Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from William Short, 7 February 1791

From William Short1

Amsterdam. Feb. 7. 1791.


I had the honor of writing to you on the 25th. of last month by the English packet. This, inclosed to the Secretary of State, will be sent also by the way of England. I mentioned in my last what I repeat here for greater certainty. “1093.   450.   264.   1405.   224.   264.   1405.   319.   1065.   224.   239.   1210.   1340.   426.   1336.   839.   1590.   224.   531.   1388.   224.   708.   227.   527.   224.   564.   566.   1340.   426.   1336.   1568.   948.   540.   422.   1648.   1416.   1233.   1336.   1236.   607.   224.   64.   1683.   508.   1330.   1208.   1460.   137.”   —1413.   365.   294.   1000.   527.   1416.   1340.   176.   426.   1681.   1416.   1215.   763.   783.   224.   508.   1330.   1208.   1460.   224.   1357.   224.   1195.   1638.   1233.   115 1093.   168.   977.   1208.   105.   947.   1286.2

I have lately recieved a letter from M. de Montmorin3 in which he informs me that at the request of Messrs. Schweizer &c.4 he had given instructions to M. Otto5 respecting that business, with which I have already made you acquainted.6 He sends me a copy of these instructions which I don’t doubt M. Otto will have already communicated. You will see by them the dispositions of the French ministry on this subject with which you will be perfectly satisfied, as every thing is rendered entirely subservient to the views of the President. I suppose it certain that the minister has no idea the plan proposed by Messrs. Schweizer &c. will be entered into.

I beg leave to refer you to my letter of this day to the Secretary of State7 for information respecting the change of duties on American oils imported into France. Opinions were much divided but a majority were for increasing to an excessive degree these duties, so far as related to American oils, & prohibiting entirely those of other countries. The Nantucket fishermen settled in France may be considered as the principal cause of this measure—others conspired also to effect it. I have no doubt however that as soon as the French shall have organised their government they will correct many errors into which the parties that now rage in the assembly, force them. Each decree may be considered as a resolution carried by storm in which of course there is much chance work. Until they change this manner of proceeding no regulations that they adopt with respect to themselves or others can be considered as permanent. The article of tobacco is now under their discussion. The opinions are divided between admitting it to be cultivated freely in France & imported subject to a duty & prohibiting the culture & confining its importation to a monopoly. It is impossible to conjecture which will predominate. Appearances vary daily with respect to it.

I have &ca

The Honble Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury.

ALS, letterpress copy, William Short Papers, Library of Congress; ALS, letterpress copy, William Short Papers, Library of Congress.

1Short had accompanied Thomas Jefferson to Paris in 1784 as his secretary and later served as secretary of legation. In 1789 he was appointed chargé d’affaires at Paris.

2In the second letterpress copy, William Short Papers, Library of Congress, this section is decoded as follows:

“In general terms the terms on which the loan is to be made are the same with the last except that the commission is to be ½ p. cent lower. It will be opened the middle or latter part of Febry. At present I may add that it is agreed to bring it into public the latter part of the month—the interest will begin for no part before March. 1.”

4The Paris banking firm of Jean Gaspar Schweizer and François Jeanneret. See Short to H, December 18, 30, 1790, and January 15, 1791.

5Louis G. Otto, French chargé d’affaires at Philadelphia. See enclosure.

7On February 7, 1791, Short wrote to Thomas Jefferson:

“They have at length fixed the duties on the importation of several foreign articles—instead of adopting the report of the committee in the mass as there was reason to expect, they discussed the articles separately. The committees of commerce & imposition adhered to their idea of subjecting the American oils to a moderate duty, in consequence of their second opinion, of which I have formerly given you an account—finding that it would be opposed in the assembly they agreed to augment it in hopes of succeeding by that means—the opposition however still continued. It was finally decided to exclude all foreign oils except the American & to subject them to a duty of twelve livres the quintal. This may be considered as a prohibitive duty, but the partisans of the plan knowing that a majority of the assembly would be against the exclusion of the American oils made use of this strategem. There are many who wish to make an experiment to see whether the national fishery can be made adequate to the national consumption & others who wish to make us purchase by a general commercial treaty a market for this particular article.” (ALS, William Short Papers, Library of Congress.)

The following decree concerning oil was adopted on January 24, 1791:

“Les huiles de poissons étrangères, venant de tout autre pays que des Etats-Unis d’Amérique continueront d’être prohibées.

“A l’exception de celles qui entreront par les bureaux établis sur la Meuse, et de là jusqu’au Rhin, qui y seront admises en payant un droit de 12 livres du quintal.

“Les huiles venant des Etats-Unis d’Amérique, et importées par bâtiments français ou américains, payeront le même droit de 12 livres par quintal.” (Archives Parlementaires description begins Archives Parlementaires de 1787 à 1860 (Paris, 1868– ). description ends , XXII, 475.)

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