To William Short June 24 & 25, 1790

To William Short June 24 & 25, 1790

Matters remain here as in my last with respect to Peace and War. The Press-Gangs are not so busy as they were 206 but that perhaps is either owing to policy, to allure the seamen to appear more publicly, or on account of the elections for the new Parliament.

The Ministry have got rid of the old Parliament at a very convenient time, for the Government being now entirely executive, it has the cover of five or six weeks' Secrecy to carry on its Plans unquestioned. Nothing appears here to justify even an opinion of the destination of the fleet. It probably has none and is waiting circumstances. The utmost force now ready for Sea is 20 Ships of the Line. From appearances it is but ill-provided with Seamen, for the press-gangs have taken whatever they could pick up and a very great part are country landsmen who never saw the Sea. It is clear to me that the English ministry calculated on the inability and neutrality of France and not finding this likely to be the Case, their plans, if they had any, are deranged. They talk here of a Dutch fleet of 12 Sail of the line coming to join the Fleet at Spithead, but everything is so over-done, and over-said that nothing can be believed.

As the Treaty between France and Holland is still in Existence, notwithstanding the Treaty with England, and acknowledged so by the Dutch, who since the latter Treaty, have in their official communications with France addressed France as their ally, it would I should think be a good maneuver in France to demand of Holland the stipulated succors in case of a war as England has done. The Dutch from the Nature of its Trade want Neutrality and of consequence they want a Pretence for it. This would afford it, as in any case it would enable France to judge of the designs of Holland. From circumstances there appear cause to suspect a good deal of intrigue and management with respect to the Dutch Fleet. The House of Hope had loaned a sum of money to Russia, and to account for its being taken, is only to suppose that this was contrived between the loaners and the King of Sweden who should engage to repay it in case Russia did not. This contrivance would answer three purposes: first to disappoint Russia, secondly to assist Sweden, and thirdly to make the contrived capture a pretence for fitting out a fleet without attracting the Notice of France. The two first of these circumstance[s] is generally credited here and I have added the last as a probable inference.

I began this letter yesterday, Thursday. Friday afternoon-Two of the Morning Papers of today says that the Dutch fleet is arrived at Spithead, another (the Herald) says it is sailed toward the Baltic and is not to act in conjunction with the British fleet. There is no country in the world that equals this for intentional Lying.

The press-gangs are at work again and the preparations for war are not slackened. The thing that will be the most likely to prevent a War will be a spirited interference on the part of France. She is now the umpire, but to act with effect she must be well prepared and resolute. Doing things by halves will answer no purpose but that of increasing her expences in the end.

In my former I mentioned the Channel, and every thing I hear and see convinces me that this is the only place to operate with effect. There is no instance I believe to be found in which the English fully risk an action at Sea but when they have the superiority of Ships. In every case of inferiority or equality they either avoid an action or fight shy. They make it a rule to wait the chances of the Seas and to attack only when they have a decided advantage. By the combined fleet acting in a body and not in detachments, these chances are prevented.

The Pigou in 23 days is arrived from Philadelphia in the Channel but I hear of no letters from her yet.

I have just seen a concise account of the deputation from the foreigners to the National Assembly, of pulling down the odious figures at the Place de Victoire and the suppression or extinction of Nicknames (titles). All those things are right. The latter is in my opinion raising Man to his proper rank for nick names serve to diminish him.

I have a very longing desire to see the 14th of July in Paris. If I should come for a short time can you contrive to give me House room.

Yours very affectionately

[THOMAS PAINE.]