Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 Back to the Exhibit

Gouverneur Morris to William Carmichael, 4 July 1789


the Wisdom to wait, before they attempt Amendments for those Lights of Experience which are the only Guides that can pretend to Infallibility. You will find herein a Letter from our friend Robert Morris to you which he left open by Way of saving himself the Trouble of writing to you the public occurrences. In that Letter he announces a fact which we have received from other quarters with some Details. That the House of Representatives have resolved to submit the principal Direction of the finances to a single man. Thro this Measure I can feel the Pulse of our Government. It is vigorous beyond my Hopes, far beyond my Expectations, and comes up to my Wishes. It is the Vigor of Administration which can alone consolidate recent Establishments. The Mass of a Nation will always judge rightly of their Rulers, by the Effects of their Measures, altho they can never penetrate into the Nature of the Measures themselves. From the fruit we know the Tree without pretending to investigate the botanical Misteries of vegetation. The Extent of our Country and the deliberative freedom of itís legislative Authority require the Compensation of an active and vigorous Execution. Every subordinate Power should be tied to the Chief by those intermediate Links of Will and Pleasure which like the Elasticity of the arterial System under sensible the Pulsations of the Heart at the remotest Extremities. for how can the Executive be accountable when its Members are not subordinate and obediant to the general Volition? But where am I going? I shall, ere I am aware of it, convert a Letter of freindship into a political Essay. But so it is, that if once the Ideas get into that beaten Track where they have been used to travel they go on, like old Cart-Horses, with the most devilish determined obstinacy imaginable. You know the Story, I suppose, of Mess John the Scottish Preacher, whose aspersive Eloquence had been levelled for half a Century at the poor old Whore of Babylon - one of his Congregation (the Laird) requested that he would for once try his Hand at some Subject of Morality; which Mess John reluctantly agreed to, but after proceeding with much Difficulty, no great Distance, he came to a Stand-Still, and after staring about a little while he very emphatically pulled up his Breeches, the natural Movement of Recollection, and then "Come my Brothers let us cen take tother touch at the Whore." After this went on with equal alacrity and facility.

(Image of letter courtesy of the Library of Congress)

digital transcription  by David Orin Porter   
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