To Nathaniel Barrell

    Philadelphia        29 May 1794

    My dear Sir—

    Till the last week we thought the leading strings to a war with Britain were broke, when new alarms sprung up in the Wilderness of the West, and information was brought that Simcoe, Governor of Upper Canady, was marching with three companies to take possession of the rapids of the Miami of the Lake, & Presqu-isle,1 where the Governor of this State, in execution of a Law of the State of Pennsylvania, had sent a small detachment of men to lay out a Township & erect some military works necessary to defend the same against the Indians—

    Immediately upon this information the Governor, without consulting the President, orders one thousand of the militia to support those who had undertaken to lay out the Township; And the Secretary of State, by direction of the President writes to Mr. Hammond reminding him of the unvaried endeavours of the Government of the United States to preserve the strictest neutrality, and of the various aggressions of his Government upon our neutral rights, of the inflaming speech of Lord Dorchester to his children the Indians, as well as of the late movements of Simcoe, & demanded of him an explanation of the motives of Dorchesters address to the Indians & of the Reasons of Simcoe’s movements with an armed force into the Territory of the United States—The Secretarys Letter is wrote with the genuine Spirit & decision of General Washington—To this a smart answer was returned by Mr. Hammond—both manifesting a ripeness for blows—And all circumstances in that quarter seemed to indicate immediate war2—But within a day or two the President, in pursuance of his determination to do every thing in his power to avoid giving any just cause of offence, & to keep every thing in the State they were when Mr. [John] Jay left America to the Court of London, requested the Governor of this State to countermand the march of the thousand militia towards the Lakes; which tis said the Governor has complied with—And now all things seem to be quiet, & we again promise ourselves a continuance of peace3—It may be better to suffer the English to take possession of a new post on the Lakes, for a short time, than by opposing them by warlike force frustrate a happy negotiation of all causes of dispute between the two nations—

    If Mr. [John] Jay is unsuccessfull in his mission, I confess I see no alternative but war—Of all modes to settle the national or private disputes that of war is the most imprudent & abhorrent to all the social feelings—And excepting those of national Liberty & personal existence, all other causes of war are unjust, & may be adjusted with less expence of money as well as of blood by some other mode—

    We have no news from Europe but what you will see in the papers—There seems to be a dispute in England & Flanders whether the King of Prussia has withdrawn himself from the combination against France—And I confess, its being a matter of doubt and dispute there makes it an affair of high probability in my mind—If it was not true I should hardly think the king would be so imprudent as to let his conduct give colour to such reports & for so long a time as these have been in circulation without his explicit declaration to the contrary—

    I continue as much as ever attached to the french Revolution—where, when, or how it will terminate as to that nation in particular I will not now give an opinion very minutely—I have not time to be minute in detailing these my ideas on these points—To take up the Revolution at the time the King called together the States General in the year eighty nine, & note the claims of the different classes of nobles, Clergy, & commons—And investigate the principles that have operated in subverting one of the greatest & most powerfull monarchies in Europe—at the same time to observe the sudden change of some of the strongest prejudices the human mind is capable of being cloathed with—This must be the Labor of years—The task of the enlightened Historian—The result of experience, observation, and Science—This work, if executed by an able impartial Frenchman, will prove a compleat development of all the passions, affections, winding & operations of the human heart—And become the source of political & moral science as far as these are concerned in explaining & modifying future Governments4

    We hope to adjourn on tuesday next—that day is agreed upon by a vote of both houses—& I trust we shall get through all necessary business—


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    ALS, Barrell Correspondence