To Nathaniel Barrell

    Philadelphia        7 April 1794

    My dear Sir—

    I verily believe you will find it a more difficult undertaking to convince me that I am “not exempted” from “wretchedness,” notwithstanding I now & then have a touch of the head-ach & some other trifling pains of body, than I shall to prove to you that you are a very happy man tho nothing is permanent in this checquered, changeable Life—The rain storm & inconveniences you felt in going to Coll. Tyngs after we parted in the high road of Pepperrellboro. last fall, did not diminish your relish for the enjoyments of the evening at his house1—The expectation of what you should enjoy on your arrival not only diminished but almost destroyed any uneasy feeling of the rain & cold you may have suffered in going thither—And when there your felicity had no alloy—for you say “no two members of Congress ever enjoyed themselves to greater satisfaction”—and add “the charming Mrs. Tynge by her accomplishments & sprightly conversation contributed to heighten the felicity of the evening”—The man who has passed fifty & can thus feel & write is a happy man—And he must go happily thro Life, because he will can never want either good old friends, or charming women—I maintain, from the experience of twenty years passed in every stage of American Society, that every a man has ten friends to one enemy—& that the number of charming women, to those who are not so, are as nineteen to one—at least—And hence I may fairly conclude, that if people are not happy it is owing to themselves in nine cases out of ten—Some in America feel small pains & little inconveniences; but none are miserable—

    You enquire why Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson resigned the office of Secretary of State? And if one can be found to supply his vacancy? Tis said the true reason of his resignation was a desire of having more leisure to pursue the study of philosophy—And to enjoy domestic life—He was an able man & tho his place is again filled, I think ’tis with a man of less abilities2

    You ask many questions about Citizen [Edmond-Charles] Genete3 but since he has been superceeded, & retired to obscurity—I am inclined to pass him over with my best wishes for his & his Countrys happiness4—He was a good republican; but much better calculated to act some part in France where all things are in motion, than in America where every thing ought to submit to the regular course of Law—His successor is a cool, sedate, sensible man—I believe he is esteemed & duly respected by all parties5

    A Law has passed for building four ships of 44 guns each, & two of thirty six guns—I am of opinion that if America wishes to be a navigating commercial nation, she must have a considerable naval force—And perhaps this is the time to lay the foundation—We have too much property afloat to be left to the chance of peace & war as one or the other may happen to be the state of the nations with whom we carry on commerce—We have the best evidence to conclude that a peace cannot be obtained at a cheeper rate with Algiers than it our Trade may be defended by our own ships—A peace would cost two million at least—besides an annual sum—of, perhaps, half a million, or more—And so long as we have no fleet we are liable to have our Trade destroyed by other nations, as it has been for three months past—by England & some other powers—If a navy has its evils, it has greater advantages6

    A war with England has been the object of fear for some time past till the last information from Europe, which was as late as the 11th of January—This information has scattered our fears, & I believe peace will continue if our Resentment does not prevail over our prudence—It is unfortunate that some intemperate motions have been brought forward in Congress—tending to precipitate America into difficulty—But the successes of France, or some other cause I trust, will prevent England prosecuting their destructive plans much further—And we shall soon get cool & sestled down in Tranquility—

    What movements the Combined powers will make the ensuing season against France I am altogether at a loss to determine—by the last accounts they appear to have had a pretty severe flagilation—And I have some doubt whether they will hardly be able to take the field again very early in the spring—

    It will not be altogether unexpected to me, if England should be inclined to withdraw her forces from the Continent, & bend her whole strength against the French by Sea—And endeavor to secure her late acquisitions in the East- & West-Indies—But I have not seen enough of the transactions in Europe since January to induce a belief that the Combined powers will propose, or even consent to a peace this Spring—That they wish for peace I have no doubt—They now see themselves in the most distressing dilemma concievable—by continuing the war they can have very little prospect of Success against France—& by a peace they foresee an almost certain Revolution in their own Kingdoms—So that whether they go on, or retreat losses & destruction stare them in the face—The Governments in Europe, with one or two exceptions, were founded in the ages of Ignorance, & have ever been administered on principles of inequality in property and a distinction of personal rights—By the light of Science & the general spread of knowledge it begins to be discovered that these principles & this odious distinction of personal Rights are hostile to human happiness—And it seems manifest the antique Buildings can no longer be supported.

