Letter to James Hervey Bingham
February 5, I800

TO JAMES HERVEY BINGHAM Salisbury, February 5, I800.

The political events of Europe, my friend Hervey, are so novel and unexpected, revolution succeeds revolution in such rapid succession, that it is sufficient to overpower the understanding and confound the caleulations of the most sage politician. These events are attended with such important circumstances, involve so many and so various interests, that schemes either of aggrandizement or of defence are agitated and devised in every cabinet of Europe. Nor is it to be expected, at this eventful crisis, that the decisions of our Executive are to be uninfluenced by considera- tions of transatlantic occurrences. Were we, like China, divested of every commercial engagement, we might, like that empire, remain unmoved, while convulsed Europe tottered to its base. To suppose that the liberty of United America, depends on the balance of power on the Eastern continent, is an idea exploded by every whig of '76, and which ought to be deemed absurd and preposterous. But our connections with foreign nations are such, that to preserve unaflfected our commercial interests, while revolutions are making such monstrous strides in Europe, is beyond the reach of human sagacity. Adams, however, has hitherto conducted us in tolerable safety through the dangers which have beset us, and on him, under the guidance of an overruling Providence, we must rely, as the only rock of our political salvation. I, who am a mere novice in the science of politics, have done calculating. I have heretofore applied logical, metaphysical, mathematical, and philosophical theorems, but have found them all insufficient to solve one political problem.

Who thought, six months ago, that Bonaparte, who was then represented as lying with his slaughtered army on the plains of Egypt, to taint the air, and gorge the monsters of the Nile, would at this time have returned to France, have destroyed the Directory and Legislative Councils, have established a triumvirate, and have placed himself at its head-- which is saying, have virtually made himself sovereign of France? Who could have predicted that the Duke of York, who so late was marching victoriously through Holland, should ere this time have entered into a convention, by which he was to give up all his booty and prisoners, and evacuate the country? Or, whoever supposed that Paul, emperor of Russia, who so lately was raising one hundred and eighty thousand men, to reinforce his armies, should now order Suwarrow, with his veteran Cossacks, to quit the field and return home? The occurrences hitherto would have warranted the most extravagant expectations; but these events must have been, I think, unprepared for. What unknown cause has wrought these changes? I cannot determine. I am weary of conjecture. But, when baffled in attempting to scan the horizon of European politics, could I turn my eyes home and be presented with such a prospect as was afforded five years ago, I should lift my heart to Heaven in a transport of devotion, and exclaim, "Let France or England be arbiter of Europe, but be mine the privileges of an American citizen." But, Hervey, our prospect darkens; clouds hang around us. Not that I fear the menaces of France; not that I should fear all the powers of Europe leagued together for our destruction. No, Bingham, intestine feuds alone I fear. The French faction, though quelled, is not eradicated. The southern States in commotion; a Democrat the head of the Executive in Virginia; a whole county in arms against the government of [Thomas] McKean, in Pennsylvania; Wash- ington, the great political cement dead, and Adams almost worn down with years, and the weight of cares. These considerations, operating on a mind naturally timorous, excite unpleasant emotions. In my melancholy moments, I presage the most dire calamities. I already see, in my imagination, the time when the banner of civil war shall be unfurled; when Discord's hydra form shall set up her hideous yell, and from her hundred mouths shall howl destruction through our empire; and when American blood shall be made to flow in rivers, by American swords! But propitious Heaven prevent such dreadful calamities! Internally secure, we have nothing to fear. Let Europe pour her embattled millions around us, let her thronged cohorts cover our shores, from St. Lawrence to St. Marie's, yet, United Columbia shall stand unmoved; the manes of her deceased Washington, shall guard the liberties of his country, and direct the sword of freedom in the day of battle. Heaven grant that the bonds of our federal union may be strengthened; that Gallic emissaries and Gallic principles may be spurned from our land; that traitors may be abashed, and that the stars and stripes of United Columbia may wave triumphant ! So much for politics.

I have received your letters as you must know by my delaying to visit you. I shall visit you next Saturday, other things being equal. You wonder I did not write, and are about to conclude that my friendship for you had decreased; but, James, form no rash conclusions. I did write soon after your departure;2 I wrote very soon; I wrote then. I prepared a letter too long, and too nonsensical to be read with patience, and determined to send it by Mr. [James] Wilson,3 but did not see him. I then despatched the animal by another conveyance, but after a few days travelling it returned. However. after a little refreshment, the gentleman moved again, and I conclude by this time is arrived at Sanbornton; where I presume you will deal with his honor according to the fitness of things, that is to say, read till you are tired, then burn him. By last mail I had a letter from [Habijah Weld] Fuller--all well. N. and B. were to go last week. S.F--er, and Mary, la bonne,4 have gone. Thus you see the circle is broken; well, Hervey, let us then apply ourselves more closely to study. I have to impart to you from Mr. Fuller, the love of all the---. My school increases fast enough.5 Instead of twenty, I have fifty, and shall have more; five English grammarians, I mean students in English, and two Latin scholars. I had a letter not long since from J[ohn] Nelson,6 and hope to see him on Saturday at Sanbornton. Much speculation is made here on the scribblers for the Dartmouth Gazette. Old Icarus is handled without ceremony. I shall tell you hereafter some pretty things about it. Our family would reciprocate their respects.

I am, Sir, with much respect, yours in the indissoluble bonds of frater- nal love.

D. Webster.


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