To David Sewall

    Philadelphia        29 November 1791

    Dear Sir,

    This is to acknowledge the receipt, & note the contents of your favors of the 4th. & 14th. instant—the former wrote from Boston, & the latter at York—

    A few days since I conversed with General [Henry] Knox & the Attorney General [Edmund Randolph], two of the Board for granting & making out Patents for usefull Inventions.1 They informed me, that an order passed some time the last year, to make out a Patent to Captain John Stone securing to him his heirs &c the Right of driving piles according to the mode therein described2—but they rather thought no patent had ever been called for. As to making out copies of patents, it had been made a question in the Board—They observed, it was a matter of great delicacy &c.

    To which I replied, that since every one who claimed the right of enjoying the benefit of his own inventions, for which another had wrongfully obtained a patent, ought not to be deprived thereof without a fair trial, he appeared to me to be entitled, of common right, to copies of any public Records, patents, or papers that might be deemed necessary on such Trial—This was acceeded to; and the attorney General said the question would come before the Board at their next meeting, which would be in a few days, and some rules must then be agreed upon Relative to copies of patents. I have several times mentioned the expediency of one Judge doing the duty of two Districts, where the business was not so great as to distress the Judge, or injure the suiters—but the idea does not meet with approbation. State ideas and local regulations are yet too prevelent; and, in my opinion, stave off some very usefull regulations—I am sensible, that, to many this sentiment would be looked upon as bordering upon Treason. But in politics, as in Theology, I think freely; and speak what I think. I will not say I am always right; yet like every body else, am very apt to like my own opinions best. Men have always differed from one another in their sentiments about little things much more than upon great ones—This is true from Congress down to a parish meeting—I have seen several hours consumed in debating on the mode in which a certain thing should be done, when almost every one agreed in the thing itself.

    All Denominations of Christians, except Quakers, & perhaps a more modern sect known by the name of Universalests, agree in the Ordinance of Baptism; Yet N. England has never been without notable debates about the mode; and till of late the question, whether a Christian should be sprinkled or plunged, has created more ill blood & dissentions among neighbours than the important questions that divide Christians from Deists—

    The Presidents speech, I find, has very generally been read with pleasure;3 and chiefly, because of the favorable account he gives of the Revenue, with the agreeable prospects of its being every way adequate to the demands of the United States—I fear, nevertheless, that the continuance of the Indian war, with the deficient collection of the Excise, will create demands beyond the ability of the present fiscal System.4 The duty on spirits distilled from home articles is very poorly collected, in this & the southern States; and, so far as I can judge by petitions & remonstrances from Distillers of Molosses, I strongly suspect the calculated sums of money from that quarter will also not be realised.

    The return of the Census, as laid before Congress, by the President, I presume will have reached you, in the Boston papers, before this comes to hand5—I will therefore, on that subject, only observe, that a bill has passed our house fixing the ratio between the Representatives & people represented at thirty thousand untill the next enumeration.6 This ratio will bring into the next Congress One hundred & thirteen Representatives—a number, in my judgment, too large. I had rather have seen the ratio fixed at Forty five, or Fifty thousand7—Upon this subject much has been said—and much of that resembled the whistling of Lile-bul-le-ro more than argument & reason8

    Yesterday I conversed with the Post Master General upon the subject of a post-Office being opened at York, & recommended Daniel Sewall for post-master9—but Mr. Pickering informed me, that he had just received a Letter from Mr. [Joseph] Barnard, requesting leave to change his route, from Portsmouth to Wells, in order to avoid the dangers of York Bridge, which had become so broken as not to be passable;10 in consequence of this request, & Liberty granted, I could not determine what rout the post would thereafter take—whether he would pass thro the Town of York—or from the upper Bridge take a more direct road to Wells—Hence a post office cannot be opened at York before untill the foregoing doubt be solved—

    We are yet altogether in the dark about the Bristol election; no letter or paper has given us a single sentence relative to the votes on the first of November; but from that circumstance we are led to conclude there was no choice11—I am inclined to an opinion, that if Congress had passed a Law regulating the times, places & manner of electing their Representatives, which created to the people of the several districts, in Massachusetts, where the choice was not effected at their first meeting, as much trouble & difficulty as the State Laws have done, we should, before this time, have heard much complaint against the Regulation, and loud clamours, from some, that the State should interfere and so modify the Law of election, as to secure a choice, within a reasonable time12—The inconveniences flowing from our Laws, as well as the benefits from those of other States, have abundantly convinced me of the utility of a change; and I really hope, that before another general election comes about our Legislature will so modify the Law on that subject as to ensure a choice at the second or third meeting of the people—perhaps a choice ought to be effected at the second meeting.

    This subject is judiciously regulated in Connecticut. In the spring of the year, when the people meet, in towns, to elect State Representatives, they vote also for candidates for federal Representatives, and the twelve of these who stand the highest on the pole are published for candidates against the next choice of State representatives, which will take place in six months, when the people, in town meetings, vote for federal Representatives, being confined to the list of candidates—and the choice falls on the five, (that being the number the State elect) having a plurality of votes—

    A motion was made, a few days since in the Senate by Mr. [Pierce] Butler of South Carolina, that —— a Roman Sculptor, lately from Italy, be employed to erect a bronze & marble monument to perpetuate the memory of General Washington & the American Revolution—To evince the propriety of his motion, at this time, it was observed, that the Artest, whose name I have forgot, would set his time & [s]kill against the honor of the employment; and the materials & Labor would not exceed five thousand pounds sterling a year, for ten years—a time necessary to compleat the work. But finding few advocates the motion was withdrawn; observing, at the same time, he thought the subject should first be brought forward in the House13

    Of this wonderfull Statue, resembling in size the Trojan horse of old, with its author I will hereafter send you a few more curious & entertaining particulars—And in the mean time subscribe myself

    your friend & much obliged humble Servant—

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    FC, TFP