole to be subdivided into 2,000 shares of £550 sterling each share, on the payment of which sum to either of these Houses each subscriber should receive in equal amount, say £550 sterling of the 3 per cent stock of the United States, in perpetuity, and at his absolute disposal and a deed in fee simple for 1,000 acres of the said land, 500 acres thereof to be in the upper, and 500 acres in the lower tract, the location of each 500 acres to be determined by lot. By this operation a stockholder of the English, Dutch, Russian, or Imperial securities, by selling out of these funds and investing the proceeds as is here proposed, would not only draw 3 per cent on his capital, which he would invest in what, under the present aspect of affairs, I must consider as more stable stocks, but he would make such permanent provision for his family, as within a very short period must be immensely beneficial to them, and not liable to the avulsions of either the rage or folly of political changes.
How far your more matured ideas may concur with mine on this subject it is not permitted me to suppose. I should certainly be extremely flattered by such corroboration of them, and, considering time as particularly valuable on the present occasion I must beg leave to request such early communication of your opinions as you may think proper to make to me, by which I shall be able to regulate my subsequent arrangements.
I have mentioned to Mr. Hope that if your two Houses should undertake to manage the sale and loan, without being otherwise concerned, the proprietors would consent to pay a commission of ten per cent on the price of the land, which, rating the land as in the above schedule five shillings sterling per acre, would amount to fifty thousand pounds sterling, which, considering that the whole concern (as I firmly believe at this juncture, and under the auspices of your two Houses must happen) would be closed within twelve months, would I hope be thought adequate compensation.
Impressed as I am, my dear Sir Francis, with the most anxious solicitude to secure for ever that friendship and favorable opinion, which you have manifested towards me, I would not hazard the following declarations but in a perfect conviction that they are founded in truth.
I believe most sincerely that the character given of these lands in the pamphlet which describes them is strictly true. Hence I believe that the speculation in them is the most certain and the most profitable that ever was offered to the public, not even excepting the American stocks when they were as low as 2/6 in the pound. I believe that two or three commercial establishments on the sea board of these lands, aided by European capitals, would, within a very short time, absolutely command the greater part of the supply of lumber and provisions to the West India market, as the lands throughout the District are more favorable to the production of provisions (beef and pork) and lumber, and the sea and rivers, near to and within the District to the supply of fish than any other part of the United States, superadded to which is their unrivalled situation on the Atlantic.
Indeed two thirds of the supply of lumber to the Islands is now furnished from the District of Maine.
I will not trespass on your valuable time by dilating further on this subject, to which I have only to entreat as early an attention as may consist with your convenience, although, as the acme of my opinion, I might add, as it is interesting to yourself, my wish that you should acquire a portion of these lands.
I use the freedom of repeating to you that it is of importance to those for whom I act as it is to myself to decide without delay on any future arrangements. It is more so, as in case your two Houses should accede to these proposals, I ought immediately to return to America with the intelligence, which will be the more interesting to the proprietors, as they must instantly provide the stock, to be transmitted to you to perfect the sales.
I pray you, my dear Sir Francis, to continue to me that degree of your regard to which a sincere and respectful attachment entitles me, and to believe that I am always
Your obliged and faithful servant
F. Baring to W. Jackson, London, 19 August 1794 [BP]508 (Copy)
London 19. August 1794.
My dear Sir:
I did not answer your letter of the 21st July because I expected at that time that I should have had the pleasure to see you in Amsterdam and for which purpose I had made every arrangement. The danger which has since threatened Holland, induced me to hesitate from an opinion that my friends in general would be too much occupied with preparations for their removal to pay the least attention to the objects which I had in view. If the French had continued their progress with the same degree of rapidity I must no doubt have abandoned all thoughts of an excursion, but they are at a momentary stand and of course I do not despair of accomplishing my purpose. Under this state of uncertainty with regard to myself, I feel very much for yours, the more so as I do not foresee the prospect of any very speedy determination on our part. I mean with regard to Messrs. Hope and ourselves. It was for this reason that I have always expressed a wish that you would not suffer a reliance on us to prevent any other arrangement which might accord with your convenience and your interest. I never entertained a thought of embracing the business singly, but as we have no connexion with America of a similar description, and as Messrs. Hope are in the same predicament I confess that I felt a strong disposition to consider the subject fully and maturely with Messrs. Hope, and if their judgment coincided with my own in favor of the business, and that they were disposed to engage in it, I should have been very ready and happy to have concurred with them for the purpose. As I never suffered my views to extend further than what I have mentioned, you will easily perceive that much remains to be done, and what cannot well be done by letter, but must be the result of verbal communication.
It is probable moreover that the present convulsed state of commercial as well as political affairs would render it difficult for Messrs. Hope to give me a sufficient portion of their time on this subject, although I conceive that in calmer times it might very soon be discussed. You have thus before you, my dear Sir, what occurs to me on the preliminary question, and I regret exceedingly that it is so indecisive. A very few posts may remove the uncertainty with regard to my undertaking the voyage, but as it is evident that you wished for, and indeed ought to receive an answer I will no longer delay communicating to you my actual situation and disposition. As it is probable you may have other negotiations in view, say with other persons, I will take the liberty of suggesting a remark or two which may be useful. The one is that purchasers of land may not chuse to become purchasers of stock. To such it may be intimated that they may have their option, but it may be right that the plan should issue in its present form, as the purchaser will thereby perceive that he will have an interest of 3 per cent on the whole of his capital in the manner you have explained. The second point is that you should not bind yourself to an investment in the 3 per cent stocks, for if the plan should succeed in its present form, the capital of that stock is so comparatively small that the stock jobbers may counteract you, and push the price of that stock very high.509 I would therefore change the expression, by stipulating that the purchaser shall enjoy an interest of 3 per cent per annum in the American funds, the principal of which shall stand in his own name. I have not paid attention to the correct manner in which this stipulation should be worded, but I mean by it to reserve to the seller the faculty of investing the money in the 6 per cents as well as in the 3 per cent stocks according to circumstances, and as may be the most for his interest.
If any thing should occur to me on the subject, or relative to my being able to leave this country I shall have the pleasure to communicate the same to you immediately, as you may rest assured I shall always feel a sincere and zealous disposition to promote your interest on all occasions.
Whilst I am writing, the mail from your side of the 15th. has been delivered, and induces me to think I shall be able to effect my purpose of going over unless I should be intercepted on my voyage. My son will communicate to you in a post or two the final determination.
What an astonishing scene has lately passed at Paris?
I am always
My dear Sir,
Your most faithful humble servant
(signed) F. Baring
Major William Jackson
W. Jackson to Bingham, Amsterdam, 20 August 1794 [BP]510
Amsterdam, August 20th 1794.
My dear Sir:
Since my arrival in Amsterdam I have been honored with the receipt of your letters of the 26th of May and 27th of June.
On receiving the letters which went by Mr. Francis, and of which the enclosed are copies, I find that I had nearly anticipated the ideas expressed in yours of the 26th of May. That of the 27th of June is very short, being confined to a request to send you some garden seeds, which shall be done immediately.511 The other letter, which you mention having written by the Pigou, I have not received.
In your last letter you say that you had not received any from me of a later date than the beginning of December. How much this affects and astonishes me you will, in part, be enabled to judge from the duplicates, triplicates, and even fourth copies of my letters to you, since that time, which the letter book, that I now happen to have with me, admits of my sending to you by this conveyance. The record of other letters, which I hope you have received long ere this, being left in London, I cannot forward farther copies of them. But I persuade myself that those which you will receive by Mr. Francis, and the papers accompanying this, will convince you that I am utterly incapable of such gross and criminal neglect, as the delay or failure of their transmission may, for a time, have imputed to me.
Charged with the execution of a commission, which, independent of the duties that its acceptance naturally enjoined, involved, in its consequences, whatever was most interesting to myself, it was morally impossible, under such circumstances, that I should either so far violate the obligation of my trust, or fail in the performance of what was so essential to my own prosperity, and indeed pleasurable in itself, as to neglect my correspondence with you. No, my dear Sir, the one and the other have been too near my heart to have been forfeited, or, even for a moment, neglected.
The accomplishment of your instructions has been the exclusive object of my solicitude since I have been in Europe, and, to give weight to the observation, if it requires to be corroborated, I hesitate not to avow that, in aid of all that duty, friendship, and gratitude could enjoin, an interest still dearer than friendship, and one which gives to duty its most impulsive force, has contributed to influence me in this regard.
I have left no means untried—neither pains nor exertion have been spared—even some degree of hazard has been disregarded to carry your wishes into effect. That they are not yet accomplished is not more the misfortune of those for whom I act, than my own. That my efforts to complete them will not relax, must be inferred when the motives, which stimulate them, are considered.
I persuade myself that these observations on my agency will not offend you. They have been produced by a calculation on the constancy of your regard towards me, combined with a feeling, which, on reflection, I am sure you will not blame, and which I confess the brevity of your last letter has excited.
