Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from David Humphreys, 25 January 1793

From David Humphreys

Lisbon Janry. 25th. 1793


The enclosed Papers from No. 1. to No. 6. inclusive may serve to shew the proceedings I conceived myself authorised in taking, with respect to American flour and grain. The crisis is as favorable for obtaining a liberal policy as perhaps ever can be expected; and I have endeavoured to avail myself of it in as delicate and efficacious a manner as I was able. Some names of great authority, I know, approve of the systems I have proposed. Still the success is very precarious. Should the answers which Government will be under the necessity of giving not prove favorable, perhaps hereafter some statements of facts in the American News Papers may have a tendency to rouse this nation from its present torpid state to insist upon a wiser and better policy.

I have concerted with the Secretary of State for foreign affairs the mode of transacting our business during my absence. And I am determined that absence shall be of as short duration as possible. With sincere & great esteem, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedt. & Most humble Servt

D. Humphreys

P.S. I have but just this moment received the Box of Papers from the Custom House which came with your1 of July 12th. by way of Madeira. It is impossible to send such unweildy Packets on Horseback by the Spanish Ambassador’s ordinary Courier. And this is the only conveyance which offers. I have however sent to Mr. Carmichael all but such as appear to contain the large volumes of Laws and Journals. For this I have given a Moidore to the Courier. I have also informed Mr. Carmichael, that, not knowing where Mr. Short is at present, I must await his and Mr. Short’s information and dispositions for obtaining the remainder.

RC (DNA: RG 59, DD); at head of text: “(No. 65.)”; at foot of first page: “The Secretary of State”; endorsed by TJ as received 19 Mch. 1793 and so recorded in SJL, where TJ erroneously listed it as No. 63 dated 23 Jan. 1793. Tr (Lb in same). Enclosures: (1) Memorial of Humphreys to Foreign Minister Luis Pinto de Sousa Coutinho, 27 Dec. 1792, setting forth the mutual advantages of permitting the importation of American flour into Portugal before the conclusion of a treaty of commerce with the United States. (2) Humphreys to same, 16 Jan. 1793, requesting an answer to his memorial so that he can inform his government by a ship about to sail for Philadelphia, noting that after some difficulty a cargo of American flour had recently been admitted for sale in Lisbon by a temporary measure, and emphasizing the mutual benefits of regularizing such admissions. (3) Pinto de Sousa Coutinho to Humphreys, 17 Jan. 1793, stating that he would respond to Humphreys’s memorial as soon as the council to which the Prince of Brazil referred it had considered the matter. (4) Samuel Harrison to same, 16 Jan. 1793, reporting that the administrator of the corn market has denied to three American ships recently arrived in Lisbon with wheat the privilege of “franquia to proceed to the Ports of their destination” and has ordered them to “come up and discharge.” (5) Memorial of Humphreys to Pinto de Sousa Coutinho, 18 Jan. 1793, enclosing Harrison’s letter regarding the abolition of the customary “indulgence of Franquie” at Lisbon, so far at least as it applies to the American vessels recently arrived, pointing out that he will be required to announce this innovation in American newspapers so that merchants trading to Europe have the opportunity to order vessels not destined to unload in Portugal to go instead to England, Ireland, or other countries, whence they could proceed to their final destinations, and asking whether the new measure would not divert surpluses of cargoes wanted in Portugal. (6) Same to same, 21 Jan. 1793, reminding him of the papers he had left concerning the government’s rejection of the accustomed “indulgence of Franquiæ” at Lisbon, noting that British merchants have been alarmed by reports of a declaration from a high official that the government had decided not to permit cargoes of grain to leave until a six months’ supply had been obtained, protesting that this policy would be “assuming a power to reduce the price in Portugal below what it is in the Ports of the neighbouring Nations,” and asking whether it would not “create the scarcity it means to avert” (Trs in same, with No. 3 in Portuguese filed with translation in TJ’s hand; Trs in Lb in same).

TJ submitted this letter and its enclosures to the President on 19 Mch. 1793, and Washington returned them the same day (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 94–5).

1Thus in manuscript.

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