To George Peirson

    Philadelphia        19 April 1794

    My dear Sir —

    Your favor of the 5th. instant came to hand two days ago—And I must acknowledge I find myself very much at a loss how to answer it—

    (Yesterday the Resolution for laying an embargo was continued till the Twenty fifth of May—but within a very few days before I was led to believe it would expire at the end of the 30 days, for which it was first laid; and this was the general belief—The continuation may be attributed to two circumstances—first—The uncertainty as to the operation of the explanatory orders of the eighth of January in some of the West-India Islands—) while in others they had a good effect—& (secondly, there being no arrivals from London this Spring, tho the usual time of their geting in has passed, we have no information from them later than the eleventh of January, & consequently are in the dark as to what may be the movements there towards America—Hence it may be more safe to continue the embargo, than let it expire; because if we should soon get intelligence from London that their disposition is not for war—& hear from the West Indies that the Laws of nations & the rights of neutrality are duly respected, it can be taken off in a moment—

    A Gentleman [Nathaniel C. Higginson] has gone to the West Indies by Authority from the President, to demand appeals in the Courts of Admiralty on all the condemnations of our Vessells—to collect evidence of the precise circumstances respecting their captures—And to aid such masters or Supercargoes as may be there in making their defence—

    In reply to another part of your Letter I observe Congress is divided on the subject of the most proper Steps to be taken at this time towards Great Britain—One party in the House, & considerably the most numerous are of opinion, that we ought forthwith to declare to her that unless she complies with our demands of reparation for injuries sustained, & immediately execute the Treaty of eighty three—& all before a given day—All commercial intercourse with the Subjects of that nation in the Articles of Growth & manufacture of Ireland & Great Britain shall be prohibeted—) The other party, which, tho rather increasing, is a minority—look upon this line of Conduct as risqueing the existing of Trade with England on too precarious a footing—It carries with it, in their opinion, such a tone of threatening, as we should not like to recieve from a nation far inferior to ourselves in power & wealth, and will probably induce them to make difficulties in the negotiation, that might be avoided by mildness strengthened with a steady firmness—Such as sending a special minister to London to lay before that Court the injuries we have suffered of all kinds, as well those that grow out of the non-execution of the Treaty as those of a later date committed upon our commerce—and according to the Laws & usages of nations, demand satisfaction therefor—As yet we have no reason to think that England will refuse doing us justice—and till this is the case why should we take any measures tending to irretate? (A majority in our house declare much against our Trade with England, and say ’tis a destructive trade—& the sooner it is diverted into other channells the better for the Country—) But I believe this is a mistake both in fact and principle—I am inclined to view our Trade with England as profitable—Yet if it is otherwise—if it is an injurious commerce either on account of the commodities we bring from thence, or the terms on which it is carried on, I doubt very much whether we shall be gainers in either of these respects by turning it into new channels—even if it were possible—

    However, this is a question of some nicety; to be able to form an accurate judgment, a great variety of connections & circumstances must be taken into consideration—And after all, people may be equally honest & patriotic, & yet differ materially in their opinion—(I lay great stress upon a few very general & acknowledged principles—that the blessings of peace to those of ware are more than millions to one—That if we err, tis better it should be in pursuing the system of peace a little too long, than depart from it a day too soon—Because our situation is such that we cannot loose too much by the first, tho we may risque millions by the last error—

    I am not able yet to determine what effect the continuation of the embargo will have on the prices of things here1—but heretofore they were lowered very little by it—This was because merchants in general presumed it would not extend beyond the thirty days, & they cold keep their produce, for that time, without much loss—I suspect it will now be otherwise—Unless immediate information from abroad shall make it probable, it will be taken off before the 25th. may—

    I cannot say much about the war in Europe—because—our information of facts from thence is not late enough to warrant an opinion2—) And I have not time—(It seems it will be carried on with great vigor on both sides—unless there shall be formed a new party—either of the neutral powers, or by a falling off of some of the combined Kingdoms—By late letters from Spain, it seems, she is most heartily weary of the business—& would get out of the combination if she could, but she is so connected with England—that she dare not—lest she should give offence—It seems she is as much in fear of her maritime power, as she is of the land forces of France3

    I am, my dear Sir, yours &c

    * * *

    ALS, TFP. Interlinear clarification of some expressions and the insertion of parentheses in TBW’s hand may indicate excerpts prepared either for later publication in EH (although no such printing has been located) or abridged transcriptions intended for private circulation.