The copies of my letters to Sir Francis Baring will inform you of my proceedings with him and Mr. Hope, who are, I believe, at this time balancing the inducements to the speculation and the risque of losing it, with the discouragement of the times. For the rapid approach of the French, the success of whose arms has outgone all expectation, has astonished the people of this country into stupefaction, insomuch that they seem absolutely incapable of any business beyond the present hour. All is apprehension, doubt, and anxiety, and among those most apprehensive, doubtful, and anxious is the House of Hope, whose fears have been so great that Mrs. Williams Hope and her children have gone to England whither many valuable articles of property have also been sent.
Young Mr. Baring,512 who is the principal assistant in Mr. Hope’s counting house, told me, when I informed him of my intention to proceed in some other way, unless I received an answer from his father, that he was sure his father either meant to come to Amsterdam, and therefore declined answering the letter until he saw me, or that he was giving it that degree of consideration, which a matter of such magnitude required. The young gentleman is impressed with a sense of the advantages, which the speculation promises, and said he should write to his father on the subject. He observed that he thought, if Mr. Hope engaged in the concern, it would be to take a number of the shares, by way of placing a part of his immense property in safe deposit, rather than for the sake of the commission as a mercantile transaction. This commission you will perhaps think high, but it is no more than has heretofore been allowed in the sales of American land in Europe, and less would not be an inducement to these or other Houses of their consequence to engage in it.
You will also perceive (supposing the 3 per cent stock to cost 11/) that the £550 per share of one thousand acres, will cover that cost, and the commission of 10 per cent in such manner as to leave 4/6 sterling net as the price per acre of the land, which is the highest limitation you have placed upon it.
It is, in every sense, as advantageous an arrangement as could be made, and, should it succeed, will unquestionably be the best negociation of the sort that has been effected in Europe.
My situation with Messrs. Hope and Baring has of course suspended all intercourse on the subject elsewhere, as, until a definitive answer is received from them, it would be improper to make other advances. Indeed there is no other House in Amsterdam of sufficient weight and confidence to carry such a matter into effect by themselves at the present time, and I suppose, if Messrs. Hope do not accede to the proposal, it will be necessary to associate the House of Baring with any other that may agree to it, and be thought equal to the agency.
My communications with Mr. Hope have been very confidential, and, as the Willinks, and Staphorst and Hubbard,513 and others have all observed to me that this was a moment when no business could be done, I have left them to suppose that was the reason why I did not make any intimations to them.
They are all of them I find exceedingly dissatisfied with Mr. Morris for not having extinguished the Indian title to the Genesee lands, the time for doing which by his contract Mr. Hubbard told me was expired. This circumstance has had a most unfavorable influence on American negotiations, and has, I believe, in a late instance, been severely felt by Mr. Morris’s agents in another concern.514 Mr. Marshall and Mr. William Morris came from London to Amsterdam some days after me, with a view to dispose of lots in the federal city, and to do other business, but their reception was such that, after a stay of a few days, they returned seemingly much out of humour.515
Mr. Bonnet is now here. He tells me that the guillotine has defeated all his hopes, that most of his friends, and those persons with whom he expected to do business, have been put to death and that the emigrants are so very poor as to be unable even to pay their passage to America. He asked me the other day whether I could not assist some of them in their views of going to our country. They are indeed the most wretched of mankind, without money, and without the means to improve their condition. They are, with the exception of perhaps five or six persons, in extreme indigence.
By the same mail of this morning I have received your letter of the 9th. of July, and that from Sir Francis Baring, which is herewith enclosed.
Language does not avail me, my dear Sir, to say how much your remark on my silence has wounded me. How unmerited it has been I hope you are, before this, fully convinced. Mr. Francis, who I presume is arrived, will be able to tell you how much of my time was given to your correspondence, and he will likewise inform you, if it be necessary, whether my endeavors have not been unremitting to fulfil your expectations. Events were not in my disposal, and I could no more ensure a safe transmission to my letters, than I could controul the general situation of affairs, which opposed the progress of my negociations.
The convulsed state of things, as noticed in Sir Francis Baring’s letter, which I transmit for your satisfaction, will serve, in some degree, to expose the difficulties, which I have had to encounter. That I have met them without discouragement, I trust I shall be able to shew by the successful issue of my present negociation.
Sir Francis desires his son to inform me that he shall embark for Helvoet on Wednesday next. It is therefore probable he will be in Amsterdam on the Saturday following. No time will be lost, after his arrival, to ascertain the final determination of Messrs. Hope and Company, and, should they finally decline, our next endeavor will be to engage some other persons in the concern, who, in association with Messrs. Baring and Company, may be thought equal to its completion.
Believing, among other reasons, from Sir Francis Baring undertaking the voyage at this time, that he is very seriously disposed to the speculation, and thence inferring a strong probability of its success, I cannot but repeat a former suggestion respecting the provision of stock, which, in any event, cannot be an unprofitable speculation.
My intention, when we come to treat on this head, is this: that the persons, who may undertake to manage the sale, shall agree to pay bills drawn upon them by you, to the amount of the stock, which you may be about to send to them, on their receiving your letters of advice respecting the same. This will enable you, without resorting to any other funds, to purchase all the stock that may be wanted.
The amount of the money which they will agree to advance, in anticipation of the sales, will be a more delicate and difficult business. I shall endeavor to make it as considerable as possible, and I hope a sufficiency may be obtained to answer all immediate demands.
Being desirous to send this letter by the Adriana, Captain Fitzpatrick, who has gone down to the Texel, I have not time to detail the late incidents at Paris. It may suffice to remark that they do not appear to affect the principles of the revolution, or to impede its measures. The change has been confined to men, and has placed Billaud de Varennes, Talien, and Barerre in the situations occupied by Robespierre, Couthon, and St. Just before their fall.516
It is probable, however, that milder measures will henceforth characterise the internal administration of the Republic. The force of its armies, and the acharnment in its application, will, in no degree, be lessened, and it appears to be conceded that they are more than equal to successful defence against all the world.
The enclosed remarks on what you say respecting the report of my conversations at Paris, being unconnected with the main subject of this letter, I have placed them on a separate paper. They are not the less, however, my sincere sentiments, and equally commited to your disposal.517
I have already written to you by the Adriana, introducing a Brabant family, who seek refuge from the troubles of Europe in our peaceful country. They are most respectable people, and, independent of large landed estates, which could not be removed, they carry personal property with them, which Mr. Crommeline assures me will produce an annual income of thirty five thousand dollars. I have had it in my power to render them a small service by procuring them a pass port from Mr. Pinckney, for which they have expressed the most grateful acknowledgments. I beg leave to repeat my request to you and Mrs. Bingham in their behalf.518
I have executed your order for garden seeds, and having an opportunity of doing it through a very experienced gardner at Harlem, I have taken the liberty to make some additions to the order. The surplus, I suppose, will be acceptable to Mr. Willing, Dr. Blackwell, or any other of your friends.519
I beg you to present my affectionate compliments to Mrs. Bingham and the young ladies, and my sincere congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Clymer.520
I pray you to believe, my dear Bingham, that I entertain an indelible remembrance of the multiplied proofs of your friendship, and that the grateful recollection of them will be among the last thoughts that will leave me.
I am more affectionately than words enable me to say
Your obliged and faithful servant
Enclosure in W. Jackson’s Letter to Bingham, Amsterdam, 20 August 1794 [BP]
The remarks which may have been written from Paris, on my conversations while there, do not affect me in the smallest degree.521 They are but individual untruths added to the general falsehoods, which have proceeded from the pen of a wretch, whose conduct, as a minister, can never be excused, and whose morals, as a man, can never be defended.
I regret exceedingly that you should find yourself implicated by any part of my conversations, and having never connected you, in any possible way, with my political opinions while in France, I cannot conceive how this has been.
As to myself, I have a very short observation to make on the supposition that my conversations in Paris have been of serious injury to me. The attainment to any of my wishes will be utterly independent of our marble fountain of honor and office. His sentiments therefore on my subject, and the communications of his creatures are regarded by me with equal indifference and contempt.
In common with those, who were desirous to make the reputation of this automaton useful to our country, I have assisted to uphold it, and, in some hundred instances, I have shielded this man of stone from the detection of his successful and bare faced imposture, by giving to him a dress, which neither nature nor education ever intended he should wear. The return I have met is such as might have been expected from proud ignorance and base ingratitude. His heart and his head are in strict unison, the marble coldness of the one replies to the leaden dullness of the other and form together a perfect whole.
Having, however, no inclination to attack the brazen wall of his factitious fame, and being withheld by a regard to the consistency of former opinions, I shall adopt your counsel, and, from henceforth, consign him and his measures to silent contempt.
Should any part of this vindication carry an aspect of vanity, let the cause which has extorted it be considered, and I think I shall be forgiven.
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 17 November 1794 [BP]522
London November 17th. 1794.
I have the pleasure, my dear Sir, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 12 of September and the power of attorney, which accompanied it.
My letters from Amsterdam informed you of the state of my negotiation anterior to Sir Francis Baring’s arrival in that city. I have now to acquaint you with what passed subsequent thereto.
