Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Hammond, 30 November 1791

From George Hammond

Philadelphia 30th November 1791.


I have the honor of acknowledging the receipt of your letter of yesterday.

With respect to the non-execution of the seventh article, of the definitive treaty of peace between his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, which you have recalled to my attention, it is scarcely necessary for me to remark to you, Sir, that the King my master was induced to suspend the execution of that article on his part, in consequence of the non-compliance, on the part of the United States, with the engagements, contained in the fourth, fifth and sixth articles of the same treaty. These two objects are therefore so materially connected with each other, as not to admit of separation, either in the mode of discussing them, or in any subsequent arrangements, which may result from that discussion.

In stating to you, Sir, this indispensable consideration, I must at the same time assure you that, in the confidence of experiencing a similar disposition in the government of the United States, it is his Majesty’s desire to remove every ground and occasion of misunderstanding, which may arise between the two countries: And in conformity to that disposition in his Majesty, I can add that—I am instructed to enter into the discussion of all such measures, as may be deemed the most practicable and reasonable for giving effect to those stipulations of the definitive treaty, the execution of which has hitherto been delayed, as well by the government of this country, as by that of Great-Britain.

In answer to your question on the subject of the commerce of Great Britain and the United States, I can also inform you, Sir, that the King is sincerely disposed to promote and facilitate the commercial intercourse between the two countries, and that I am authorized to communicate to this government his Majesty’s readiness to enter into a negociation for establishing that intercourse upon principles of reciprocal benefit.

Before I conclude this letter, I cannot omit mentioning the sense I entertain of the obliging expressions of personal regard, which you, Sir, have been pleased to employ, relative to my appointment to the station, which I hold in this country. I can venture to assure you, with the greatest sincerity, that it affords me the warmest satisfaction to be the medium of communicating to the United States the actual good dispositions of my sovereign and nation towards them—and I trust I may be permitted to add, that it would be the highest object of my ambition, to be the humble instrument of contributing, in any manner, to fix upon a permanent basis the future system of harmony and good understanding between the two Countries.—I have the honor to be, with every sentiment of respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant,

Geo. Hammond.

RC (DNA: RG 59, NL); endorsed by TJ as received 30 Nov. 1791 and so recorded in SJL; TJ also docketed the letter as follows: “Hammond George. His powers as to treaty of peace, commerce.” PrC of “(Copy)” (DLC). Tr (DNA: RG 59, NL). Another Tr (DNA: RG 59, SDR).

Hammond believed that TJ had an ulterior purpose in asking him to reveal whether he was authorized to negotiate a commercial treaty with the United States. He was convinced that TJ wanted to elicit an admission that he lacked such authority so that he could include a statement on the “supposed disinclination in the British Government to form a commercial arrangement with the United States” in his anticipated report to Congress on the state of American commerce. Such a statement, Hammond feared, would strengthen the position of those in Congress who favored discriminatory measures against British trade and shipping—hence the British minister’s eagerness to assure TJ that he was empowered to discuss the subject of a commercial treaty (Hammond to Grenville, 6 Dec. 1791, PRO: FO 4/11, f. 183–5; see also Hammond to TJ, 6, 14 Dec. 1791). In reality, TJ raised this issue in response to a presidential instruction to pursue the possibility of concluding commercial treaties with France and Great Britain (see note to TJ to Washington, 26 Nov. 1791). The rather limited commercial concessions Hammond was authorized to offer the United States are set forth in the relevant sections of his instructions from Lord Grenville, which were heavily influenced in turn by Lord Hawkesbury’s highly mercantilistic 28 Jan. 1791 report to the Privy Council on the state of Anglo-American trade (Mayo, British Ministers description begins Bernard Mayo, ed., “Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States 1791–1812,” American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1936 description ends , p. 9–13). It may have been about this time that TJ began to prepare for commercial negotiations with Hammond by taking an extensive set of notes on one of his copies of Hawkesbury’s report (Notes on Hawkesbury; MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 69: 11898–9).

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