To Samuel Freeman

    Philadelphia        20 December 1791

    Dear Sir,

    I have now the pleasure of acknowledging your favors of the 26th. Novr. and the 2d & 3d Decr. the last of which was accompanied by the “Town Officer,” which, according to your request, is deposited in the Department of State, and a Certificate thereof, herewith transmitted you.1

    When I wrote you last I expected the number of times the mail should be carried from place to place, in each week, would be fixed in the Law—I therefore mentioned this matter, as it related to Portland; not because there existed in my own mind a wish to take from that place an advantage, or a doubt of the expediency there is of the mails arriving there three times a week from Boston; But because the Post master General [Timothy Pickering], and a Gentleman from N. Hampshire had, several times, conversed with me upon that subject,2 and they seemed of opinion that twice a week would answer every mercantile purpose. Hence I wished to know particularly what were the sentiments of the Gentlemen of Portland relative to that matter.

    For myself I am sufficiently acquainted with the general commercial interest of Portland, and its connections, in the way of Trade, with the western ports to be satisfied of the necessity there is for the mail’s arriving there three times a week—and these shall never be lessened if it is in my power to hinder it—

    It has always been my wish & constant endeavour to extend the mail Line as far east as possible; but too many obsticles have hitherto existed to carry it farther than Wiscassett—And during the two last Sessions it was with much difficulty I got it fixed at that place; and I will dare to say no Citizen would rejoice more than myself at seeing it extended, under some modification or other, to Camden, Penobscot, Machias and St. Croix—but from present circumstances I dispaire of being gratified herein for some time. During the course of debate, Wiscassett has been more than once struck out of the Bill, and Portland made the most eastern office—But I trust it is now fixed at Wiscassett, & hereafter the mail will be carried once a week thus far—

    The Bill now before Congress establishing Post-offices & post-roads, leaves it wholly with the Post-master General to say how often the mail shall be carried to and from a place, and as this is the general Law no place can say another has more advantages than itself.

    If I have any partiality for one Town or place above another it is Portland, and this predilection will ever secure it all my efforts to promote its prosperity & general wellfare, let the sentiments of individuals be what they may.

    Mr. Hazards collection of original papers well deserves a place in every Gentlemans Library;3 and much more so in a public one—I will take care that a set is secured for our Library4—The first volume will be out in January.

    I dont know any thing relative to the merit of Robertsons History of India;5 but I subscribed for it, & shall have it in a few days—one copy I will forward to the Portland Library by the first Vessell.

    The examination of Lord Sheffield Observations &c is an ingenious pamphlet, & well worth the attention of Gentlemen who wish to acquaint themselves with the Trade & commerce of the United States.6 It was wrote by Tench Cox Esqr. Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury one of which I will bring with me on my return, provided you do not before procure one from Boston—

    But to return, for a moment, to the former part of your Letter, where you mention, with some concern, the general Darkness of the more eastern part of Maine7—Here you & I meet in our wishes. I most ardently wish to see every individual mind illumined with science, and actuated by benevolence; but this must be the work of ages; and perhaps but little less difficult than to bring the face of the whole Globe into a state of high cultivation. Our connection with the eastern part of the district is such as does not admit of a very particular acquaintance. A thorough knowledge of distant parts of the same State can only be effected by one of two ways—First, by the daily intercourse of Trade and Commerce—And secondly by meeting of the Legislature.

    If Portland could draw to it the trade of the eastern ports, the benefit would be immense, & we should immediately become as minutely acquainted with the situation and circumstances of the people there, as you desire. And untill this shall be the case, or Portland become a seat of Government an extention of the mail would be less beneficial than you are apt to imagine; tho in political effects it may be considerable—The original use of the mail was a speedy communication between merchants, whose interests above all other classes of Citizens, require dispatch. The idea of spreading general information by the post always has been considered subordinate to the other—Hence in extending the Line of post thro a new road the first question is, will the postage of Letters defray the expence of conveyance?8 And America exhibets the first instance where the national Legislature has incorporated a desire of diffusing political knowledge, among the people at large, with the original designe of the post office. The happy effects of this enlarged view of the institution are infinite—and I am not afraid of hazarding a query—whether it would not prove the best interest of America now to make it the chief object? Were the mail now carried to Machias but few Letters, on business would be sent there from Portland, or places further west; because between the first and that place there is but very little commercial intercourse; and the western ports can generally be quicker served by water communication. Hence, for the present, nothing but public reasons operate in favor of our wishes, and because they are less forceable on the minds of others, than on our own, we shall hardly be gratified—

    No official accounts from Genl St. Clair have been received since his Letter of the ninth of November9—nor do we know the fate of Fort Jefferson10

    When you are at leisure, write me, and beleive me to be, dear Sir, with great esteem & respect, yours. &c

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    FC, TFP