Perceiving that no commission would be an inducement to the Houses of Hope and Baring to become the agents of the concern, I determined to make a provisional proposition to them, the completion of which, should they adopt it, was to be referred to your ratification. Of this proposition I now enclose a copy523 and I am much flattered by its coincidence with your last instructions.
After communicating with Messrs. Hope, to whom he delivered my proposals, Sir Francis Baring informed me that such was the situation of Holland, at that time, as to preclude the possibility of engaging in the business with any prospect of success.
Among the reasons which he assigned were the following: “The perilous posture of public affairs required that the attention of Messrs. Hope, who are peculiarly obnoxious to the invaders, should be abstractedly given to their immediate concerns. The same reason influences in a greater or less degree every person who might be expected to aid in the undertaking. The entreprenneurs, who are the middle men in all great speculations, have been exceedingly injured in their means by the depreciation of the different foreign securities, and many of them totally ruined. The pressure of the invasion of Holland is such as to render its safety extremely doubtful, and any engagements, which might be formed under present circumstances, very precarious.”
After stating these reasons as objections to engaging in the speculation at that time, Sir Francis observed that he supposed something decisive would happen in the course of the campaign, which might lead them to another determination, and he therefore thought it might be well to make enquiries and to take opinions as to the future practicability of the plan.
Having discovered in my conversations with Messrs. Staphorst and Hubbard that they had been minutely informed with respect to your purchase from the State of Massachusetts, I believed it best to sound them as to their disposition to become concerned, and I was much pleased to learn from Mr. Hubbard, who disclosed to me Mr. Cazenove’s correspondence on the subject, that they had a very good opinion of the Penobscot tract. But their idea of the Kennebec land, which was founded on Mr. Morris’s report,524 was much less favorable. I undertook to obviate Morris’s objections by shewing that he had not, and from the face of his own report, could not have seen a twentieth part of the ground and that what he had remarked upon had been visited at a season of the year, when he could scarcely determine the different growths of timber, or pronounce with any degree of accuracy upon the soil, the surface being covered with snow. Mr. Hubbard confessed that he thought there was great force in the refutation and that such was the character given to them of the Penobscot tract that he should be willing, if public affairs were otherwise circumstanced, to take an interest in the general concern; that he had spoken with Mr. Staphorst on the subject, and they wished to have a conversation with me together. To this I assented, but before our meeting I believed it best to acquaint Sir Francis Baring with Mr. Hubbard’s opinions.
Sir Francis told me that he thought no man would be more useful in the concern than Mr. Hubbard, from his activity and acquaintance with the nature of the business, and he thought whatever shape it might take it would be well that he should be interested.
I accordingly met Messrs. Staphorst and Hubbard, who to my surprise, related every fact of the transaction, ab ovo, without a single error, excepting in the amount of the money paid to Duer, which they stated at eighty thousand dollars.
Upon their observing to me that the very advantageous terms, on which the land had been purchased, would enable the proprietors to resell it cheap, I told them that was true, and that, therefore, notwithstanding its very superior situation, and other great advantages, the proposals for disposing of a part would be so moderate as to render the concern a source of great and certain benefit to those who engaged in it. And, as I knew that no land could be brought into competition with yours on the terms, which I had stated to Messrs. Hope and Baring, I mentioned those terms to Messrs. Staphorst and Hubbard, informing them that they were the lowest I could possibly offer, and that they were, in my own opinion, so very low that the final ratification of them must be referred to you.
They thought the first cost of 2/6 rather too high, but they confessed that the plan appeared to them susceptible of effect provided such a change should happen in the situation of their country as would place its future destiny on a certainty either way. Mr. Hubbard proposed to meet Sir Francis Baring for the purpose of further conversation on the subject, and on my intimating this to Sir Francis he readily agreed to it.
We met accordingly. Mr. Hubbard frankly told Sir Francis that they had received a very favorable account of the Penobscot tract, but one less so of the Kennebec; that I had in some measure satisfied him that the account of the Kennebec land might be erroneous; and that although he would not take an interest in that land alone, yet, as connected with the other tract, he should have no objection, if the face of affairs should change, to become interested in the general concern.
After a good deal being said as to the disposal of the land in detail, it was supposed that one third part of it might be disposed of in Holland, a third in England, and the remainder either in America, or shared between England and Holland. It was at the same time declared by both the gentlemen that nothing could then be done in Holland, and Sir Francis was doubtful whether, in the undecided situation of affairs any thing could be done in England.
In this state of things I could do nothing better than return to London with Sir Francis, having settled with Mr. Hubbard to resume our communications on the first opening of a fair prospect.
Since my arrival here I have received your letter of the 12 of September, in which you mention having written to Messrs. Baring on the subject.
Being ignorant of the contents of your letter to them, and supposing that it might speak of the terms which you had authorised me to offer, I thought it most consistent with propriety to state them, which I have done by informing Sir Francis that you had instructed me to offer two thirds of the land to him and Messrs. Hope at two shillings sterling per acre, reserving to yourself the remaining third on a joint concern with them in the ulterior sales. I stated to him at the same time that I supposed about one third of the purchase money would be wanted by you within a short period and the residue in convenient instalments, as your great inducement to the sale at this low price (connected with the prospect of a profit on the detailed sales) was to reimburse the heavy advances, which you had already made.
I am now to tell you that the causes, stated in the preceding part of this letter, which prevented Messrs. Hope engaging in the concern, have rather increased than diminished. Both these gentlemen are now in London, the danger to Holland having obliged them to quit Amsterdam and to leave the management of their business to young Mr. Baring and another gentleman, both of whom they have taken into the House as partners.
The success of the French is such as will occasion the relation of the present campaign, in a future age, to be regarded as a fable. Proceeding with mathematical calculation, they have completely swept the left bank of the Rhine, which, as I predicted in a former letter, is now the boundary of their mighty empire—not a single soldier of the Allies remaining beyond it, excepting the garrison of Mentz, which is invested by an immense force, the outworks of it all carried, and the place itself believed to be taken.
Nimeguen is evacuated, and that part of the allied army, under the Duke of York (separated from Clairfayt, who is forced across the Rhine) weakened by a succession of defeats, has retired upon Arnheim, an inconsiderable, and the only remaining, fortress between them and Amsterdam, which must fall, and, with it, unless fortunate enough to escape into Prussian Gueldren, or by the way of the Zuyder-zee, the Duke of York’s army must surrender prisoners of war. They cannot exceed twenty thousand effective men, and are pressed by the conjoined forces of Jourdan and Pichegru, the former of whom, having driven the Austrians and Prussians over the Rhine, has extended his left to the city of Cleves, where it reaches the right of the army of the north, making together upwards of one hundred and fifty thousand of the most formidable troops, in valour, discipline, and equipment, that ever took the field, elated by the victories of four pitched battles, innumerable skirmishes, the capture of more than fifty towns, among them four of the strongest fortresses of Europe, and two thousand seven hundred pieces of cannon! Their arms have been equally successful in Spain and Italy. Accounts were received from Spain yesterday of the total defeat of the Spanish army near Pampeluna, the capital of Navarre, which has surrendered. The Spaniards have refused to rise en masse, and such is their consternation that measures are taken at Madrid to ensure the safety of the royal family. The Duke d’Alcudia [?] has resigned his office of Prime Minister, which is considered as preliminary to overtures for peace.525
I give you this summary as well to shew that it is impossible for Messrs. Hope and Baring, under the present distress of Holland, and distracted state of affairs here, to engage in the concern as to corroborate Sir Francis Baring’s opinion that something decisive of the war must soon happen, which will produce a change favorable to the object.
Mr. Hope is in that situation which delicacy forbids me to intrude on. I saw him some days ago, before the last afflicting news of Maestricht and Nimeguen had reached him, and he was then too much depressed to justify the introduction of business.
Sir Francis Baring tells me that, besides the state of public affairs, a private circumstance has lately taken place, which has a very unfavorable influence on American credit and negotiation. Bills, to an immense amount, drawn and indorsed by Messrs. Greenleaf, Morris, and Nicholson,526 have come to Europe, all of which must be protested and sent back, no funds being provided for their payment.
It is really inconceivable how much the credit of America has been injured, and the negotiations of prudent men interrupted, by the schemes and speculations of some people. How they are reconciled in the first instance to fairness of dealing I cannot conceive, and how the repetition of them should be tolerated by the public I am utterly at a loss to imagine. The invectives and reproaches which such conduct has produced on this side the Atlantic would fill a volume.
Sir Francis Baring is of opinion that a favorable change may take place before the middle of January, and I cannot but think that overtures for a general peace, the completion of which would be conclusively in favor of the speculation, must soon be made, for I really believe another campaign would hazard the happiness, perhaps the safety of this country.
The Parliament meets on Tuesday next. I shall not fail to give you the earliest information of what is determined.
It is said that Mr. Jay’s negotiation is satisfactorily closed527 and although I have not been able to obtain any particulars, I have reason to believe that the general result is favorable to our claims.
To a packet of news papers, which I send by this conveyance, I must beg leave to refer you for general intelligence.
