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29th, 1803.



LETTER VI.(1)

1 The Aurora (Philadelphia).--_Editor._.

Religion and War is the cry of the Federalists; Morality and Peace the
voice of Republicans. The union of Morality and Peace is congenial;
but that of Religion and War is a paradox, and the solution of it is
hypocrisy.

The leaders of the Federalists have no judgment; their plans no
consistency of parts; and want of consistency is the natural consequence
of want of principle.

They exhibit to the world the curious spectacle of an _Opposition_
without a _cause_, and conduct without system. Were they, as doctors,
to prescribe medicine as they practise politics, they would poison their
patients with destructive compounds.

There are not two things more opposed to each other than War and
Religion; and yet, in the double game those leaders have to play, the
one is necessarily the theme of their politics, and the other the text
of their sermons. The week-day orator of Mars, and the Sunday preacher
of Federal Grace, play like gamblers into each other's hands, and this
they call Religion.

Though hypocrisy can counterfeit every virtue, and become the associate
of every vice, it requires a great dexterity of craft to give it the
power of deceiving. A painted sun may glisten, but it cannot warm. For
hypocrisy to personate virtue successfully it must know and feel what
virtue is, and as it cannot long do this, it cannot long deceive.
When an orator foaming for War breathes forth in another sentence a
_plaintive piety of words_, he may as well write hypocrisy on his front.

The late attempt of the Federal leaders in Congress (for they acted
without the knowledge of their constituents) to plunge the country into
War, merits not only reproach but indignation. It was madness, conceived
in ignorance and acted in wickedness. The head and the heart went
partners in the crime.

A neglect of punctuality in the performance of a treaty is made
a _cause_ of war by the _Barbary powers_, and of remonstrance and
explanation by _civilised powers_. The Mahometans of Barbary negociate
by the sword--they seize first, and ex-postulate afterwards; and the
federal leaders have been labouring to _barbarize_ the United States by
adopting the practice of the Barbary States, and this they call honour.
Let their honour and their hypocrisy go weep together, for both are
defeated. Their present Administration is too moral for hypocrites, and
too economical for public spendthrifts.

A man the least acquainted with diplomatic affairs must know that a
neglect in punctuality is not one of the legal causes of war, unless
that neglect be confirmed by a refusal to perform; and even then it
depends upon circumstances connected with it. The world would be in
continual quarrels and war, and commerce be annihilated, if Algerine
policy was the law of nations. And were America, instead of becoming an
example to the old world of good and moral government and civil manners,
or, if they like it better, of gentlemanly conduct towards other
nations, to set up the character of ruffian, that of _word and blow, and
the blow first_, and thereby give the example of pulling down the little
that civilization has gained upon barbarism, her Independence, instead
of being an honour and a blessing, would become a curse upon the world
and upon herself.

The conduct of the Barbary powers, though unjust in principle, is suited
to their prejudices, situation, and circumstances. The crusades of the
church to exterminate them fixed in their minds the unobliterated belief
that every Christian power was their mortal enemy. Their religious
prejudices, therefore, suggest the policy, which their situation and
circumstances protect them in. As a people, they are neither commercial
nor agricultural, they neither import nor export, have no property
floating on the seas, nor ships and cargoes in the ports of foreign
nations. No retaliation, therefore, can be acted upon them, and they sin
secure from punishment.

But this is not the case with the United States. If she sins as a
Barbary power, she must answer for it as a Civilized one. Her commerce
is continually passing on the seas exposed to capture, and her ships
and cargoes in foreign ports to detention and reprisal. An act of War
committed by her in the Mississippi would produce a War against the
commerce of the Atlantic States, and the latter would have to curse the
policy that provoked the former. In every point, therefore, in which the
character and interest of the United States be considered, it would
ill become her to set an example contrary to the policy and custom of
Civilized powers, and practised only by the Barbary powers, that of
striking before she expostulates.

