To Thomas Jefferson July 8, 1808

To Thomas Jefferson July 8, 1808


On the 21st of January I presented a Memorial to Congress and after waiting a considerable time and hearing nothing of it, I wrote to George Clinton junior who presented the Memorial to Congress desiring some information of it. In his answers of March 19 he says, "I am desired by Mr. Holmes chairman of the Committee of Claims to inform you that the business of the Memorial is progressing and that as soon as they received certain information from the President and Vice President a report would be made." (1) No report however has been made, and I write this letter to request you to inform Mr. Holmes or the Committee of Claims have made any application to you on this subject.

I now pass on from this disagreeable affair to what I like much better-Public Affairs. The British ministry have outschemed themselves. It is not difficult to see what the motive and object of that Ministry were in issuing the Orders of Council. They expected those orders would giving permission to such cargoes as they did not want for themselves to depart for the Continent Europe to raise a revenue out of those countries and America. But instead of this they have lost the revenue they used to receive from American imports, and instead of gaining all the commerce they have lost it all.

This being the case with the British Ministry it is natural to suppose they would be glad to tread back their steps, if they could do it without too much exposing their ignorance and obstinacy. The Embargo law empowers the President to suspend its operation whenever he shall be satisfied that our ships can pass in safety. It therefore includes the idea of empowering him to use means for arriving at that event. Suppose the President were to authorize Mr. Pinckney to propose to the British Ministry that the United States would negotiate with France for rescinding the Milan Decree, on condition the English Ministry would rescind their Orders of Council; and in that case the United States would recall their Embargo. France and England stand now at such a distance that neither can propose anything to the other, neither are there any neutral powers to act as mediators. The United States is the only power that can act.

Perhaps the British Ministry if they listen to the proposal will want to add to it the Berlin decree, which excludes English commerce from the continent of Europe; but this we have nothing to do with, neither has it anything to do with the Embargo. The British Orders of Council and the Milan decree are parallel cases, and the cause of the Embargo.

Yours in friendship,


  1. The Committee of Claims submitted its report on Paine's memorial on February 1, 1809. It rejected Paine's request for compensation on the grounds that his memorial had been "unaccompanied with any evidence in support of the statement of facts"; that the Journals of Congress revealed no evidence that Paine "was in any manner connected with the mission of Colonel Laurens," and that while Paine did accompany Colonel Laurens on his mission, it did "not appear that he was employed by the Government, or even solicited by any officer thereof to aid in the accomplishment of the mission with which Colonel Laurens was intrusted, or that he took any part whatever, after his arrival in France, in forwarding the negotiation." The Committee, however, added: "That Mr. Paine rendered great and eminent services to the United States, during their struggle for liberty and independence, cannot be doubted by any person acquainted with his labors in the cause, and attached to the principles of the contest. Whether he has been generously requited by his country for his meritorious exertions, is a question not submitted to your Committee, or within their province to decide." Annals of Congress, 10th Congress, Second Session, 1808-1809, pp. 1780-1781.-Editor.