Unless your arrangements in America are equally advantageous for your interest with the terms you have authorized me to engage on in Europe, I think you should take no steps for disposing of the lands in Maine until you receive further advices from me, as I do not despair of closing upon those terms before the middle of March, when I hope to embark on my return to those friends, who I love and esteem beyond all the world.
I am very happy to learn that Mrs. Bingham is pleased with the style of the medallion, and that it is much admired. I hope the young ladies have received their music. It was sent by the Neptune.
I pray you, my dear Sir, to present my most affectionate respects to Mrs. Bingham, and to Miss Bingham and Miss Maria, and to be persuaded of the affectionate friendship, with which I am
Your obliged and faithful servant
I unclose my packet to inform you that in consequence of an intimation made to me last evening by a gentleman, whose name I must not, at present, commit to paper, that he had some reason to think if an application was made to the Government of France, at this time, for the sale of the lands in Maine, with a consent to take in part payment the jewels of the crown at a fair valuation (that is to say for as much as they could be resold for) it would be listened to. Or, if the Government did not become the purchasers, he believed they might be induced to sanction the sale to individuals, and to allow the purchase money to be exported. I have addressed to him a letter of which the enclosed is a copy, and furnished him with some of the copper plate maps, and a manuscript prospectus in French, explaining to him why the water courses were not completed in the map.
To this step I have been induced by several reasons. The last accounts from Holland, combined with the supposed determination of this Government not to make immediate overtures of peace, are unfavorable to the hope of an early negotiation with Messrs. H. and B. I dined with Sir Francis yesterday, and his hopes of an early change are by no means increased since I last saw him. Should events exceed expectation, the negotiation with Messrs. H. and B. will be in no way affected by this essay, as, for the strongest reasons, it must remain a profound secret between the gentleman who undertakes it and myself, and I shall be ready to renew my business with Messrs. H. and B. whenever they propose to do so.
The gentleman is to receive no compensation unless the sale is brought to a satisfactory close, in which case I shall be on the spot. He is then to receive 5 per cent as the reward of his services.
You will hear from me again by the earliest opportunity. I must beg of you by no means to disclose my purpose of going to France, as, although there is not the smallest degree of danger (should I go) it might give alarm, where I wish all to be peace.
Rely on my prudence and zeal.
I shall only go to France under a certainty of doing the business.
W. Jackson’s Proposals to Hope and Baring, November, 1794 [?]
Proposals submitted to Messrs. Hope and Baring
To sell to them one million acres at 2/6—£125,000. On condition that a common stock or proprietaryship should be formed of the two million acres, the profits arising out of which, on ulterior sales, to be equally divided between them and the present proprietors.
By the following plan for reselling the land, which would certainly be very inviting to purchasers in detail, it appears that a profit of £350,000. sterling would be obtained on the two million acres, rating the first cost at 2/6 sterling per acre, £250,000.
Plan for reselling the land
The 2,000,000 acres to be divided into 4,000 shares or actions of £300 sterling each, £1,200,000.
Each subscriber of £300 (and in that proportion) to receive a Deed in fee for five hundred acres of land and moreover to be entitled to £300 (or in that proportion according to his subscription) of American stock bearing an interest of 3 per cent per annum.
The stock to stand on the books of the Treasury in his own name, and, of course, to be in his absolute disposal.
To effect the foregoing operation in the detailed sales, the proprietors would purchase as much of the American stock as would be equal to £1,200,000 of 3 per cents, which supposing 6 per cents at par would cost £600,000. This would leave 6/ per acre for the land, 2,000,000 acres at 6/ being £600,000. These two sums being equal to the 4,000 shares at £300 per share, £1,200,000.
W. Jackson to [?],528 London, 18 November 1794 [BP] (Copy)
London November 18. 1794.
In consequence of our conversation of yesterday I now commit to your care the enclosed prospectus and map of certain lands in the State of Massachusetts, with the disposal of which in Europe I am charged, and, to that purpose, fully empowered by the proprietors.
On a perusal of the prospectus you will readily perceive how important the acquisition of these lands by French citizens would be to the Republic. Abounding in the best masts and an inexhaustible quantity of naval and other timber, which, from the situation of the lands on the Atlantic Ocean, may be brought to the shipping ports with the greatest convenience, they would furnish immense supplies for the national marine, and lumber of all kinds and provisions for the use of the colonies. Indeed there can be no doubt that with the necessary capital, to effect the felling of the trees and the transportation of the timber, the whole of the purchase money would be speedily reimbursed and leave the fee simple of the soil a clear gain to the buyers.
Under a belief that the importance of the object may induce an immediate and serious attention from the Government of France, I have to request that you will inform yourself whether the Government is disposed to become the purchasers (which may be done through the medium of trustees), or, if not so disposed, whether they will authorise the sale to individuals, French citizens, and grant permission to export the amount of the purchase money, in part of which I would consent to receive the national jewels at a fair valuation.
Should the nation agree to possess itself of this invaluable nursery of masts and naval timber, in the way I propose, I shall be ready at ten days notice to go to France, and thence immediately to accompany their trustees or commissioners to America to complete the contract and give possession of the land.
Your knowledge of General Lincoln’s character, and the high estimation in which he is held in America as a man of strict truth will enable you to state with confidence the reliance that may be placed on his report of the lands, with which he is personally and particularly well acquainted.
In aid of his authority is the declaration of a Committee of the legislature of Massachusetts consisting of Senators and Representatives, who are sent from the District of Maine so that in your communications on the subject either with the Government or individuals you will have nothing to apprehend from a failure of facts to confirm all that is stated in the prospectus. And, as you are acquainted with the authenticity of the deeds from the State of Massachusetts to the proprietors, and with the full authority to me to dispose of the lands, you will be able to give the most positive assurances as to the validity of the title, and my power to complete the contract.
Should the Government not incline to purchase on public account, but agree to sanction the sale to individuals, and to allow the exportation of the amount of the purchase I wish you, in that case, to ascertain what prospect there is of completing the sale in that way.
It really appears to me that the acquisition of these lands by French citizens, as it respects the supply of timber and masts for the marine, and lumber and provisions for the colonies, must be inestimable to that nation, and I think it can only be necessary to inform the Government correctly on the subject to obtain a serious and immediate attention to the proposal. Indeed I should suppose they would consider the agent of such a concern as a national benefactor.
The price, which will be about £500,000 sterling, although important in its amount to individuals, can be no object to a great nation, when the advantages, which must be inevitably derived from the purchase, are for a moment considered.
The mode of submitting the proposal to the attention of government must be referred to your judgment.
I am etc.
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 9 March 1795 [BP]
London, March 9th. 1795
My dear Sir:
The fate of Holland is at length determined, and the French are now in complete possession of that country. The late severe season having frozen the rivers, which formed the last barriers to his progress, General Pichegru ordered his victorious troops to cross at the same time in various places and compelled the Allies to retire in every direction.
As the only means of safety, the shattered remains of the allied army were collected, and a general retreat, from Utrecht towards Westphalia, was commenced on the 16 of January, recommending their sick and wounded, and abandoning a large proportion of clothing, ordnance and stores to the victors; whose conduct, in the hour of triumph has done honor to humanity, and commanded the esteem and applause of a vanquished enemy.
The sufferings of the allied army in their retreat, have far exceeded whatever has heretofore been known. Many thousands have perished through cold, fatigue and hunger, and the survivors, who have reached Osnaburgh, are represented as being most deplorably circumstanced.
To enable you to form a more correct judgment of this most extraordinary campaign, unequalled in the annals of the world, I have taken the liberty to send to you a very good map of those parts of France, Flanders, and Holland, which have been the most interesting theatre of the war.
On the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th of January the French forces took possession of Utrecht, Dort, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam, and since that time have entirely occupied the whole country. Never was conquest more complete, and never, in the opinion of all, who duly estimate its consequences, was the danger to this country, from the success of an enemy, so great as at present.529
Received by the Dutch as their deliverers from the despotism of England, Russia, and the House of Orange, the French have every where fraternized with the people of Holland, and, only reversing the practice of the conquerors of the Chinese, they have effectually assimilated the Dutch to their sentiments and opinions.
Declaring that they come not as conquerors, but as friends, and that they leave the modification of their government to the people themselves, they will obtain an aid from the Dutch, as allies, which they could never have commanded from them as a vanquished and tributary nation. For, although supplies for their army of specific articles have been required by the French commissioners, yet an assurance is at the same time given that payment shall be made for the same, and, considering that, with the means of absolute coercion in their power, they have most carefully abstained from all acts of violence, and have even inflicted the punishment of death on some of their soldiers for private plundering, there is not as yet any reason to question the good faith of their public declarations.
Very opposite indeed, and strongly contrasted with this policy, has been the conduct of another government towards the unfortunate people of Holland, whose property has been seized in those very harbours, to which it had been invited as a place of safety. I forbear any commentary on a transaction, which the future historian will be anxious, for the honor of mankind, to leave unnoticed in the records of the eighteenth century.530
The Stadtholder and his family, fugitives from their own, have taken refuge in this country, on whose bounty and good will they must be contented to continue dependent, since circumstances do not admit a single ray of expectation that they will ever be able to return. The office of Stadtholder has been abolished by the present representatives of Holland, or rather of the provinces, and every thing connected with that authority is done away.
