To John Hobby

    Philadelphia        28-29 March 1794

    My dear Sir,

    Yesterday I recieved yours of the 15th instant, which acknowledge the receipt of mine dated 21st. ultimo—It is probable before this time you have recieved others containing some important information—And among other things, that the late examined Invalids are to come again before Congress, when I am of opinion provision will be made for the payment of the pensions allowed them by the Judges1—This subject has hitherto been keept off by business of immediate necessity to the defence of the Country—

    Before this reaches you orders for an embargo will be among you—Two or three days after the Resolution for an Embargo was negatived of which I gave you some account in my last, Letters were laid before the House by the President from some Consuls in the West-Indies which, added to the general voice of the merchants here, at Baltimore & some other sea ports, induced the Congress to pass the Resolution two days ago authorising the President to lay an Embargo for thirty days2—And this morning he gave notice to the House of his having taken due steps to carry the Resolution into execution3—I wish this may have a good effect, but I fear it will not—It is an innocent step, if it be not followed by others of a more hostile appearance—The resentment that seems to have seized all minds against Great Britain for her vile conduct towards us, has got into Congress; & I fear will have a tendency to bring on measures directly hostile—

    That America has just cause of war, according to the Law of nature & nations, against Great Britain is not disputed—But our circumstances are such as to make it certain we cannot enter into a war but with every disadvantage of that state, & a prospect of infinite Loss on our part—Tho our sufferings are great, I yet look upon them as trifles compared to the miseries of actual war—

    To my surprise, I find people calling upon Congress for a declaration of war—I read in a Boston News-paper pieces recommending a confiscation of British debts, & seizure of all property belonging to subjects of that nation! However agreeable this may be to our passions, while inflamed with a sense of the injury done us, ’tis a step that cannot be tread back—’tis meeting, on our part, the aggressions made on us by the other, & war must inevitably follow! But from this fatal step may Heaven turn our feet—for we are at this moment debating the dreadfull question, on a motion made yesterday, for a Law of Sequestration of all British debts & property of British Subjects to be holden as a pledge for the repayment of all the injuries done on the Citizens of the United States4

    I believe Great Britain will make reparation for all the captures of property belonging to our Citizens contrary to the Law of nations—But if that nation finally refuses this piece of national Justice, Congress ought to do it—And the United States had better pay to her citizens ten times so much as they have yet suffered than attempt to get a compensation by entering into a War—For admiting the Losses of our Citizens now to amount to several millions—And some make it higher, is it possible for America to regain this sum & save the expence of the war? Surely no—But by a war this becomes an irretrievable Loss, to which must be added the expence of the war itself—

    I continue in opinion that Britain does not wish to make war directly upon America, & that her instructions are not designed to contravene the Laws of nations & neutrality towards us; tho her privateers & armed Vessells have done this in many of their captures, & her Judges in their Decrees—These injuries, I doubt not, will soon become a subject of negotiation between the Executives of the two nations—Hence it becomes necessary that the most accurate & minute account of captures & depredations should be procured by the owners, with an estimate of the value of Vessells & cargoes, and forwarded to the Secretary of State5—That they may be ready for adjustment when such negotiation shall take place—For this purpose committees have been chosen by the merchants in Philadelphia, New-York, & Baltimore—& I believe in Boston also, but am not certain—

    None has been chosen at Portland by the merchants there—that I have heard of—probably because, till this winter no losses fell to the Citizens of that place—By a Letter from Mr. [Daniel] George I learn that Major [Daniel] Ilsley has had a Brig & cargo taken & carried into Antigua—with two or three others from Portland—but he dont write whether they had been condemned. If they are condemned I think their owners had better procure the best evidence they can of their being within the Laws of neutrality, & forward it to the Secretary of State.

    Before I close this Letter I will endeavour to obtain more particular information on the mode it may be expedient for the owners to pursue in the above business—

    Your Letter, & two others from Portland of the same date make mention of a British ship being sent to cruise in Boston Bay to take our Vessells bound to the French West-Indies6—But I dont see any account of it in the Boston papers, or in Letters from that place, hence I conclude tis a mistake—

    Saturday morning 29th March—I omitted closing this Letter last night because it was reported there were a number of arrivals in the river below among which was one from London, & I wished, if they brought any news, to communicate it—But I have heard nothing further as yet—Our latest accounts from England come down to the eighth of January—These give information of the French successes on the Rhine to a general Battle fought between the french & combined powers, posterior to the 26th of December, wherein the latter were totally defeated7

    The Instructions of H. Dundas dated January the eighth, repealing those of the 6th. of November, raises our Spirits to hope for a continuance of peace8

    And I must confess tis my opinion that if we do nothing hostile, on our part, to meet what Britain has done on their part, peace will continue between the two nations; and the aggressions, insults & injuries we have sustained will pass off by negotiation, which, it appears to me, must be the ardent wish of all all classes of Citizens—Of all calamities war is the greatest—Republics ought to fight for nothing but their Liberty & existance—And these are not endangered so far as to call for open war—preparation for the worst, & intermediate negotiation may yet save the lives of hundreds & the expence of millions—

    Lord Dorchesters speech to his Children, as he calls the Indians, you will see in the paper. Some have strongly doubted its authenticity—But I believe it genuine—It needs no comment9

    This & Dundas’s Instructions of the sixth of November taken together serve as a pretty sure index to the disposition of the Court of London, & shew to what lengths they would extend their viliny, rather than fail of accomplishing their purposes towards France—but their rage is staid, & their angar will glorify the Lord—

    It is probable the french Islands in the W. Indias have by this time been captured by the British & Spanish—And tis the opinion of merchants that this will afford a safe & advantageous Trade to the United States; but this depends on the french not attempting to repossess themselves of them—for should they do this, & send a fleet there for that purpose, our Trade must be in danger from both parties—so that but little can be calculated on this Subject at present—

    My observations are made suddenly on facts of the moment, I therefore cannot vouch for the truth of the latter, or the justness of the former—

    The facts may not be true—they may be connected with others I am unacquainted with & so my reflections unjust—I shall write you by next mail, when I hope to have to communicate accounts on public affairs more decicive & pleasing—

    Yours &c

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    ALS, TFP