Embargoes have been heretofore in all countries laid for some good cause, but we have improved upon the wisdom of others, we lay one for no cause at all.–Let us see if it is not so.
Sometimes an embargo is laid to catch and impress the Sailors to man a fleet.–This is manifestly not our case.
Sometimes to prevent information being given to an enemy of a projected expedition.–This is also so far from being our case that we let our enemies go away to carry the news.
But America once and once only laid an embargo, (1794) to prevent our merchant vessels falling into the hands of an enemy.–This was foolish policy then, because notice to our merchants would have been sufficient, and if with this notice they chose to proceed to sea, the evil from occasional capture would be infinitely less than the certain ruin of an Embargo.
His Excellency the Governor of Massachusetts [ed.: James Sullivan, a Republican] intimates that the motive of laying the embargo, was to prevent our vessels falling into the hands of the French and English.
Taking this to be the real motive, of which I suppose his Excellency has private advice, I say the measure is an absurd one, on the face of it.
For, 1stly. Every merchant knows, and every Farmer may know if he will enquire, that France cannot take more than 2 or 3 ships in one hundred.–We could therefore have carried on in spite of Bonaparte, one half of all our Trade, (say 50 millions a year).–This part too was the most important, because it would embrace chiefly our own produce.
2dly. It is yet uncertain, notwithstanding his Excellency’s authority, whether Great Britain will take our ships bound to France. None have yet been taken–and should her decree of blockade pass, it will certainly provide some remedy for vessels which sailed before notice of it–So far the most willful advocates for a British war will confide in her justice.–She will not condemn as France does, the unwary, involuntary offender!
The Embargo then is premature! France only threatens as yet to take our ships, and she cannot take them.