It is well for men in office, that my pen has taken this turn; and that I employ myself in writing harmless nonsense, rather than strictures on their conduct. In the case of the famous Gordon, who, with Trenchard, was an author of what were styled Catos Letters, it is well known that the shrewd minister of that day, Walpole, dreading the effects of these writings, wisely laid a plan to free his administration from them; by affecting to admire the style; and saying, that it were a pity so noble a genius were not employed in giving a sample of good language, where there would be no occasion to invent, but merely to cloathe ideas. For this reason he would consider it a great happiness, could he be induced to translate some work of merit; and give it in the beautiful garb of his expression. By this address and the addition of a pension, the author was induced to undertake the translation of Tacitus.
Now, what government, with great art, got Gordon to do, I have done of my own accord; that is, to amuse myself in abstract composition; regarding words only, and letting men of place alone. Nevertheless, as the sale of these is not certain; and if I should find it an expense, rather than a profit, to proceed in the work, I may quit it, and fall foul of the public measures, those who discharge the public trust, at the present time, may not be altogether safe. It were, therefore, wise policy in such, to assist the sale as much as possible; and it might not be amiss, in the first instance, to buy up, each of them, a number of copies. I do not know that I have any thing to say of the president of the United States; or that I would say it, if I had; nevertheless, it might not be amiss for him, on the principle of preservation, and, agreeably to that universal prudence he has ever shown, to take a few; perhaps fifty might suffice. The secretary of the treasury, and the secretary at war, might take between them, about five hundred. As to the secretary of state, he is such a skin-dried philosopher, that an author would make as little out of him, as a fly would out of a weather-beaten bone; and so, it is of little consequence to him, whether he buys one at all; for I believe I shall not trouble my head about him. As to the Congress, that have sat since the adoption of the federal constitution, they need not put themselves to the expense, individually or collectively of purchasing one pamphlet; as I am determined not to be bought off by them; but in a work which I shall by and by publish, will canvass freely, the respective demerit of their votes. I have not yet written any part of this work; but I have it all in my mind; and if I had a ready amanuensis, to take it down, could give a volume in a short time.
The whole gradation of officers and place-men, under government, are a good deal in my power. Not that I would descend to attack them; but I might affect the system by which they are supported. A pretty liberal purchase, therefore, on their part, might be money not ill laid out.
The men that are upon the government of Pennsylvania, would find their account, in making it worth my while to let my fingers run in this way, a while longer. Pervam ne scribam; I must write; and if I should break out upon them, I know not where I might end.