To Dudley Hubbard

    Philadelphia        14 January 1792

    My dear Sir

    Were you to demand of me a sufficient reason, according to Leibnitzs’ philosophy,1 why I have not answered your favors of the 4th. & 24th. of October, before this time, I confess it would be altogether out of my power to assigne one: But this I can say, that it is not from want of esteem, respect or friendship.

    Relatively to the books you wish me to purchase; they are not at present to be had in this City; and if they were I should rather omit purchasing them here, as books of all kinds are considerably cheaper at New York—where I propose to get such as you write for, on my return to that place in the spring, and others to the amount of the sum you mention; and which you may repay me when I return.

    You enquire how it happens that objections are so frequently made to Stranges Reports?2 and note, that they are very often quoted in later Authorities. I have some times heard Strange censured; but I never heard any better reason given for it, than that his cases were very short; and might be denominated notes with more propriety than Reports.

    They certainly deserve a place in every Lawyers Library, any imperfections nothwithstanding.

    Gordons history of the American war ought to be the best upon that subject; because it was wrote during the whole time of the succession of events which it records.3 I have not read the book; you will therefore observe I only say it ought to be the best; but do not say it is the best. You may likewise perceive my opinion upon the subject of history is herein different from that of most others. They seem generally to think that the historian who writes the events of his own times is too near them to be sufficiently clear of prejudice & attachment to one party or the other, to state them impartially; but the possibility of being affected in this manner does by no means balance the superior advantages such a writer of history possesses over those who live in a foreign Country or in an after period—

    The historian who writes things as they are actually passing before him, will, from the strong association they have one with another, be unavoidably induced to record many events, in the course of narration, which, to his contemporary Readers, may subject him to the charge of attending to trifles unbecoming the dignity of his character: But it ought to be remembered that history is designed more for the instruction of posterity than for the amusement and information of those who are Spectators & agents in the Scenes described—Gordon has been charged with writing little things—but they were such little things, & so connected with great events, that I must confess, what tho by others called faults to me were they are excellencies, and great good recommendations of the work. Why are Travels read with more pleasure than almost any other kind of history? one cause, most undoubtedly, is that they describe little, common occurrencies which the Gravity of history is erroneously thought to be above. And why are the accounts of Travellers through our own Country more frequently condemned than those they give us of foreign nations? Two very natural reasons concur in producing this effect—First they tell us nothing new—and secondly their errors are generally manifest to almost every reader. Hence the Travels thro america by a respectable Frenchman, during the war, are read with avidity in France, but give disgust to the people of this Country.4

    As to father Sher—n,5 I know little about him but what is gathered from common report—which sais he was born in some part of Massachusetts, & served an apprentice-ship with a Shoe-maker. After he was out of his time he went into one of the back counties of Connecticut, & worked at his Trade—How long he resided there I do not know, but during this period he read some Law-books and was admitted an Attorney at the County Court. He did considerable business in the default way. Afterwards he removed to New Haven, & commenced Trader—Here he was chose an assembly man & attended the Legislature. About this time a Mr. (now Doctor) Dana had a call to settle in the ministry at Wallingsford, about fourteen miles from New-Haven;6 but the parish being divided between orthodoxy & heterodoxy his settlement was violently opposed by the former; and a certain man by the name of Cummins, if I mistake not, was of the Council who & distinguished himself in favor of the ordination, which was finally effected. Not long after this the choice of a Judge, for one of the County Courts, came on before the assembly, and the aforesaid Cummins, for I think that is the name of the man, was among the names of the Candidates for that office—but the moment he was put up for the vote our good father Sh—n objected to him, and gave to the assembly as a reason why he ought not to be chosen, that he had been a warm advocate for the settlement of Mr. Dana, & by his influence the ordination of a rank arminian had taken place.7 Arminianism was at that time a crime, in the opinion of the assembly, and poor Cummins, tho in all other respects well qualified for the office, lost his election—The affair, however, did not stop here—Mr. Sher—n’s piety recommended him to a deaconry in the church; while his orthodoxy sounded through the State, and the Clergy, to reward him for his services, recommended him at the next election for an Assistant (Corresponding corresponding to a Councillor under the old Government of Massachusetts)8 and by preaching and praying got him in—After this he was made a Judge of the Supreme Court—A member of Congress in seventy five & frequently under the Confederation—A member of the Convention that formed the Constitution of the United States—A Representative in Congress for eighty nine—and ninety two—And now a Senator in Congress—He certainly has been a very usefull & good man in the various stations of Life to which his Country has, at different times, called him—He was never known to give a direct answer, however simple the question might be—His notoriety for giving evasive answers has been so much taken notice of that about a year & an half ago a considerable bet was laid that a direct answer could not be got from him—To this purpose a Gentleman went up to him, & asked him “if he had heard from his family lately?—Has the post come in?” said he—I believe he possesses more policy than Religion; but he understands remarkably well the art of turning the latter to the account of the former—

    Having mentioned Mr. Dana, I ought further to observe that having continued many years a preacher at Wallingsford, he at last left that place & about two years ago was setled at one of the parishes in New-Haven—He is a man of considerable genius, and a very respectable preacher. In the dispute about arminianism & Calvinism I believe he has always taken the side of free-will—He wrote two or three peaces pamphlets against President Edwards Treatise on Freewill and necessity.9 These I remember to have purchased & read when I was Junior at Colledge, & now have them in my Library. His sermons, of which a number have been published, are well spoken of—his settlement however at New-Haven was not very well relished by the church and congregation of which of our evasive father [Sherman] is a deacon—For soon after his installment Docr. Edwards10 with his Church came to a formal vote of excommunication against Docr. Dana, & forbid all communion11 with him—This Dr. Edwards is son to the late president Edwards, & author of a late book proving the eternity of Hell fire torments in answer to Docr. Chancy12

    But I apprehend I have already wearied you with my detail of Doctors and church matters I will therefore close the whole by subscribing myself your friend & humble Servant

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    FC, TFP