To George Peirson

    Philadelphia        25 February 1794

    My dear Sir

    Your favor of the fourteenth instant, dated at Boston came to hand by yesterdays mail—for which I thank you—And hope soon to recieve another from you at Portland, containing the opinion of the Gentlemen of that place, relative to the Trade & commerce of the eastern Country—

    I am sorry to hear, as I do both by your Letter & all the Boston papers by the two last mails, that Mr. [Fisher] Ames & [Samuel] Dexter are becoming unpopular there; because I am too well acquainted with them, & their conduct on the Resolutions lately brought forward in the House of Representatives, for the apparent purpose of regulating the Trade & Commerce of the United States—to suppose they deserve the censure, that seems to be intended to be thrown upon them. It has been unfortunate for these two Gentlemen, that a very inaccurate & mutilated speach of each of them, on [James] Madisons Resolutions got into the papers, & reached Boston before more correct ones could be published1—Yet I do not know that it would have made any change in the Conduct of that Town, if their real speaches, as delivered in the House, had been published, instead of the spurious ones—for it is well known there is a strong party in Boston, & some other towns, violently prejudiced against them; and no means are looked upon too vile to be employed to render them unpopular—

    The idea, which you tell me is becoming prevelent in Boston, that Mr. Ames & Dexter are opposed to the Carrying Trade, is a false one—This is not the case—These Gentlemen, to my certain knowledge, are firm friends and advocates to that branch of Trade—And have upon all occasions declared these sentiments.

    When this subject was mentioned, in the debate on the Regulations, the idea of Ames & Dexter was not discouraging to the carrying Trade; but that by the experience of three years afforded good grounds to conclude, that the Navigation of the United States was increasing as rapidly as was safe, when compared with the other branches of business with which it was connected. And the present state of Europe. And of this opinion were all the merchants in Congress, of which class there are some as respectable for their mercantile knowledge, as any in America.

    It was also thought improper & dangerous, to attempt any regulations that would draw after them a sudden change of capital—Such a measure might be attended with the greatest public inconvenience, and more especially while things are in such an uncertain state, as they now are in Europe. The sudden change of parties in France, which has produced the recall & denunciation of Citizen [Edmond-Charles] Genet, ought to teach us that at present, no stable dependence can be had on any commercial regulations with that nation. How long is it since Genet was at the head, & in fact his party in France & America were the life, of the party that now bring forward the Resolutions? Scarce three months! Are we sure that the present Ruling party in France will continue three months longer? Indeed I hope they will, & settled their Government & Commerce on a Basis that cannot be shaken. But it will then be time enough to enter upon Regulations of our own, if we wish to have them perminent.

    I believe the people in Maine, & in fact through all New-England, wish for peace, & dread a war, and these I know are the sentiments of the Representatives from Massachusetts, consequently it is our duty to promote & cherish measures that have a tendency to continue the one, while the most watchfull eye is necessary to guard against the other.

    The American Commerce & Navigation already suffer much by reason of the war, now raging in Europe—and I apprehend still more general calamities, notwithstanding all the caution in the power of the Government of this Country to exercise; but even these are less than a war. The injuries we suffer do not arise from a real hostile disposition in the Belligerent powers, towards America, but from an idea of our connection with their respective enemies—France will not war with us unless we assist her Enemies—nor will the Combined powers take our vessells but when found in circumstances of giving aid to their enemies the French. This is the situation America is now placed in—It is a situation of distress, & our choice is only of evils, to pick out the smallest. And a greater one there cannot be than an open war.

    It would not be surprising to me, were the next ships from Europe to bring news, that the combined powers had declared, that no nation whatever, having European connections, should continue any longer in a state of neutrality. I say this from some late information. The fact is, England & the other nations at war with france, concieve their very existance, as nations, depends on suppressing the French Republic. And to effect this object, they will stick at no means whatever, in their power. If France prevails they know they must die!

    Now the professed view of the party who advocated, & brought forward the Resolutions lately before the House, was to make a discrimination pointedly injurious to Great Britain. A species of Discrimination too that, in the opinion of some, amounted to an aggression on the Trade of that nation, and consequently a just cause of war. Tho I differ from Gentlemen in this latter idea, I am clear that the Resolutions as the advocates wished to pass them must certainly lead us to a war—or produce counter regulations that would put us in a situation infinitely more distressing, than than and embarressing to our trade & navigation, than any we experience at present—Why we should enter into a commercial war, (waving the chance of all other worse wars) with Great Britain I cannot concieve? The English Regulations of Trade are less restricting on the commerce of America than of any other nation—Their regulations give us more privileges, than their most favoured nations enjoy—

    It has been said by some that we import more from Great Britain, than we export there, & consequently the Balance of Trade is against us—The fact is true—But I will not say that our Trade with that nation, is an injurious one, for America—Nor do I think it prudent, at this time, to pass Laws against that nation, in order to force the English trade into another channel.

    Perhaps I have said too much on the subject of your Letter, but ’tis a subject so prolix that when an idea is started tis difficult to stop before we tire our reader or hearer—I will therefore bid you adieu—After observing that I hope the Gentlemen of Portland, will not follow the example of Boston, before they have well considered the subject, & determined whether tis best now to adopt Madisons Resolutions, with an almost certain war with England—or defer the subject of Regulating Trade a little longer, till affairs are more stable in Europe & the west-Indies—And war a less probable consequence.

    I am, my dear Sir your friend & humble Servant

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    FC, TFP