Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, 20 February 1793

To the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Philadelphia, February 20th. 1793.


The House of Representatives, about the close of the Session before the last, referred to me the Report of a Committee on a message from the President of the United States of the 14th. of Feb. 1791, with directions to report to Congress the nature and extent of the privileges and restrictions of the commercial intercourse of the United States with foreign Nations, and measures for it’s improvement. The report was accordingly prepared during the ensuing recess ready to be delivered at their next Session, that is to say, at the last. It was thought possible at that time, however, that some changes might take place in the existing state of Things, which might call for corresponding changes in measures. I took the liberty of mentioning this in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to express an opinion that a suspension of proceedings thereon for a time, might be expedient, and to propose retaining the Report ‘till the present session, unless the House should be pleased to signify their pleasure to the contrary. The changes then contemplated, have not taken place, nor, after waiting as long as the term of the session will admit, in order to learn something further on the subject, can any thing definite thereon be now said. If, therefore, the House wishes to proceed on the subject,1 the Report shall be delivered at a moments warning. Should they not chuse to take it up till their next Session, it will be an advantage to be permitted to keep it by me till then, as some further particulars may perhaps be procured relative to certain parts of our commerce, of which precise information is difficult to obtain. I make this suggestion, however, with the most perfect deference to their will, the first intimation of which shall be obeyed on my part so as to occasion them no delay. I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect respect and Esteem, Sir, Your most obedient and most humble servant

PrC (DLC); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., unsigned; with cancellation made in ink (see note 1 below); at foot of first page: “The Speaker of the house of Representatives of the united States.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 233, House Records, TR). Not recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to Washington, 20 Feb. 1793, and Tobias Lear to TJ, 20 Feb. 1793.

Three days later TJ reported to Washington, who had approved the letter this day, that a House committee had called upon him to discuss the Report on Commerce. Although TJ advised the committee of his willingness to submit the report “upon the shortest notice,” he had argued in favor of delaying submission until the next session of Congress because “circumstances might occur to render a material alteration in the Report necessary-and moreover, that its being now given in might have an effect unfriendly [to] the U.S. in the proposed treaty with the Western Indians” (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 64–5; Tobias Lear to TJ, 20 Feb. 1793). As the last part of his remark and the cancellation recorded in note 1 below indicate, TJ was obviously concerned that his criticism of British commercial policy in the report would provoke the British to disrupt the forthcoming Lower Sandusky conference between the United States and the Western tribes. In keeping with TJ’s recommendation, the House resolved on 25 Feb. 1793 that it would be inexpedient to submit the Report on Commerce during the current session (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1826, 9 vols. description ends , i, 718; Tr of House resolve in DLC, signed by John Beckley and endorsed by TJ). TJ’s earlier letter to the speaker on this report was that of 22 Mch. 1792.

1Here the following words are lined out in ink: “and I know of no circumstance at present but their own convenience which need enter into the consideration.”

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