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Letter from Whitmel Hill to the United States House of Representatives
Hill, Whitmel, 1743-1797
Volume 19, Pages 894-897


House of Representatives of the United States.

Gentlemen:

Happy for this Country, that it is not yet deemed treason for the Citizens to discuss freely and without reserve, the measures of their Representatives whose office it is to exert their best abilities to render their Constituents happy, so far as the Constitution enables them so to do—in the exercise of this great trust wisdom is always to be their Guide, stript of self-interest and private Resentment.

Stating the above as the policy of this Country, I take the liberty of offering my sentiments to their Consideration in this critical and perilous moment; and before I proceed shall remark, that notwithstanding the Representatives for the time Being are the choice of the People, it is by no means from thence to be concluded that the best possible choice has been made, but that there remains unobserved in the great Theatre of Business many of equal, I will not say superior, talents for the Discharge of this great trust, who watchfully observe the Errors that so numerous an Assembly rush into, altho’ their principal Views may be for the public Good;

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doubtless our present critical situation requires that the Goddess Minerva should be more sordid than the blustering thunder of Mars.

Let us take a retrospect of the wretched condition of these States, so lately as the late War; do we wish to tread the same ground over again, or do we vainly suppose that we are better prepared to receive the formidable force of Britain at this time, than we were at that period? Your reply will no doubt be in the affirmative: which I modestly conceive to be a mistake, for the reasons following:

First, We had for our aid the great essential for war, (viz.) a paper medium, which altho’ daily depreciating, yet met a ready circulation in the purchase of every necessary for the War; Circumstances have turned up that Annihilate this old Friend, whence Recourse must be had to specie only, from what Quarter this is to be produced I leave to your superior wisdom:—taking it for granted that no nation ever yet sustained a Tax so justly equal to the Expenditure of a War. Foreign Loans will not be within your Reach, as your Doctrine of Sequestration of the Debts & Property of such Nations with whom you may be engaged in War, will prevent every prudent People of the Habitable World from crediting the Public or Individuals of this Country.

In the late War a kind of Loan was, by Violence, wrested from the People, that is by seizing their Property and furnishing the Lender with a Certificate nominally of equal value; do you suppose the same game can be played over again? Certainly you have more Sense than to expect that the Citizens of the United States retain so much of that milky Softness, as will lead them to submit to the renewal of the oppressions of that Day. The People on the contrary, see with Indignation the mode of Redemption adopted by your wise Councils, by which the Speculator into the Pride of Nobility, at the Expence of the Original Lender, who in addition to his first loss, is now paying his Quota of the Debt accumulated into the Hands of the Public Pluderers; on this odious subject there is room to say a great deal; the above Hint is sufficient to bring you to think seriously of the Ways and Means you have to support the Expence of the War.

I must not omit remarking that in the late war we had for an Ally the most powerful Nation of Europe, who interest it was to persevere with us till the Union between this Country and Britain

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was totally dissolved; by their special aid this great object was with great Difficulty obtained; why then dare we risque the Contest over again, relying on our own Exertions only. Are you so void of thought as to expect that France will again waste her blood & Treasure to fight the Battles of a People who have never requited the obligation in one single instance; is her Trade more cherished in this Country than that of Britain; or have we discovered in their present glorious Contest a Disposition to do justice by paying them for the Supplies furnished us at a moment when our all depended on them. I say has not this contrary principle been pursued by us in the Reply of the Secretary of the Treasury, when applied to by Mr. Garets (?) when he said that we could not at this time pay them what we owed, lest Britain should construe it into an Aid. The same Principle discovered itself, in Mr. Knox’s Reply to the same Officer, on his application for some aid in Arms, when he said in a surly tone that we could not lend them a pistol. I am no admirer of Mr. Garets Conduct generally, but this part of his Publication gave me pain, as I think it did to every one who respected justice & a horrid Ingratitude—and what do you expect the great and illustrious people of France will say, on seeing this account from their minister. Their particular situation will no doubt stifle their resentment for the Moment; but when the Day of Peace will be restored & their struggles crowned with the Prosperity due them, they will have leisure to contemplate, among other great objects, the distant behaviour of the Americans in their Day of Trial; if we had laid up in our minds to go to the War we ought not to have hesitated the Declaration on the first hostile act of the British, when perhaps our aid thrown into the scale with France, & the murmurings of the English Manufacturers who won their daily bread from our Commerce, would have drawn off England from her Don Quixote War of King-making, but on the contrary the great Timidity of the Americans, easily discovered by Mr. Hammond in his Communications with the Executive, has encouraged England to trample on the laws of Nations by the seizure of our ships engaged in a lawful Commerce. What is now left for us but to go to War? I say by no means. We have every reason to expect that very shortly a great Peace will take place in Europe, the Successes of the French render it absolutely necessary for the combined power. Should that
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event take place we should be left alone to consider, (torn out) unless we are not so vain as to expect that France, already desolated by War, wont wish to assist us, when they could not obtain more by it than the spilling their Blood. I therefore conclude that if we engage in War the whole business would be left to us, destitute of Allies, destitute of France and destitute of the ability of procuring supplies from our Citizens, except so far as the pitiful sum raised by direct Taxation will supply your Treasury.

WHITMILL HILL.