The additional strength derived to the Republic of France from the acquisition of the navy, military and marine stores, provisions, money, men, and harbours of the United Provinces, which last include the mouths of most of the rivers by which Germany was formerly supplied, must give a decided preponderance in the future operations of the war, which as you will perceive from the accompanying debates in Parliament, the government of this country is resolved to continue, despairing, as I think, to obtain any terms of peace which without shame and humiliation they could accept, obstinately resolved at the same time not to ask them.
There is but little doubt that the national sanction as well as force of the Dutch will be given to the war in aid of France early in the spring, and that the naval campaign, on the part of the new allies, will be commenced and continued with great vigour.
Besides this vast accession of strength, which, being taken from one scale and thrown into the other, must operate in a two-fold ratio, it is more than probable that the desperate situation of Spain, where every resistance has also yielded to the skill and impetuosity of the invaders, will soon compel that country, as a condition of peace, to make common cause with France against the confederated Powers.531 In that event, which I regard as almost certain, and very near at hand, it is impossible to say when or where the ravages of war will cease. The animosity of France against England amounts to madness, and the recent declarations of this government, no less injudicious than illiberal, are but little calculated to allay the frenzy.
Most devoutly do I wish to be mistaken in my augury of events, but it is impossible, judging from what I see and know, not to conclude that the most calamitous consequences await the further prosecution of this vindictive and inveterate war. Already has the manner of conducting it outraged every feeling of humanity, and violated every maxim heretofore prescribed for the government of different nations towards each other. It has at length, as it relates to England and France, declaredly become a war of extermination, and, proceeding upon its present principles, must unquestionably result in the subversion of one or other of the governments.
Nor is it by any means impossible that both nations, being exhausted, should become the victims of their unwise and implacable resentment, for, to which ever side the scale of conquest shall finally and decisively incline, the other may not be in a capacity to resist a combination, which should attempt to transfer the dominion of the sea to those nations that border on the Baltic, and in that event the whole commercial system of the world must experience a change.
That Russia anxiously desires to lead in the affairs of Europe is most certain, and to this object all her policy has been directed. Hence she has avoided taking any other interference in the quarrel with France than merely to blow the coal of war, and thereby consume the strength of both parties, without, in the least impairing her own. In this intention, as far as it affects the finances and military force of the belligerent powers, she has effectually succeeded, and I think the time is not distant when Austria and Prussia will have no occasion to enquire of each other, who has been the dupe?
In like manner will she endeavor, by fighting them off against each other, to exhaust the marine strength of England and France, and then, in conjunction with her neighbours, Denmark, and Sweden, whose hopes and fears will be both excited, she may find herself in a situation to dictate in commerce as she has done in war.532 To a mind that reflects on the rapid progress which this gigantic Empire has made within less than a century, I think there will appear something more than mere speculation in this conjecture.
Already possessing the great nursery of naval supplies, her late acquisitions in Poland give her complete command of the finest grain country in Europe, and will enable her to convert the necessities of other nations to her own aggrandisement.
It would be difficult as it regards many of the powers of Europe, to determine whether their assent to the detested dismemberment of unhappy Poland had been given by proxies of wickedness or folly. The probability is that some of them, ere long, will smart most severely under a scourge of their own weaving.
Amidst these reflections on the crimes of courts, and the calamities of war, it is no inconsiderable consolation to an American that his country, ruled by a government, most consistent with the dignity of man, and most promotive of his happiness, enjoys the blessings of peace and freedom, and the enviable advantages of sharing superfluous advantages to less favored nations. Long may they be continued, and long may the respect for the United States, which their deportment in the war has created, remain impressed on the people of Europe! While a similar conduct of magnanimous neutrality is observed, it cannot be effaced, and will most assuredly contribute in the highest degree to advance their interests.
You will learn with great pleasure that the system of terror has been totally suppressed in France, and that the mild measures, which have succeeded are no less efficient in the conduct of their public affairs. Their councils continue to be distinguished by wisdom, secrecy, and dispatch. Their armies maintain, and even increase the honor of their past achievements [sic], and the successes of their marine against the commerce of their enemies at once evince their energy and power.
A list of one hundred and eighty prizes taken from England, Spain, and Holland, since the first of January, has been received in this country. One hundred and twenty eight are published in one of the news-papers, which I have the pleasure to send you.
How long the government of this country will persist in this ruinous war, or how long the nation will consent to maintain it, is not for me to predict, but I should suppose they were determined to risque another campaign, which I am sorry to believe will be the most disastrous that ever happened, perhaps the most fatal that can happen.
A peace has lately been concluded at Paris between the Republic of France and the Grand Duke of Tuscany,533 in which a magnanimity of conduct has been discovered on the part of the Republic, which completely refutes all the allegations that have been made against the dispositions of the French towards foreign nations. Far from taking that vengeance, or insisting on that degree of indemnity, which events had placed in their disposal, they renounced them for nobler objects, and have evinced as much justice and moderation in their plans of peace, as they had exhibited prowess and perseverance in their operations of war.
This peace, having been made with the consent of the Emperor of Germany, who is brother to the Duke of Tuscany, is considered by some as preliminary to a similar conduct on his own part, notwithstanding the negotiations now depending with this government, which are by many believed to have no other object than to obtain some money, under other pretences, which he will consider as a partial indemnification for past losses. Indeed, reasoning according to common sense I think it impossible to resist this conclusion. For, if the disciplined and veteran armies of Austria, Prussia, England, Spain and Holland, with their auxiliaries, have been every where foiled and dissipated by the raw troops of France, it is utterly impossible that the recruits of Germany should make resistance against the experienced and victorious soldiery of that high spirited people.
Nor can it, in reason or policy, be supposed that the Germanic body will risk the subversion of their system on so desperate an issue. But should the wish of certain courts prevail against the peace of the world, I should not wonder if the siege and capture of Vienna were among the events of the ensuing campaign. Others less probable have already happened, and the successes against Spain and Holland were less expected twelve months ago. Indeed it would seem that the military measures of France are so conceived and executed as, in the continuance of the war, to threaten destruction to all their enemies.
The discipline which has been established in their armies and their dreadful artillery, combined with the enthusiasm of their opinions and the confidence generated by continued success render them irresistible in battle, while the moderate and dignified deportment of their military leaders prepares the people, against whom they march, for immediate submission.
It is a most extraordinary fact that I was assured by several people on the Continent last autumn that they suffered less from the approaching French armies than they did from the retreating troops of the Allies. The declension of discipline in the British army is confessed and lamented by their best officers, and has been no less detrimental to their friends, than advantageous for their enemies.
Referring you to a large parcel of news-papers for farther particulars of public events, and informing you that, as I could not obtain a second copy of the map of Flanders, I must use the freedom of sending it to Mr. Willing, to whom I have given information of similar import with this letter, and from whom you will be able to get the map, I am, my dear Sir, most affectionately and respectfully yours
W. Jackson to Bingham, London, 9 April 1795 [BP]
London April 9th. 1795.
My dear Sir:
In my letter to you by the William Penn, of which I now enclose a duplicate, I stated to you the proposal534 which I had made to Messrs. Hope and Baring, and my expectation of receiving their answer about the end of last month. That expectation, combined with the hope of receiving letters from you, which would either authorise me to proceed in my negotiation with them, or point to some other decisive measures, has occasioned me to defer writing to you by this conveyance until the very last moment.
A long prevalence of easterly winds had prevented any late arrivals from Philadelphia. I am, of course, without the aid of your instructions, nor have I yet received a definitive answer from Messrs. H. and B.
Sir Francis asked me to dine with him last Friday, en famille, for the purpose, I believe, of entering into a very detailed conversation on the subject, towards the close of which he told me that Mr. Hope had not yet finally determined, but he thought the time was not distant when he would. He further observed that if any agreement was entered into and ratified by you, the pecuniary part of it, the payments, would be made perfectly convenient to your wishes.
He made enquiries as to the qualifications to citizenship in the U. S.—the right of purchasing, and manner in which real estate might be held by persons non resident—the time within which I supposed the concern, if entered into, might be finally liquidated—and what proportion of the land I thought might be disposed of in detail in America—and made many observations which tended to convince me that Mr. H. and himself had discussed the subject, and were only waiting some particular event to decide upon my proposal. Should they determine to accept it I must beg leave to repeat to you my opinion that it will be by far the most advantageous mode of selling the land. For (as Sir Francis observed to me) they should not press the final liquidation of the concern, but leave it to the convenience of the parties. An opportunity will be afforded to procure the highest price in detail (double what it would now bring) for the remaining half of the lands, or rather for the whole, without a single inconvenience being attached to the delay, as the money paid for their share will enable you to take up all the deeds and conditions of settlement, discharge the agreements to Jackson and Flint, defray the expences already incurred, and leave a surplus, with your proportion of the land greatly enhanced in value, as clear gain.
