GROSVENOR-SQUARE, October 4, 1786.
My dear Sir,
THREE writers in Europe, of
great abilities, reputation, and learning, Mr. Turgot, the Abbé De
Mably, and Dr. Price, have turned their attention to the constitutions of
government in the United States of America, and have written and published
their criticisms and advice. They had all the most amiable characters, and
unquestionably the purest intentions. They had all experience in public
affairs, and ample information in the nature of man, the necessities of
society, and the science of government.
There are in the productions of all of them, among many excellent things,
some sentiments, however, that it will be difficult to reconcile to reason,
experience, the constitution of human nature, or to the uniform testimony of
the greatest statesmen, legislators, and philosophers of all enlightened
nations, ancient and modern.
Mr. Turgot, in his letter to Dr. Price, confesses, "that he is not
satisfied with the constitutions which have hitherto been formed for the
different states of America." He observes, that by most of them the
customs of England are imitated, without any particular motive. Instead of
collecting all authority into one center, that of the nation, they have
established different bodies, a body of representatives, a council, and a
governor, because there is in England a house of commons, a house of lords, and
a king. They endeavour to balance these different powers, as if this
equilibrium, which in England may be a necessary check to the enormous
influence of royalty, could be of any use in republicks founded upon the
equality of all the citizens, and as if establishing different orders of men
was not a source of divisions and disputes."
There has been, from the beginning of the revolution in America, a party in
every state, who have entertained sentiments similar to these of Mr. Turgot.
Two or three of them have established governments upon his principle: and, by
advices from Boston, certain committees of counties have been held, and other
conventions proposed in the Massachusetts, with the express purpose of deposing
the governor and senate, as useless and expensive branches of the constitution;
and as it is probable that the publication of Mr. Turgot's opinion has
contributed to excite such discontents among the people, it becomes necessary
to examine it, and, if it can be shown to be an error, whatever veneration the
Americans very justly entertain for his memory, it is to be hoped they will not
be misled by his authority.
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