Copyright 1999. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress Project. All rights reserved.
ALS, Belknap Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.
Revd. and dear Sir
I duely received and with great satisfaction read your favour of the 29th of May, as well as the discourse with which you was so kind as to accompany it. Had I so long neglected acknowledging a simalar mark of friendship and kindness from some, I might justly have expected that the omission would have been viewed as faulty; but I am perswaded that your candour, and I trust your
perswasion belief of my sincere affection for you, will induce you to accept of my apology. Altho., if you should judge from what has as yet publickly been appeared to be done by congress, you might be ready to think that I have time enough t for private correspondence; yet I have not always found it so. When the hours of Congress are over, I have am often in company either at home or abroad, or have some business indispensable to attend to; or need some relaxation & amusement; whereby I am illy disposed to write. Besides I recollect your observation, that the doings of Congress which are published, you have come to your knowledge , & therefore wish only for any private anecdotes that might be worth relating. These I conceive do not occur often. There had as yet been as good harmony between the two houses, as well as between the respective members of each house as could be expected. Whilst the Impost bill was under consideration there was sometimes suggested a jealousy respecting the different interests of the Northern & Southern states. But they were kept out of sight as much as possible, & every suggestion of the kind disapproved of by the prudent & moderate [lined out] I believe the rate of duties as finally agreed on is as impartial as could be expected & that no great complaints will arise from any quarter. The check of the Senate has been in favour of the Eastern states. In the debates respecting titles the house of Representatives were generally in opinion against giving any, the majority of the Senate were of opinion that they were justifiable by the Constitution & convenient; but were not disposed to be obstinate in the dispute. There is another question which I think will be likely to produce a dispute between the two houses, that is, who shall remove from office (if there is occasion) those who hold their places during pleasure. The Representatives have disputed that point warmly among themselves & a majority are for vesting it solely in the President. I do not know how the Senate will determine on the question, but expect they will think the advice of the Senate proper for removal as well as appointment. If this should be the case I think the adherence on both sides will be obstinate. I know that it is natural for the two branches of the Legislature to be jealous of each other, & tenacious of their own rights; and the Senate by reason of their long duration in office, may in some future time be disposed to extend their powers as far as possible & encroach upon the Executive as well as other part of the legislative power, but at present I am perswaded there is no such disposition. And I beli[e]ve that the people in general will often derive considerable advantages from the check of the Senate, over so numerous a branch of government, as the other house will consist of — Their decisions will sometimes be in danger of being tumultuous & may be the sudden effects of heat & party. The Senate being a smaler & older body of men, & being appointed equally from the small & large states will be more likely to be deliberate & impartial. This you may say is owing to my partiality. It may be so & I will say no more about it. The theoligical part of your letter is very agreeable to my sentiments & very pleasing to me, but I can add nothing upon that subject which will be new to you. I thank you for your Sermon which I have read with attention & pleasure, as I shall every communication from you. Please to make my compliments to Mrs. Belknap, also to Mr. Elliott & Mr. Clarke. I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you all well in Boston by the beginning of Sepr.
And am with much affection & esteem your very respectful friend & humble Servant.
Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America,
ed. Charlene Bickford, et al.
(Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 1999).
Electronic version based on unpublished letters. On the Web at http://mep.blackmesatech.com/mep/ [Accessed 25 October 2017]