Thomas Jefferson Papers

II. Thomas Jefferson’s Questions for the Supreme Court, [ca. 18 July 1793]

II. Thomas Jefferson’s Questions for the Supreme Court

[ca. 18 July 1793]

1. <Are we free, by the treaty, to prohibit France from arming vessels within our ports to cruize on her enemies?>

2. If we are free to prohibit her, are we, by the laws of neutrality, bound to prohibit her?

agreed. 3. What are the articles, by name, to be prohibited to both or either party?

4. May1 the prohibition extend to the use of their own means e.g. mounting their own guns, transferring guns from one of their own vessels to another &c.

5. May they receive2 on board their armed vessels their own sailors and citizens found within our ports? May they receive other foreigners?

agreed 6. To what extent does the reparation, permitted in the 3 article, go?

agreed 7. What may be done as to4 vessels armed in our ports before the President’s proclamation?5 and what as to the prizes they made before and after?

8. A trading vessel belonging to the enemies of France, coming here for the purposes of commerce, but armed, and having a letter of marque authorising her to cruize &c. as usual, are we obliged by the article to order such a vessel out of our ports?

9. What landlocked waters, and what extent from the seashore, may be deemed within the limits of our protection so as to render captures within them unlawful?

agreed. 10 May we within our own ports6 sell ships to both parties prepared merely for merchandize? agreed pierced for guns?7

agreed 11. May we carry either or both kinds to the ports of the belligerent powers for sale?

agreed 12. Is the principle that free bottoms make free goods, and enemy bottoms make enemy goods, to be considered as now an established part of the law of nations?

agreed 13 If it is not, are nations with whom we have no treaties authorized by the law of nations to take out of our vessels enemy passengers, not being soldiers, and their bag gage?8

14. Which of the above prohibitable things are within the competence of the President to prohibit?

Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 96: 16463); undated, but prepared for Cabinet meeting of 18 July 1793; entirely in TJ’s hand, with canceled question restored; numbering added after addition of two questions in margin (see note 8 below); marginal notations of assent added at Cabinet meeting; endorsed by TJ: “Questions.”

By the treaty: a reference to Article 22 of the 1778 treaty of commerce with France (see note to Document I above). reparation: Article 19 of the treaty of commerce provided that French or American warships or merchant vessels forced into the other nation’s ports by weather or enemies must “be permitted to refresh and provide themselves at reasonable Rates with victuals and all things needful for the sustenence of their Persons or reparation of their Ships and conveniency of their Voyage” (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , ii, 17–18). The President’s proclamation was the 22 Apr. 1793 Proclamation of Neutrality (Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, D.C., 1931–44, 39 vols. description ends , xxxii, 430–1). Article 17 of the treaty of commerce denied shelter or refuge in American ports to foreign warships or privateers which captured French vessels, citizens, or property and required that all proper means be vigorously used to send Out of our ports as soon as possible those that had been forced to enter under defined emergency conditions (Miller, Treaties, ii, 16–17).

1Word interlined in place of “Should.”

2Word interlined in place of “take.”

3TJ completed the blank in question 23 of Document IV below.

4TJ here canceled “priva.”

5Preceding two words interlined in place of “prohibition.”

6Preceding four words interlined.

7Preceding three words substituted for “for war [but?].”

8TJ wrote this and the preceding question in the margin before numbering the questions.

Index Entries