    They must fall—and Kings, nobles & Priests will be crushed, like Spiders, rats & mice in the fall of old houses!7 Even England, whose Government is more rational than any other of the Royal kind, partakes so much of these principles & distinctions that her desolution appears to me to be drawing near!

    I have before observed that some intemperate motions have been introduced to Congress—Among these I estimate a motion, brought forward about ten days ago, to Sequester all british Debts & property in America—& hold them as a pledge till Britain shall make reparation for all the wrongs & depredations committed by that nation on the Citizens of America—This measure wears a plausible appearance, & I find it is advocated by great numbers of people—Yet I view it as an extreamly dangerous step to take—both on account of its connection with hostile measures, on the part of the nation upon whom it is designed to operate, and its turning out eventually to the pecuniary Interest on the part of America—There is no doubt, in my mind, but a negotiation will soon commence between the Executives of the two nations upon the Subject of the depredations committed by British Cruisers on our Commerce—And the fewer causes of dispute there are, with so much the greater facility will an adjustment take place—It is a subject of common notoriety how prodigiously the confiscation of Debts in time of War has protracted wars, and retarded negotiations for peace—And America is not now to learn, for the first time, the great importance and almost sacredness of public Credit to the prosperity of all nations but in an especial manner to Commercial ones—

    Another proposed measure to compell Britain to do us justice for injuries done our Citizens is to suspend all commercial intercourse with that nation for a limited time8—Perhaps this is less exceptionable than the other, as it does not lead to war, nor can it throw any new obsticles in the way of negotiation, since it operates as severely, if not more so, upon our own Citizens than upon the subjects of Great Britain—

    It I am sorry to find, both from the News-papers & some Letters, that attempts are daily making to render some of our Representatives, & particularly Mr. [Fisher] Ames & [Samuel] Dexter, unpopular among the people—After exercising all the charity I possess towards the authors of these calumnies, for I can call these efforts by no milder name, I must say it is my opinion they originate from a total ignorance of these Gentlemen, or something a great deal worse—For ability & integrity & real attachment to the Interest of America I think I may safely say these Gentlemen are second to no man in the United States—And I cannot help esteeming all attempts to render them unpopular as injuries to the Country—

    It is probable the interruption of our Commerce will cause a considerable deficiency in the Revenue for this year, & render it unequal to the Demands, which must be increased above the last year by preparations of defence Congress has thought fit to order—How this deficiency will be supplied I am yet unable to say—A Committee of fifteen, one from each State, is appointed to report the probable deficiency, & the ways & means for supply—They have contemplated, among others, a direct tax, a tax on Carriages, & on certain papers—But I have no idea that the former will find many advocates—unless a war should be unavoidable—

    The Embargo I think will not be continued beyond the thirty days for which term it was laid on—unless our prospects of a hostile disposition, on the part of England, should appear should appear more strongly marked than what they are since our last news from that Country.9

    For my part I have never supposed England ever wished a war with America—But in their system of operations against France they found themselves under a necessity of doing many things they knew must be injurious to America, & even against the law of nations & neutrality, but they would sooner leave these to the fate of future negotiation, presuming on the reluctance of America to declare war, than forego the exertion of their full power against France—And I have but little dout this will turn out to have been their view of what they have done, & that on an adjustment of the injuries they will make compensation for all real breaches of the Law of Nations—on our Commerce—

    I fancy, by this time, you are pretty well fateagued with the length of this Letter—But I never lay my Correspondents under the least obligation to read me through—I will now request you to make my particular Respects to Elder [Jonathan] Seyward who I hope is enjoying good health & happiness—

    And believe me to be, with compliments to the Family, your friend & humble Servant

    * * *

    ALS, Barrell Correspondence. NB’s remarks footnoted into this document are taken from an undated draft that he began to compose on the last page of GT’s ALS of 28 Jan. 1794 (No. 93, above).