Having thus freely stated my opinions of the advantages, which would result from such a contract with Messrs. H. and B., it behoves me to say what I think of your last plan for laying off and selling the land in shares of 200 acres each. How it would operate in America I am less competent to say. In Europe the plan might obtain to a certain extent with a period of five or six years, after peace, but even at the expiration of that time I doubt whether an average price of a dollar and a half would be received for what might be sold.
The French and Dutch markets are at present closed to every land speculation, and the jealousy of emigration is so great, on the part of government, in Great Britain and Ireland, that I shall not be surprized if some strong measures are resorted to to prevent it. The ministerial prints are filled with falsehoods, invented and proclaimed, to dissuade emigration to America, and I think they may, in some degree, be considered as the harbingers of other means should they fail of their purpose.
For these reasons I think it improbable that much will be done in detailed sales during the war, and with a view to advantage from the speculation, after peace, there is not, perhaps, at this time, in Europe, another set of men besides Messrs. H. and B. who would make so large an investment in American land.
I have already informed you that Sir Francis Baring, to whom I communicated the outlines of your last plan, had observed that from the improbability of succeeding in it, at this time, their house would be obliged to decline the agency. Should your decision be to proceed in that plan I shall certainly be very happy to contribute by every exertion in my power to promote it. At the same time I persuade myself that your friendship for me, which I have ever found generous and affectionate, will excuse me when I intimate the necessity of my early return to America. My services, if deemed useful, shall there be given with all the zeal which gratitude can prompt.
Being at present in perfect suspense between the want of your instructions and Mr. Hope’s determination, I cannot enlarge upon the subject until I am favored with the one or the other. Should his answer be an acceptance of my proposal, and your instructions direct the prosecution of the last plan, my judgment, as things are at present circumstanced, will lead me, I think, to place all the papers in the hands of Sir Francis Baring, and embark immediately for America, where your final ratification or rejection of my proposal may be determined on, and your directions for the disposal of the papers in Sir Francis Barings hands be given, either to deliver them over to a person to be appointed by you, or to retain them for the purpose of carrying the agreement, should you determine to ratify it, into effect.
It is very possible that your letters may be of a nature to change entirely this opinion, which I only mention as that which strikes me most forcibly in the moment. Whatever I may do must depend on the firm belief that it will promote your interest in the greatest degree, as no other consideration can possibly influence my decision in the business.
The packet of news-papers and the parliamentary debates, which I send to you by this opportunity, relate all the public occurrences that are interesting.
Great apprehensions of famine are entertained in every country in Europe, and in none, with greater cause, than in this, where it is said there are not provisions to last till mid summer. Many violences have been already committed in different parts of the nation, in consequence of the high prices of provisions, and many more are dreaded. Yet notwithstanding this additional thong to the scourge of calamity, the government continues bent on the prosecution of a war, which threatens utter ruin to the country. The campaign has already opened in Germany with very considerable advantages on the side of the French, who, to judge from appearances, seem determined to prosecute their conquests with increased energy. Their armies are again raised to twelve hundred thousand men, and the command of that which is to act against the Emperor is given to Pichegru, who, at the head of the army of the north, atchieved [sic] the conquest of Holland and who is said even by the English, his prisoners, to be the most dignified man and the best officer in Europe.
It is said that the King of Prussia has made peace with the French, under their guarantee of Hanover to him as a possession, and it is certain that his troops have marched from other positions towards that Electorate.535
A treaty is said to be negotiated between Russia and England. On the other hand accounts from Vienna say that war was expected to be immediately declared by the Porte against Russia, and that, as a link in the same chain, Algiers had been influenced by France to declare war against Great Britain.
I beg you to present my affectionate compliments to Mrs. Bingham, and to be persuaded of the inviolable attachment, with which I am
Your faithful and affectionate servant
To William Bingham, Esquire
W. Jackson to F. Baring, London, 23 April 1795 [BaP]536
London, April 23. 1795
Having already had the honor of making some communications to you on the subject of certain lands, situated in the State of Massachusetts, with the disposal of which, in Europe, I was charged by the proprietors, and being on the eve of my departure for America, I judge it proper to submit some further particulars, respecting the lands, to your consideration.
Mr. Bingham in his last letters, informs me that these lands were daily rising in value, that they had recently received additional appreciation from the expectation of an intercourse being opened between the United States and the West Indies, in American vessels, for the supply of lumber, fish, salted provisions etc., for which these lands are better circumstanced, as well from their capability to furnish such supplies, in great abundance, as from their superior situation on the Atlantic Ocean, than any other part of the United States and that the prospect of making advantageous sales of the land, at home, was such as to induce a determination to commence operations, for that purpose, immediately.
Although I agree entirely in opinion with Mr. Bingham that the demand for these lands must increase with the knowledge which is obtained of them, and that very advantageous sales may now be made of them in America, yet I am no less persuaded that a grand operation, which would combine the influence of great capitalists in Europe, with a similar influence in America, in the ownership, and ultimate disposal of these lands, must, eventually, and within no distant period, so enhance the value of them, as to make a discreet delay in the final sales, by such an arrangement, more desirable than the entering immediately upon any detailed operation, however promising, could be.
Under the influence of this opinion, I am induced to make to you the following proposal. The ratification of it must be referred to an exchange of consent on the part of Mr. Bingham and yourself.
That the proprietors will sell to you, and to such persons as may be associated with you in the purchase, one million acres of the said land (being an undivided moiety, or 500,000 acres of the million acres in the Kennebeck tract, and an undivided moiety, or 500,000 acres of the million acres in the Penobscot tract) at the rate of two shillings sterling per acre, the said two million acres to form a joint stock to be held in equal right, and for equal benefit, in the ulterior sales, by the present proprietors, in the proportion of one half, and yourself and your associates, in the proportion of the other half, or undivided moiety of the said two million acres.
As the ratification of this proposal will depend on yourself and Mr. Bingham, and as the arrangements, which will be consequent thereon, should it take place, will involve particular details, it is unnecessary, in the present stage of the business, to be more minute. I must beg leave, however, to observe that as the price, at which it is hereby proposed to cede the million acres, is infinitely below what would be asked for the land, under any other operation, and that, if the proprietors consent to part with the million acres at that rate, it will be altogether under a belief that the combination of interests will produce such arrangements as must insure a prudent delay in the ulterior sales, which will give an average of price proportioned to the value of the lands. This expectation of a prudent delay in the ulterior sales, which will certainly be the principal inducement, on the part of the proprietors, to the present proposal, will make an early payment of the purchase money of the million acres essential to their convenience.
As the papers, which I beg leave to commit to your care, and of which I subjoin a list, are descriptive of the land, and are of the greatest authenticity, it is unnecessary that I should trouble you with any further observations. If the arrangement here proposed is adopted the papers will be wanted by you. If it is not agreed to they can be delivered to the order of Mr. Bingham. I have the honor to be,
with the most respectful consideration
Sir, your most obedient servant
To Sir Francis Baring, Baronet, London
- List of Papers.
- 16 Authenticated Copies of Deeds.
- Letter from General Lincoln to Mr. Bingham.
- Answers to Questions proposed to a Committee of the Legislature of Massachusetts.
- Letter from Mr. Vaughan to Mr. Bingham.
- Certificate by Governor Hancock.
- Certificate by Mr. Jefferson.
- Two Manuscript Maps of the Land.
- Copperplate ditto.
- Copies of the Prospectus.
F. Baring to W. Jackson, London, 25 April 1795 [BP] (Copy)
In answer to the honor of your letter dated the 23d. instant I can only repeat what I have mentioned in conversation, that ever since your arrival in Europe the sale of the lands with which you have been entrusted, has been at all times, more or less, the object of my attention.
The price which you appeared to me to expect for a long while, hindered me from considering the subject as a principal or a purchaser, in my own person, although it did not prevent my enquiries, or endeavours, to assist your views, as an agent, or in suggesting your plans to others, who might have been disposed to embark therein, but it has been without success. One material cause for the failure was, the convulsed state of Europe, which whilst it proved an encouragement to embark in concerns or plans actually established in America, deterred many from entering into any engagements whatsoever. At the present moment, the apprehension with regard to the security of property is not so strong, and your expectation with regard to a price is materially reduced: both these circumstances are extremely important, and altho I am not prepared to form a decisive opinion on either point, yet I think that I should be enabled to do so within a reasonable time, if you did not consider yourself as precluded from entering into any agreement, in consequence of the letters you have received from Mr. Bingham. Under these circumstances I shall wait the determination of Mr. Bingham before I take any further steps in the business. In the mean while I will take the liberty of making a slight observation on the business as it now appears to me. The political part which relates to the future prospects of America, as well as Europe, I need not touch upon; but it may be of service to observe, that if the benefit to arise from the exchange, and a prompt payment, is to belong to the seller, that the purchaser will expect a proper compensation in the price. It will be of no inconvenience to myself, or to my friends, to pay the money in America, observe where we must receive it at a future period from those who may purchase from us; and although it is also indifferent to us whether bills are drawn on us for the payment at 60 days or at 60 months after sight, yet we are thoroughly aware of the value or profit which is to be derived from the employ of our funds, and expect to receive an adequate compensation therefrom. For these reasons although I shall be very ready to agree (supposing any agreement between us shall take place) at a fixed price in sterling money, yet that price must be the result of all the circumstances which attach to the subject.