But can any man, calling himself a Legislator, and supposed by his
constituents to know something of his duty, be so ignorant as to imagine
that seizing on New Orleans would finish the affair or even contribute
towards it? On the contrary it would have made it worse. The treaty
right of deposite at New Orleans, and the right of the navigation of the
Mississippi into the Gulph of Mexico, are distant things. New Orleans is
more than an hundred miles in the country from the mouth of the river,
and, as a place of deposite, is of no value if the mouth of the river be
shut, which either France or Spain could do, and which our possession
of New Orleans could neither prevent or remove. New Orleans in our
possession, by an act of hostility, would have become a blockaded
port, and consequently of no value to the western people as a place of
deposite. Since, therefore, an interruption had arisen to the commerce
of the western states, and until the matter could be brought to a fair
explanation, it was of less injury to have the port shut and the river
open, than to have the river shut and the port in our possession.

That New Orleans could be taken required no stretch of policy to plan,
nor spirit of enterprize to effect. It was like marching behind a man to
knock him down: and the dastardly slyness of such an attack would have
stained the fame of the United States. Where there is no danger cowards
are bold, and Captain Bobadils are to be found in the Senate as well
as on the stage. Even _Gouverneur_, on such a march, dare have shown a
leg.(1)

1 Gouverneur Morris being now leader of the belligerent
faction in Congress, Paine could not resist the temptation
to allude to a well-known incident (related in his Diary and
Letters, i., p. 14). A mob in Paris having surrounded his
fine carriage, crying "Aristocrat!" Morris showed his
wooden leg, declaring he had lost his leg in the cause of
American liberty. Morris was never in any fight, his leg
being lost by a commonplace accident while driving in
Philadelphia. Although Paine's allusion may appear in bad
taste, even with this reference, it was politeness itself
compared with the brutal abuse which Morris (not content
with imprisoning Paine in Paris) and his adherents were
heaping on the author on his return to America; also on
Monroe, whom Jefferson had returned to France to negotiate
for the purchase of Louisiana.--_Editor._,

The people of the western country to whom the Mississippi serves as
an inland sea to their commerce, must be supposed to understand the
circumstances of that commerce better than a man who is a stranger to
it; and as they have shown no approbation of the war-whoop measures of
the Federal senators, it becomes presumptive evidence they disapprove
them. This is a new mortification for those war-whoop politicians; for
the case is, that finding themselves losing ground and withering away in
the Atlantic States, they laid hold of the affair of New Orleans in the
vain hope of rooting and reinforcing themselves in the western States;
and they did this without perceiving that it was one of those ill judged
hypocritical expedients in politics, that whether it succeeded or failed
the event would be the same. Had their motion [that of Ross and Morris]
succeeded, it would have endangered the commerce of the Atlantic States
and ruined their reputation there; and on the other hand the attempt
to make a tool of the western people was so badly concealed as to
extinguish all credit with them.

But hypocrisy is a vice of sanguine constitution. It flatters and
promises itself every thing; and it has yet to learn, with respect to
moral and political reputation, it is less dangerous to offend than to
deceive.

To the measures of administration, supported by the firmness and
integrity of the majority in Congress, the United States owe, as far as
human means are concerned, the preservation of peace, and of national
honour. The confidence which the western people reposed in the
government and their representatives is rewarded with success. They are
reinstated in their rights with the least possible loss of time; and
their harmony with the people of New Orleans, so necessary to the
prosperity of the United States, which would have been broken, and the
seeds of discord sown in its place, had hostilities been preferred to
accommodation, remains unimpaired. Have the Federal ministers of the
church meditated on these matters? and laying aside, as they ought to
do, their electioneering and vindictive prayers and sermons, returned
thanks that peace is preserved, and commerce, without the stain of
blood?

In the pleasing contemplation of this state of things the mind, by
comparison, carries itself back to those days of uproar and extravagance
that marked the career of the former administration, and decides, by
the unstudied impulse of its own feelings, that something must then have
been wrong. Why was it, that America, formed for happiness, and remote
by situation and circumstances from the troubles and tumults of the
European world, became plunged into its vortex and contaminated with its
crimes? The answer is easy. Those who were then at the head of affairs
were apostates from the principles of the revolution. Raised to an
elevation they had not a right to expect, nor judgment to conduct,
they became like feathers in the air, and blown about by every puff of
passion or conceit.

Candour would find some apology for their conduct if want of judgment
was their only defect.



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