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[314]

You inquire what I think of the Philadelphia riots. My reply is easy. I am disgusted with the imbecility of a police which should suffer an outrage of such an aggravated character. I am disgusted with the imbecility of the police throughout our whole country. In my opinion this should be strengthened, so that law and order everywhere may prevail, and every citizen recognize with respect the Government of his country. To sustain such a police were far better than to build Fort George at the mouth of Boston Harbor.

The necessity for external military defences in all countries, particularly in our country, has passed by; and the stones which Colonel Thayer has skilfully piled up, the arches which he has builded, and the cunning defences that he has contrived, are all useless labors. Better far if the money which has been drained from the treasury for this purpose had been devoted to institutions of benevolence and learning, to colleges, academies, and hospitals. Then should our State—all whose endowments for purposes of learning, including even those of Harvard College, do not equal the money so idly wasted in the brick and mortar of George's Island—blossom like a rose.

The age of war among civilized nations has passed, and each year of peace is an additional testimony to this truth. Thus far in history nations have been towards each other as individuals in the earlier ages, when the trial by battle was a common mode of determining disputes. If a question arose with regard to the title to a piece of land, it was determined, not by a judicial tribunal as in our days of civilization, but by wager of battle, the forms of which are minutely described by Blackstone as a part of the early English law.1 As the folly and injustice of this proceeding became apparent, men resorted to courts and listened to the judgments of judges. So is the progress of nations. The trial by battle begins to be recognized as unnatural, barbarous, inconclusive, and unjust; and nations, as individuals, seek the judgments of tribunals or authorities properly constituted to determine the matters between them. You are aware that, in all the threatenings of war which have lowered during the last ten years, the intervention of some friendly power, promoting peace, has actually taken place or been in contemplation. Thus, even in the extremity of our affair with France with regard to the twenty-five millions of francs, it is matter of private history that King William was prepared to intervene with his mediation in the event of an actual rupture.

I cannot but think that you regard with the complacency of another age the immense military establishments and fortifications by which you are surrounded. What a boon to France, if her half million of soldiery were devoted to the building of railways and other internal improvements, instead of passing the day in carrying superfluous muskets! What a boon to Paris, if the immense sums absorbed in her fortifications were devoted to institutions of benevolence! She has more to fear from the poverty and wretchedness of her people than from any foreign foe; nor do I set much value upon any defence that can be made against any invading force that has once seen the smoke of the Capital. . . . The principles of free trade, now so generally favored, are


1 He discussed the ‘Trial by Battle’ at length in his oration on ‘The True Grandeur of Nations.’ Works, Vol. I. pp. 36-45.

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