Whenever you shall be enabled to enter into further explanations I shall readily resume the subject. In the mean while I shall content myself with wishing you a good voyage, your health and all possible happiness, being with great regard
Your most faithfull
25 April 1795.
Shortly after this last letter was written, Major Jackson prepared to return to America. He had, he believed, done all that was humanly possible to effect a sale of the Maine lands in Europe. Hoping that something might come of the last proposal made to Sir Francis Baring, he deposited with that gentleman the important documents which testified to the excellence of the lands and set sail from Bristol on 8 May 1795 for Philadelphia and Miss Betsy Willing. On his arrival in America on 11 June he was given a “flattering welcome” by his employer and proceeded to renew his suit for the hand of Miss Willing. Apparently absence had indeed made the heart grow fonder and, more important, Father Willing’s objections appear to have been removed, for on 11 November of that year the couple were married.
Major Jackson had no more direct connections with the lands in Maine. But after the successful sale of a portion of them to the Barings the following year,537 a dispute arose between the Major and his former employer, as to what commission, if any, the agent should receive on the sale. For some inexplicable reason, no settlement between Bingham and Jackson was made until 8 December 1797. At that time the Major signed a complete release from all his claims on Bingham for services in Europe and previously, and received in return a deed for the residuary profits on 100,000 acres of land.538 A year later Jackson finally got around to sending Bingham his expence accounts for purchases made while in Europe, a total of three hundred and twenty-seven pounds, eightpence.539 Though Bingham expressed himself as hurt that the reckoning had been so long delayed, he paid in full,540 whereupon Jackson sent him a bill for his commission on the sale of the lands to the Barings, a matter of fifteen hundred pounds sterling.541 Mr. Bingham would have none of this and replied that the fifteen hundred pound expence account plus the profits on 100,000 acres was ample compensation and pointed out that the Baring sale had been due to his letter to Sir Francis rather than to the exertions of Jackson.542
This started an acrimonious interchange of letters which continued intermittently until Bingham left for Europe in 1801.543 He yielded so far as to promise Jackson an advance of twenty-seven hundred dollars on his share of the profits, but he refused outright to consider the claim for a commission.544 After Bingham’s death in 1804, the Major decided to attempt to get a slice of the estate and brought suit for a commission on the Baring sale.545 His own case, as he conceived it, was summed up in a statement which outlines conveniently his services as agent:
Major William Jackson of Philadelphia
Bingham’s Agent for the Sale of his Maine Lands in Europe Miniature by an unknown artist
Mrs. William Jackson, the former Elizabeth Willing
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart
Major William Jackson’s Statement in His Suit Against the Bingham Estate, 1807 [BP]
In the year 1792, soon after I had been admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Mr. Bingham applied to me to know whether I would undertake an agency for him, from which he presumed I would derive considerable advantage.
I told him it was my intention to pursue my profession, and, for that object, I had resigned my appointments under the President of the United States.
Mr. Bingham then said that General Knox had submitted certain propositions to him, respecting a concern in lands in the State of Massachusetts, and that he had lately received a letter from Mr. Duer of New York, proposing to transfer to him, Mr. B, a pre-emption right of said lands, which he held from the State.
Mr. Bingham said he had decided to engage in the concern, provided there was a certainty of closing with Mr. Duer on proper terms; but he was afraid that Mr. Cazenove was desirous of engaging in the speculation, and he doubted whether Mr. Duer, under a knowledge of that circumstance, would adhere to his proposal. But if I would agree to go to New York, and treat with Mr. Duer, he would furnish me with the means of payment, say fifty thousand dollars, as the price of Mr. Duer’s pre-emption right, and about twenty four thousand dollars, the amount of money advanced by Mr. Duer for the concern.
As the reward of my services Mr. Bingham engaged, if I succeeded in my negotiation with Mr. Duer, which would require much caution and address; and if the State of Massachusetts should agree to the transfer of Mr. Duer’s pre-emption right, and finally convey to Mr. Bingham and his associates the land in question, in effecting which my further services would be required at Boston; I should, in such event, become interested in the concern, and be entitled to the residuary profits on one hundred thousand acres of land.
Under these stipulations and assurances, and confiding in the advantages held out to me by Mr. Bingham, I agreed to accept the agency, and, being furnished by Mr. Bingham with the means of payment to Mr. Duer, I proceeded to New York, where, on my arrival, I found that the suspicions entertained of Mr. Cazenove’s intentions were well founded. It became necessary, therefore, to act with great circumspection, and I accordingly determined before I saw Mr. Duer, or made my business known, to prepare all the conveyances, necessary to complete the transfer, conformably to Mr. Duer’s proposal. With this view I remained in my lodgings several days, and having copied the deeds, and prepared the other papers, I went with the gentleman, who was to witness them,546 to the debtors apartment, where Mr. Duer was confined, and explained to him the object of my visit. On asking him whether he would agree that the consideration, which was to be paid for his pre-emption right, and for his advances, should be held in escrow, until the State of Massachusetts should recognize his transfer of the pre-emption right, and the substitution of Mr. Bingham, he answered, with great warmth, that he would consent to no such thing, and unless the consideration money was paid to him without any reserve whatever, he should consider his treaty with Mr. Bingham, from that hour at an end. Finding him inflexible, and that he only wished a pretext to be off, I asked him whether he was ready to execute the proposal he had made to Mr. Bingham, without the reserve of the escrow. He hesitatingly answered yes, but said he doubted whether the papers could be got ready in a fortnight. I told him they were already prepared, and produced them. He was surprized, but agreed to execute them, and we continued together until the business was finished.
On my return to Philadelphia, a few days sooner than was expected, I found Mr. Bingham greatly agitated, lest I had not been able to complete the business, on account of the escrow, and, to obviate which, he had written to me, by post, to close without reserving the escrow. That letter I did not receive until after my return to Philadelphia.
When I informed Mr. Bingham of my proceedings he applauded my conduct, and said he was greatly obliged by what I had done.
After the settlement with Mr. Duer, Mr. Bingham requested me to accompany him to Boston to assist in the negotiations with a Committee, appointed by the Legislature of Massachusetts, to transact the business respecting the lands.
On my arrival at Boston, where we continued several weeks, I assisted at all the conferences with the Committee. I prepared most of the preliminary papers, and I drew all the deeds, which were numerous, by which the lands were conveyed.
For those services I refer to the papers, and the deeds, all of which, originals and duplicates, were drawn by me.
On our return to Philadelphia I wrote the deed of trust and settlement between Mr. Bingham and General Knox,547 the draught of which had been prepared by Mr. Lewis.
This was the last service to complete my contract with Mr. Bingham, and to close the deeds and papers of the concern. Here my part of the covenant with Mr. Bingham was closed, and he has repeatedly said it had been performed with faithful industry and ability.
By these services I had earned the stipulated compensation of the residuary profits on one hundred thousand acres of the land. My right in them was vested, absolute, and complete, and it was so declared to be by Mr. Bingham, as the testimony of Mr. Lewis548 clearly and incontrovertibly establishes. My services had in fact secured to Mr. Bingham the very means of thus rewarding them: nor was that reward either new or extraordinary. A similar compensation had been made to Mr. Royal Flint, he having received a deed for the residuary profits on one hundred thousand acres of land, as a compensation for services far inferior to mine, services, which did not, I am warranted in saying, embrace one third part of the labour, which I had bestowed on the concern. I do not mention this in derogation of Mr. Flint’s services, neither do I wish to measure mine with those of any other person. He had received the deed, which I delivered to him myself, soon after the business with the Committee was closed (where Mr. Flint never attended one moment), as his reward, for having simply procured Mr. Duer’s pre-emption right from the State, as I had procured Mr. Bingham’s pre-emption right from Mr. Duer, independent of all my labour and services in completing the business at Boston.549
The relative value of Mr. Flints services to mine, or any other mans, has however no bearing on my claim. The profits on one hundred thousand acres of the land were stipulated by Mr. Bingham as the reward of my services in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, and it is in proof to you, Gentlemen, on the affirmation of Mr. Lewis, that they were repeatedly declared by Mr. Bingham to have been mine without regard to any other services whatever.
In the spring of 1793, several months after my agency had terminated, when I had resumed my professional pursuits, and had no more intention of going from this country, then I had of passing to the moon, Mr. Bingham conceived the idea of selling the lands in Europe.
Let it be remembered, Gentlemen, that we are now entering on the statement of a new and distinct contract, governed by new and distinct stipulations and agreements.
