Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 1/Issue number 4 Documents II
The following document is a letter by William Plumer, then United States Senator from New Hampshire. The original is in the possession of Dr. Jay Tuttle, of Astoria. Bradbury Cilley, Esqr., to whom the letter is addressed, was an ancestor of Doctor Tuttle . The copy was secured by George H. Himes, Assistant Secretary of the Oregon Historical Society.
WASHINGTON, Feby 25, 1806.
MY DEAR FRIEND: A few days since I received your kind letter of the 27th January. It had a long passage. Your letters need no apology. They always afford me pleasure, and I regret that I so seldom receive them.
The papers of the day inform you that we are doing little, except meeting, talking, and adjourning. Indeed we have little business to do that is of importance. The great, astonishing changes that so rapidly succeed one another in Europe admonishes us to deliberate much and act little in relation to our connection with them. We ought, in my opinion, to reserve ourselves for events.
I do not believe there is any fear of an invasion from any nation. I am, therefore, opposed to expending millions in fortifying our seaports. I consider the money to be thus expended worse than lost. Those works, if erected, will compel us to an annual expenditure, to a considerable amount, to support them. The revenues of the United States, for years, might be expended in erecting fortifications. This kind of a defense is in its nature unavailing. Witness the great but useless fortifications at Copenhagen in 1801: witness a single British frigate in 1776, with the tide and a gentle breeze, passing unhurt down the Hudson, by all our forts at New York. If, instead of raising money to fortify against enemies that are distant as the moon, a reasonable sum was annually and prudently applied to building a permanent navy, we should then exert our energies to a useful purpose. We should then find increasing commerce would not in every sea depend, for protection, on the capricious whims of nations whose interests it is to capture and condemn it. But I presume we shall do nothing this session that will be permanent. In a popular government there are too many whose constant inquiries are directed rather to please, than serve, the people.
The senate to gratify France has interdicted the trade to Saint Domingo, and to restrain the President from warring against Great Britain, they have resolved that he must resort to negotiation. The fact is, the President knew Jay's rendered a former administration unpopular, and to remove the responsibility from the President to the Senate, his friends induced them in their legislative capacity to assume and exercise their executive powers and request him to negotiate,the very measure he had adopted. I was apprised of the fact, opposed and voted against it, much against the will of my friends. I am unwilling to remove the responsibility which the constitution has imposed on him—'tis dangerous.
Yesterday I dined with the President. I felt in high glee, and enjoyed myself; but I thought the President discovered an unusual weight of care. The times, indeed, require all his vigilance.
Mr. Burr is here but is not yet Minister to Great Britain nor I hope never will [be].
Our weather is remarkably warm. The grass is verdant, and the birds of spring are come. I enjoy good health and spirits but wish to return to my friends and family though I fear I shall not for many weeks.Make my compliments agreeable to Mrs. Cilley, and be assured that I am with much esteem yours sincerely,
Nottingham, N. H.