Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Alexander Hamilton, 12 September 1793

To Alexander Hamilton

Philadelphia Sep. 12. 1793.


I have the honor to inclose you a paper delivered me by Mr. Bournonville on the part of the Minister of France reclaiming against the demand of tonnage on the vessels which came hither from the West Indies in their late calamity. It is urged that they were driven out of their harbours by superior force, obliged to put to sea without water or stores, and therefore to make the first ports where they could be relieved, which constitute in their opinion those circumstances of distress and necessity which exempt vessels from the payment of tonnage. This case belonging to your department, I take the liberty, in the absence of the President and to save time, to transmit it to you directly, for your consideration. I have the honor to be with great respect Sir your most obedt. servt

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “The Secretary of the Treasury.” Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Printed in Message description begins A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great-Britain. Delivered December 5, 1793. With the Papers therein Referred to. To Which Are Added the French Originals. Published by Order of the House of Representatives, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends , 81. Enclosed in TJ to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., 12 Sep. 1793.

The paper in question has not been identified, but it may have been the “Memorial in favour of the Captains of french vessels arrived in the harbours of the United States in July 1793,” which claimed, on the basis of Section 37 [i.e., 38] of the 4 Aug. 1790 Tonnage Duty Act and Articles 19 and 26 of the 1778 treaty of commerce with France, that the circumstances in Saint-Domingue which drove French merchant ships to take refuge in American ports entitled them to an exemption from the payment of American tonnage duties (Tr in DLC: Genet Papers; undated, unaddressed, and unsigned; with copy of subjoined certification by Alexandre Maurice d’Hauterive). For the rejection of the French claim, see Hamilton to TJ, 30 Nov. 1793.

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