Thomas Jefferson Papers

IV. Thomas Jefferson to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, 16 December 1793

IV. Thomas Jefferson to the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Philadelphia Dec. 16.1 1793


According to the pleasure of the House of Representatives expressed in their Resolution of Feb. 23. 1791.2 I now lay before them a Report on the privileges and restrictions on the Commerce of the United States in foreign Countries. In order to keep the Subject within those bounds which I supposed to be under the contemplation of the House, I have restrained my Statements to those Countries only with which we carry on a commerce of Some importance, and to those Articles also of our produce which are of sensible weight in the Scale of our Exports; and even these Articles are sometimes grouped together according to the degree of Favor or restriction with which they are received in each Country, and that degree expressed in general terms without detailing the exact duty levied on each Article. To have gone fully into these Minutiae, would have been to copy the Tariffs and Books of Rates of the different Countries and to have hidden under a mass of detail those general and important Truths, the extraction of which in a Simple form I conceived would best answer the inquiries of the House, by condensing material information within those limits of time and attention which this portion of their duties may justly claim. The plan, indeed, of minute details, would have been impracticable with some Countries, for want of information.3

Since preparing this Report, which was put into its present form in time to have been given in to the last Session of Congress, alterations of the Conditions of our Commerce with some foreign Nations have taken place, some of them independant of the War, some arising out of it.

France has proposed to enter into a new treaty of Commerce with us on liberal principles, and has in the Mean time relaxed some of the restraints mentioned in the Report.—Spain has by an ordinance of June last, established New Orleans, Pensacola and St. Augustine into free ports for the Vessels of friendly Nations, having treaties of Commerce with her, provided they touch for a permit at Corcubion in Gallicia, or at Alicante; and our Rice is by the same ordinance excluded from that Country.—The Circumstances of the War, have necessarily given us freer access to the West-Indian Islands, whilst they have also drawn on our Navigation Vexations and depredations of the most serious Nature.

To have endeavored to describe all these, would have been as impracticable as useless, since the Scenes would have been shifting while under description. I, therefore, think it best to leave the Report as it was formed, being adapted to a particular point of time; when things were in their Settled order, that is to say, to the Summer of 1792. I have the honor to be with the most profound respect, Sir, Your most obedt. & most hum: Servt.

Th: Jefferson

Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.); in a clerk’s hand, signed by TJ, with insertions by him (see notes 1–2 below); at foot of first page: “To The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America.” PrC of Dft (DLC); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., unsigned, with insertion and revisions by TJ (see notes below); variant text containing different second paragraph and lacking final two paragraphs; possibly prepared as early as February 1793 from a missing rough draft in connection with Document II. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, SDR). Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 233, House Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess., TR). Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess., TR). Enclosure: Document iii.

1Month and day inserted by TJ in space left blank by clerk; in PrC of Dft TJ inserted them in ink.

2Date inserted by TJ in space left blank by clerk; space left blank in PrC of Dft.

3Remainder of PrC of Dft consists of a variant second paragraph (having two interlineations in ink by TJ in place of a canceled word and phrase) and the complimentary close, the paragraph being as follows: “Since preparing this Report, the duties on the importation of our Tobaccos into France, were reduced by their Legislative Assembly from 18.livre tournois 15s the Kental, carried in their own and 25livre tournois carried in our Vessels as stated in the report, to 10livre tournois in theirs, and 12.livre tournois 10s. in our Vessels; <but> and from the present Government, we receive assurances which <would leave us nothing more to desire> are very encouraging on the subject of our Commerce with them. The statements as to their West Indies refer to the State of Things next preceding the derangement of public Order in those Countries.” TJ received news of the French decree on 18 Dec. 1792 (see Joseph Fenwick to TJ, 11 Sep. 1792, and note).

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