Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Tench Coxe, [3 January 1794]

From Tench Coxe

[Philadelphia, January 3, 1794]


I have the honor to inform you that there is a tariff or table of duties, free articles &ca. established by the Government of France1 which must throw great light upon your enquiries of the 1st. instant. This document must doubtless be in the Secretary of States office and could be furnished for the necessary time by Mr. Randolph. Mr de la forest2 shewed me a copy of it but he has since departed from the U. S.

Tobacco has been excluded from the farmers general’s monopoly,3 which object was much pressed by the Marquis de la Fayette, and by the most intelligent Merchants & planters of the U. S. It was some time ago placed under an extra duty of 6livre tournois. 15s. per 100 lb. french weight,4 which however was preceeded by a greater tonnage here on french ships in the same trades, than on our own, and by 10 per Ct. more duty on goods in french ships than in our own.5 This duty of 6livre tournois. 15s. however has been since reduced, considerably and I believe it now stands at 2livre tournois. 10s. per 100 lb, french, equal to about a Louis d’or per hhd.6 This, if it were in Specie, would be a very serious matter, & so it was probably intended but we are considerably favored by the deprecition, this a circumstance hardly contemplated by the french Legislature.

I understand that the state of duties, prohibition, &ca. in the late report of Mr. Jefferson7 were exhibited in Notes to the different foreign Ministers8—tho I do not know how far the statement was confirmed by them, but this I presume could be ascertained in your next conference with Mr. Randolph.

I shall pursue the enquiry directed by you but as I have heretofore obtained much of my information from three public & private french gentlemen now dead or absent, and as I do not know the present consul of France9 I have not yet been able to satisfy my mind. In the mean time I thought the above information might be useful.

I have the honor to be, sir   Yr. Most obedt. Servant

Tench Coxe

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1On March 2, 1791, the French National Assembly passed the Tarif des Droits d’Entrée (Archives Parlementaires description begins Archives Parlementaires de 1787 à 1860 (Paris, 1868– ). description ends , XXIII, 618–19).

2Antoine René Charles Mathurin de La Forest was appointed French consul general for the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware on March 2, 1792, and was recalled on May 18, 1793.

3The Farmers-General monopoly on salt and tobacco was abolished on March 5–8, 1791 (Archives Parlementaires description begins Archives Parlementaires de 1787 à 1860 (Paris, 1868– ). description ends , XXIII, 671–72, 736).

4A decree of March 1, 1791, established a difference in tariff of six livres tournois five sous (or six and one-quarter livres tournois) per quintal between tobacco arriving in France in French ships and that arriving in American ships (Archives Parlementaires description begins Archives Parlementaires de 1787 à 1860 (Paris, 1868– ). description ends , XXIII, 595).

5Section 2 of “An Act making further provision for the payment of the debts of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 180–82. [August 10, 1790]) provided “That an addition of ten per centum shall be made to the several rates of duties above specified and imposed, in respect to all goods, wares and merchandise, which, after the said last day of December next, shall be imported in ships or vessels not of the United States, except in the cases in which an additional duty is herein before specially laid on any goods, wares, or merchandises, which shall be imported in such ships or vessels.”

6A decree of September 5, 1792, reads as follows: “A compter du ler octobre prochain, l’importation de toutes espèces de tabacs en feuilles est permise, en payant 10 livres du quintal pour les tabacs qui sont assujettis au droit de 18 livres, 15 sols; 12 livres, 10 sols pour ceux qui payent 25 livres et 15 livres pour tous les autres, excepté ceux en cigares qui payeront 25 livres.

“Les droits de 10 livres et de 12 livres seront perçus tant sur les tabacs qui seront importés, à compter de ladite époque, que sur ceux qui seront alors en entrepôt. Les tabacs du Levant seront admis en balles, ceux d’amersfort et autre de Hollande en paniers, et ceux des colonies en paquets.” (Archives Parlementaires description begins Archives Parlementaires de 1787 à 1860 (Paris, 1868– ). description ends , XLIX, 358.)

7Coxe is referring to Thomas Jefferson’s report on “The Privileges and Restrictions on the Commerce of the United States …,” which had been presented to the House of Representatives on December 16, 1793 (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 300–04).

8Jefferson’s circular letter to the foreign ministers is dated February 13, 1793 (LS, letterpress copies, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). George Hammond, the British Minister to the United States, replied on February 15, 1793 (ALS, Notes from the British Legation in the United States to the Department of State, Vol. 1, October 26, 1791–August 15, 1794, National Archives); Jean Baptiste de Ternant, the French Minister to the United States, replied on February 16, 1793 (D, in the handwriting of Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress); Josef de Viar and Josef de Jaudenes, the Spanish commissioners in the United States, replied on February 15, 1793 (Jefferson to Viar and Jaudenes, February 17, 1793 [ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress]); Franco Petrus Van Berkel, the Minister to the United States from the Netherlands, replied on February 22, 1793 (AL, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).

9One of the two public men was François Dupont, who had been French consul at Philadelphia from May 25, 1793, until he died of yellow fever in September, 1793. The absent public representative of France was undoubtedly La Forest (see note 2). Jean Baptiste Cassan was “the present consul of France” and a close friend of Edmond Charles Genet, the French Minister to the United States. Cassan served as interim consul until Jean Baptiste Petry, the new consul, was recognized on February 22, 1794. The “private” Frenchman has not been identified.

10Coxe mistakenly dated this letter “1793.”

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