To George Peirson

    Philadelphia        31 March 1794

    Dear Dan1

    Your favour of the 15th Inst. would have ben answered by the last mail, but, for once, I must apologize by saying I had not time—

    It is not strange to hear the people are much agitated especially the merchant among you—indeed it would be strange if they were perfectly cool—And all I hope for is that nothing directly hostile be commenced by the people or Congress untill more satisfactory evidence be obtained of the views of Britain towards American—I am confident that I am not mistaken when I declare no man feels more indignation & keener resentment against the conduct of England than I do; but this resentment ought never to get an ascendency over the degree of forethought which is necessary to distinguish the probable consequences of public measures—Were we to adopt sudden vindictive steps, tho for the moment they might be applauded by the people for their spirit & resolution, an after reflection may reprobate them as being the means of certain certain war—a situation from which we cannot expect to extricate the Country till she must have suffered evils & miseries incomparably more distressing than any thing that has yet befallen many of the individual Citizens—The instant a war is declared, all trade & navigation, on our part, must be suspended, except what arises from Privateering—And direct Taxes resorted to—almost every species of country produce becomes reduced in its price, & a general change in the pursuits & occupations of men takes place—A change the inconveniences of which cannot be calculated, or imagined but by those who recollect the state of things in the year seventy five.

    I am persuaded that before this time the warmest advocates of Mr. M——s [James Madison’s] Resolutions among you are convinced the time, to say nothing of their merit & operation, is improper for their adoption—And I am equally sanguine that if they do not yet, they very soon will see, the pacific measures, & what they may have called the effect of timidity, adopted by Congress, were more proper than an open attack on the property of the nation who has committed so many out-rages upon our commerce—

    You say it is the “opinion of many that if we got into a war with Great Britain, the sooner the better”—Tho to nations in some situations the maxim, “that he who strikes first will gain the most,” is undoubtedly true—there has never been a time since a rupture between England & America has been apprehend[ed] as the least possible probable, when America could have taken a single hostile step towards that nation, but what would have produced far greater miseries than any thing we have to apprehend from forbearance & a reliance on negotiation—This is my opinion—I found it on very simple principles—We can never expect to gain property by fighting—We may defend our Liberty & our Government—but even these will be attended by an accumulation of debt equal to the expences of the war—It is a rare thing inde[e]d for a nation to get enough by fighting to pay the reckoning—Why then should we have taken hostile steps before all peaceable ones were tried, or it appeared that an attack on our Government or our Liberty was meditated—I confess it has always been my opinion that the a war may be avoided—I cherish this sentiment—And tho, as I have before observed to you, I believe England will go all lengths to suppress France altogether, or if they cannot effect that, to render her as week as possible, I am yet to be convinced England has formed any plan directly against America—I will here observe, that France does not wish us to declare war against England on her account—If she did, and there was danger of her subjugation without our more direct assistance I would not be backward in aiding her tho at the risque of bringing down the resentment of England upon us—

    How long the Embargo will continue I cannot say; but its utility was always very questionable in my mind, & from present appearances I am inclined to think it will not be continued, & if I were to lay a wager it would be that it will be taken off by Congress before the end of the thirty days—But this depends on occasional circumstances2

    A private express arrived here this morning from Boston, which place it left on Thursday, it brings an account that a packet had got in there from England as late as the tenth of January—and sais the merchants in London had waited upon H[enry]. Dundas to know if the words legal adjudication in his Instructions of the 6th of November were to be understood as condemnation—And he assured them that they did not—And But were designed to cause vessells to be brought to an examination, to see if they had any property on board contrary to the Laws of neutrality—And that in consequence of this application of the merchants New Instructions dated Jany. 8th 1794 were sent to the West-Indies—and which you will see in the News-papers—

    The Resolutions brought forward last Thursday for Sequestrating the debts & property of british subjects are postponed for the present—And I hope to God we shall hear no more of them unless it is to vote them to the devil—

    What will be the consequence of the W. Indias being taken by the English & Spanish to the Americans is uncertain; But many think that as soon as they French are conquered there an advantageous Trade will be opened with America—this is a pretty well founded opinion, provided we preserve our peace & neutrality; and that the French do not send a Fleet into those seas adequate to dispute the possessions of the Islands taken by the English—Should this be the case our trade there will be much disturbed as it will be carried on, as it were, between two fires—

    I am, my dear Sir, yours &c

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    ALS, TFP