Dear Sir Washington Feby. 18th 1808
I received yours of the 27th Ulto. by the last Mail, and will endeavor as far I can to give you a detail of the State of Things here. The embargo a measure forced upon us by the Belligerents, altho' greatly distressing to all Descriptions of Persons, is likely, as far as I can judge to continue yet a considerable Time; indeed I can converse with no one who is able to form any opinions as to its Duration; and an additional Motive has occurred by very recent Intelligence from Amsterdam, that Bonaparte is determined to enforce his Threat of no Neutrals By a late Decree dated "Milan Decr. 17." 1807. "Every Vessel visited by an English Ship, or which has made a Voyage to England or paid Duty to that govt. has become denationalize forfeits the Rights of her Flag, and shall be considered as English Property." All such vessels are declared good & lawful Prize. There are other equally unjust & arbitrary Provisions too long to copy. Thus you see we have got within one Step of War with this Nation. Each of the Belligerents having thus entirely prohibited our Commerce with the other we have only to determine to remain at Home shut up within our Shell or chuse between two Evils of joining one of the Belligerents against the other. This Decree comes at a very inauspicious Moment as we are told that the Discussions between Mr. Rose and our government are drawing to a close, I fear that the British Ministers here will rise in their Demands upon us in Consequence of this Decree. When I say the Discussions
are drawing towards a close, observe that it is Report only, (for not a Word escapes of an authoritative Nature) and further that this Report is that they are not likely to agree. What Effect this Decree may have have on the Negotiation I know not. It is evident now if any amicable Relations with England are established, that war with France must ensue. On the other Hand, if we attempt to open our Commerce with France, Britain will seize our ships, which will lead to war with that Nation. We have then if we repeal our Embargo only to make choice between these powerful governments - such a union with England as a War between us and France must necessarily produce is what every true american must sincerely deprecate. We have already so much English Influence in our Country, as to embarrass & perplex even an administration which cannot be accused of Partiality to them, and a majority in our public Councils too strong it might be supposed, to feel the Effects of British Intrigue. But what Insults, Injures, & Vexations have we not sustained from this People for many years past, without Hopes even as this moment (big with perhaps her Existence,) of honorable atonement & just conduct towards us in future. She might I believe have [?] us, and Events would have brought about, what she has been vainly hoping
to do, by oppression, Injustice and [Menaces?], and by alarm ing [alarming] us with a Destruction of our commercial Interests; that is an abandonment of our neutral Position. As these two Nations have jostled us out of this safe honorable and reasonable Position, we have to assume another. The Embargo System is perhaps the safest we could chuse, but is it honorable, & will our People submit to is. O It may be & I think is honorable & I believe wise to a certain Extent, but it seems that to continue in this state for more than a few months, and after we shall have made our Enemies feel the Effects of it, if it does not operate a Revocation of their arbitrary Restorants upon our commerce that we must resort to some more energetic measure. And what is that measure. For my Part altho' extremely adverse to this [ultima R??], I see no Resolution of the existing State of Things but in War; and with whom. My feelings, my Pride, & my Resentment wd. say with England - But we must not act under the Influence of such motives - The Contest with England would certainly be much more formidable during the Conflict than with France - But we should gain by it great objects - This [???king deleterious?] Remnant of English Influence, which has infected our Country ever since the Peace of 1783, and which has flourished at one
Period to an alarming Degree, and now fetters, and clogs under a clearsighted & virtuous administration the Councils of the Nation. We should get rid of this Poison; of British agents, Printers, Spies, Partizans & of the various sources of Corruption which are diffused in different Shapes thro' the Country. We should cut off from them forever this Colonies in America, which afford them great Means of annoyance to us, and we should lose this [?] and luxurious Habit], which we are assuming, from a long continuous State of Peace and Prosperity - We should turn our attention to the art of War & introduce [introduce] the modern improved [??] into our Country, with which combined with the martial Spirit that would be inspired by War, and the natural & Political advantages [advantages] of our Country, we could prepare to contend successfully [successfully] should England be overcome by Bonaparte against the gigantic Power of the Conquereres. We have measured swords with England, even when hers was much longer & ours much shorter than as present. We cannot fear her. It is equally true that a War with France would as present be but little felt, for I do not see how she could reach us; but our Trade to the Continent of Europe would be entirely at an End, and our Privateers would reap a barren Harvest, whereas in a war with
England, our large merchant Ships would find it a profitable [profitable] Business to own & privateer against the British Trade. But what I should most dread in such a War, would be an amalgamation with English Politics, English Manners and the gradual but dangerous Influence of English Principles - The Fact is we have a Gordian Knot to loosen I fear neither skill nor Wisdom can effect & we must do it with the Sword. Of Reports again. I just hear that George the IIId. is dead & that France has actually declared [declared] War against us. But look on this as a Report only.
you tell me I ought to write to my Friends I know it; but have so long deferred it, that I am now ashamed; this necessity is the only Part of my Duties that are unknown to me; Writing on public matters is also a dangerous Business; you are put in the Papers often, & if you have not well digested the Matter, you expose yourself to unpleasant Criticisms - I have but one Consolation, and that is, that my Intentions are honorable [honorable] and that I really feel every Consideration and every Degree of Gratitude for my Constituents & endeavour to serve them to the best of my Power. I must send a circular I believe - however I think I will make a Point of writing a Letter every Day hereafter.
I regret much the Bench of Faith in stripping poor old [???ter] of his Pension; but entre nous it is not to be