The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


I avoid writing to my friends because the fidelity of the post office is very much doubted. I will give you briefly a statement of what we have done and are doing . . . The President has appointed Rufus King to make a commercial treaty with the Russians in London, and William Smith, of South Carolina, to go to Constantinople to make one with the Turks. Both appointments are confirmed by the Senate. A little dissatisfaction was expressed by some that we should never have treated with them till the moment when they had formed a coalition with the English against the French You have seen that the Directory had published an arret declaring they would treat. as pirates any neutrals they should take in the ships of their enemies. The President communicated this to Congress as soon as he received it. A bill was brought into Senate reciting that arret, and authorizing retaliation. The President received information almost in the same instant that the Directory had suspended the arret (which fact was privately declared by the Secretary of State to two of the Senate), and, though it was known we were passing an act founded on that arret, yet the President has never communicated the suspension. However, the Senate, informed indirectly of the fact, still passed the act yesterday, an hour after we had heard of the return of our vessel and crew before mentioned. It is acknowledged on all hands, and declared by the insurance companies that the British depredations during the last six months have greatly exceeded the French, yet not a word is said about it officially. However, all these things are working on the public mind. They are getting back to the point where they were when the X. Y. Z. story was passed off on them. A wonderful and rapid change is taking place in Pennsylvania, Jersey; and New York. Congress is daily piled with petitions against the alien and sedition laws and standing armies. Several parts of this State are so violent that we fear an insurrection. This will be brought about by some if they can. It is the only thing we have to fear. The appearance of an attack of force against the government would check the present current of the middle States, and rally them around the government; whereas, if suffered to go on, it will pass on to a reformation of abuses. The materials now bearing on the public mind will infallibly restore it to its republican soundness in the course of the present summer, if the knowledge of facts can only be disseminated among the people. Under separate cover you will receive some pamphlets written by George Nichols on the acts of the last session. These I would wish you to distribute, not to sound men who have no occasion for them, but to such as have been misled, are candid and will be open to the conviction of truth, and are of influence among their neighbors. It is the sick who need medicine, and not the well. Do not let my name appear in the matter. Perhaps I shall forward you some other things to be distributed in the same way.

to Archibald Stuart, 13 February 1799