Dec. 18th 1807
Reflecting on the proposed embargo and all its bearings, I think it essential that foreign vessels may be excepted so far at least as to be permitted to depart in ballast or with such cargoes as they may have on board at this moment. They are so few as to be no object to us; and we may thereby prevent a similar detention of our vessels abroad or at least a pretence for it. Such a seizure of our property & seamen in foreign ports would be far greater than any possible loss at sea for six months to come. I wish to know the name of the member to whom Mr Rodney sent the sketch of a resolution, in order to mention the subject to him & also, if you approve, that you would suggest it to such as you may see. I also think that an embargo, for a limited time will at this moment be preferable in itself & less objectionable in Congress. In every point of view, privations, sufferings, revenue, effect on the enemy, politics at home &c., I prefer war to a permanent embargo. Governmental prohibitions do always more mischief than had been calculated; and it is not without much hesitation that a statesman should hazard to regulate the concerns of individuals as if he could do it better than themselves. The measure being of a doubtful policy & hastily adopted on the first view of our foreign intelligence, I think that we had better recommend it with modifications & at first for such a limited time as will afford us all time for re-consideration &, if we think proper, for an alteration in your course without appearing to retract. As to the hope that it may have an effect on the negotiations with Mr Rose, or induce England to treat us better, I think it entirely groundless.
Respectfully Your obedt. Sevt.
DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.