Mr. Bingham, I must repeat, most unexpectedly asked me whether, under due encouragement, I would embark in the undertaking, as agent for the concern. My reply was without reserve that, as it would involve an abandonment of my profession, and possibly, a long absence from my friends, and that too under circumstances peculiarly interesting to me, I must decline the proposal. Nor, was it, as you must be convinced by Mr. Lewis’s testimony, until after repeated conversations held by Mr. Bingham not only with myself, but with my friends, that I acceeded to his proposal, under the most solemn assurances by Mr. Bingham, both verbally and in writing, under his signature, that my services and exertions should be liberally rewarded.
Being thus induced, and, when you consider Mr. Lewis’s testimony, you must presume reluctantly induced to enter on the agency of attempting a sale of these lands in Europe, Mr. Bingham desired me to prepare a prospectus of the lands, which should exhibit all their advantages, and be calculated to impress the most favorable opinions respecting. This request I executed with no common pains, and I afterwards superintended the printing of the pamphlet at the press of Mr. Poulson550 as can be proved by Mr. Poulson.
I was at the same time, and until the day of my departure incessantly employed in preparing papers, and in procuring maps and drawings of the lands, and I laboured with unremitting assiduity to give every facility to the project of selling the lands in Europe.
On the 16th. of June 1793 I embarked for England, under the following express promise and assurances, which form one continued extract from Mr. Bingham’s letter of the 3d. of the same month.
“You will herewith find a bill of exchange for £200 sterling towards your expences. I shall furnish you a credit for a further supply in a short time.
“Ignorant of what will be the fate of this attempt at a sale of these lands, and not knowing what modification the business will assume before it is finally compleated, there cannot precisely be determined at present what further compensation it will be proper to allow for your services and exertions.
“At the outset and in the first instance, you will have the residuary profits on the proportion of one hundred thousand acres of land. You will meet with a disposition very favorably inclined to a further gratification for your services.”
Under this assurance, and it was not possible, in the then state of the transaction to have given one more encouraging, or on which I would more implicitly have relied, as it was, indeed, an absolute assumption to pay me for my future services and exertions in the agency in Europe, whenever the term, or value of them was ascertained.
It was this favorable disposition, so often repeated to me by Mr. Bingham, that induced my friends to consent, and myself to yield, to his request, in doing which I renounced my professional pursuits, and separated myself from my friends, for two years, during the whole of which time I was devoted to the promotion of Mr. Bingham’s wishes, sparing neither exertion of mind, nor personal toil to fulfil them.
On my arrival in London, about the middle of July 1793, I entered with zeal and perseverance, which never abated, on the object of my agency.
For the industry and fidelity of those “services and exertions” I refer, with confidence, to my correspondence and personal intercourse with Sir Francis Baring—and to my correspondence with Mr. Bingham, which details my proceedings from the time of my arrival in England until the month of December 1793, when I determined to go to Paris, and endeavour to obtain the consent of the French government to dispose of the lands in France. For my “services and exertions,” while in France, I refer to the memorials which I presented to the Government, and to my negotiations with the Committee of Public Safety, and I appeal to my correspondence with Mr. Bingham, which detailed all my proceedings in France.
Whence I returned to London in April 1794, when I resumed my negotiations with Sir Francis Baring, and again endeavored to impress him with the advantages, which might accrue from his taking a concern in the lands. My intercourse with him, both in writing and by conversation, was drawn into great length and detail. He told me if I went to Holland he expected to be able to meet me at Amsterdam, where it was possible something might be done in concert with Mr. Hope.
I went to Amsterdam in July 1794, where I addressed myself, on the subject of my agency, to Messrs. Hope, Willink, Van Staphorst, Hubbard, and others. Sir Francis Baring arrived some time after at Amsterdam, where the negotiation with him and Messrs. Hope was resumed, though nothing was finally concluded. I returned with Sir Francis Baring to London, where the negotiation was continued, and where I made a proposal to him, which through delicacy to Mr. Bingham, although I held his power of attorney to act conclusively, was to be referred to Mr. Bingham’s ratification.
This proposition was to sell to Messrs. Baring and Hope one million of acres of the land at two shillings sterling per acre. It was acceeded to by Mr. Bingham and eventuated in a sale of 600,000 acres at 2/ sterling per acre, there being only a variance, in the number of acres from my proposition, the price being the same.
After lodging all the papers, relative to the lands, which I had in Europe, with Sir Francis Baring, I went from London to Bristol, where I embarked on the 8th of May 1795 for Philadelphia where I arrived on the 11th of June 1795, after an absence of two years, every day of which had been passed in anxious concern or in active employment in Mr. Bingham’s service, for all of which, and for relinquishing my profession, at his earnest and repeated request, and under the solemn assurance contained in his letters of compensation for my “services and exertions” I have not, until the present time, received one penny!
For the negotiations with Messrs. Hope and Baring in Amsterdam, for the renewal of them in London, and for their result in the sale, I refer to my correspondence with Sir Francis Baring, to Mr. Alexander Baring’s coming to this country, where that sale was closed, and to my correspondence with Mr. Bingham. Indeed I do not hesitate to say that, without my agency, Mr. Bingham could not have bought the lands; nor could he, without that agency, have made the sale to Messrs. Hope and Baring.
My negotiation, in a critical moment, with Mr. Duer, secured the transfer of his pre-emption right to Mr. Bingham, on which his purchase from the State of Massachusetts was grounded, and without which it would not have taken place. My subsequent services, at Boston, in the negotiations with the Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature, are too obvious to be dwelt on. There is scarce a line in that transaction, either as to deeds or papers, that was not written by me.
These were the services, for which the profits on one hundred thousand acres of the land, as the evidence before you clearly and incontrovertibly establishes, were stipulated and fully earned.
My agency in Europe, as Mr. Bingham expressly acknowledges in his letters, was performed with “the most unwearied efforts” and was essential to a sale of the greatest importance to Mr. Bingham, since it appears, from his own letters, that it was absolutely necessary to the continuance of his payments for the lands. It was a laborious service of two years, which, if I may be allowed the expression, has lost me my cast in society. It was entered on by me with great reluctance, under the repeated requests of Mr. Bingham and you are already informed that it had never been compensated by one single penny. A further development of facts will place the ingratitude and injustice of this proceeding, in a point of light, which no logic can obscure, no magic can change.
This, Gentlemen, may be thought severe reproach, but let the wrong, which extorts it, be considered, and the expression of my feelings and my conviction, must be deemed appropriate. Let it, however, be distinctly understood that I speak with exclusive reference to that conduct, which, with importunity, engaged my services in Europe, and with extreme injustice refused the compensation, which was stipulated by a written promise, and, which, in the understanding of every man must be considered as my exclusive inducement to the undertaking, in which I sacrificed so much.
I impute nothing to the Gentlemen, who appear to defend the action. They act as executors, and my respect and esteem for them can never be abated by that consideration.
I proceed to state that on my return to Philadelphia from Europe, I was received with the most flattering welcome by Mr. Bingham, and was invited to stay at his house, where I continued sometime; I stated to him, at great length, my opinions on the subject of the lands, in which he said he was entirely agreed, and he told me he should immediately signify his assent to the proposal, which I had made to Sir Francis Baring to sell one million acres of the land at two shillings sterling per acre, for, said he, quoting an expression, which he had used in his letter to me of the 6th May 1795, “I think so well of the connection that I would make great sacrifices to gain it—and I am very glad you have impressed Sir Francis so favorably on the subject.” Mr. Bingham afterward shewed me the letter, in which he communicated his assent, and which as is before stated, eventuated in Mr. Alexander Baring coming to this country, and in the sale of 600,000 acres at two shillings sterling per acre, furnishing Mr. Bingham with sixty thousand pounds sterling, and the agent, to whom that sale was entirely owing, has not yet received one cent! …551
The executors of the Bingham estate countered by showing that no mention of Jackson had been made in the Bingham-Knox agreement of December, 1792, whereas both Royal Flint and Henry Jackson had been promised profits on 100,000 acres; and they emphasized Jackson’s release on December, 1797, as legally binding.552 The matter dragged on for some five years before it was settled in 1812. As a result of this settlement, the Major received $25,500 in addition to $3,000 advanced him during Bingham’s lifetime, while in return he gave up every conceivable type of claim against the Bingham estate, a release which was a masterpiece of legal phraseology on the part of the estate’s lawyers.553 The whole altercation had been a sorry ending to a hitherto friendly relationship and seemed to belie the maxim that blood is thicker than water.
Major Jackson and his charming wife continued to live in Philadelphia for the rest of their days. He had been appointed surveyor of customs for the Philadelphia district by Washington in 1797, but lost his job when the Jeffersonians came into power. He edited for a time The Political and Commercial Register in Philadelphia, and towards the end of his life, as secretary of the Society of the Cincinnati, turned lobbyist and attempted to get from the federal government the half pay promised the old soldiers of the Continental Army.554 Despite his two years of hard work in Europe, William Jackson profited more, proportionately, than most of those connected with the Maine purchase. Had every 100,000 acres yielded a residuary profit of close to $30,000, William Bingham, and later his executors, would have had little cause for worry.