To John Hobby

    Philadelphia        19 March 1794

    My dear Sir—

    Our evidence respecting the state of things in Europe is much as when I wrote you last—The recapture of Toulon, & some other successes on the part of France are too generally related to form any precise idea of their effect on their operations the ensuing campaine—We are equally uncertain with regard to the ultimate views of England in her repeated captures of American Vessells—Some say she means war with America, & chooses to carry on her hostile purposes without an open declaration on her part that while America is undecided how to meet her aggressions she may get into her possession the chief of our navigation & sea men—Others are of opinion that all or chiefly the injuries we have sustained in our Commerce by means of England, are rather to be considered as collateral effects of the war between France & the Combined powers, than as certain indications of a disposition to wage war with America on her own account—And I confess this has always been my opinion. And I am confident that if Congress are permitted to regulate the affairs of the United States in their connections with foreign powers we shall weather the storm & bring the political Ship safe into port with the loss only of some of her runing riging—But if Town meetings, democratical societies & Baccanalian toast Drinkers take the lead in this business, & they seem to strive hard for it, a war with England is inevitable1—It is the better opinion that some of the Ad[m]iralty Courts in the West Indias have mis-construed the orders of the British Ministry—so say the English Minister [George Hammond] and Consuls—And that a compensation in many cases will be ordered—

    An Embargo on all Vessells in American ports foreign & domestic is talked of—some merchants are in favor of the measure—others oppose it—But for my part, from the present state of things, I think none will be laid—And I must observe, that ’tis impossible to say to day, what may be proper to do tomorrow—The various Letters & accounts from the West Indias, which you will see in the papers, are so contradictory that no permanent measure can be founded upon them.

    I expect that a Minister extraordinary will be sent to London—& perhaps Government will think the circumstances will justify sending two or three able mercantile characters to the West-Indias to assist the masters of Vessells there in prosecuting & conducting their claims—And to reduce their business to order, & make private interests an object of public attention—Should this take place I will give you the earliest notice—

    The losses of our merchants are prodigious—And by some pretty accurate calculations it appears there are more than thirty millions of dollars in Commerce & navigation at risque in foreign ports—great part of which, it is the opinion, of good Judges, would be inevitably lost, were we to lay an embargo on foreign Vessells in our ports—

    I am yet of opinion we shall not get into an open war, as I said before, if the matter is left to Congress—for however great our losses are—they are nothing compared to the calamities of war—And the public had better engage to indemnify every merchant & Trader his loss by captures than declare war, or suffer reprisals to be attempted—

    To keep out of the war the strictest neutrality must be observed—And I wish this could be in thought & word as well as deed—But while the Government are circumspect in all they do, there are many individuals exerting every art to stur up & inflame the people against England & the combined powers—This arises from indignation to the supposed cause of Tyrants & their attachment to that of France which they take to be the cause of Liberty—And so far I approve their affections; for no man can be a more sincere well wisher to France than myself, & hold in more indignent Abhorence the conduct of the Combined powers—but our interest consists in the strictest neutrality—And when our inability to assist France by open war is considered every one must see that a war must be more injurious to us than profitable to our friends—

    Yesterday arrived here a Vessell from Cadez which place she left on the 22d January in company with a number of American Vessells under the Convoy of a Spanish ship of War—Among the number were a Captain Stone from Portland—If he has not arrived it may afford pleasure to his friends to hear of his sailing under Convoy, & that he may be soon expected—

    Yesterday the inhabitants of this City met in the Court yard, perhaps 1500 or 2000 when they were harangued by two or three Demagogues from the Chamber winder on public measures of Trade, Commerce, War &c. And after reading to them several highly inflamatory Resolutions the respectable mob, without debate or examination, agreed to them by loud huzzas & claping of the hands2—You will soon see these Resolutions in the papers—And you will be convinced the subjects of them were such as were highly improper for a collection of men in the open are to attempt to act upon without debate or examination—

    You will make any use of this Letter, if you please, but dont let it get into the News paper—

    Yours &c

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    ALS, TFP. Addressed to Portland; franked; postmarked.