Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Alexander J. Dallas, 26 February 1816

To Alexander J. Dallas

Monticello Feb. 26. 16.

Dear Sir

My other two letters being on distinct subjects, and to go perhaps into other hands, I write this separately. will you pardon a criticism on your tariff which the public papers have given us compleat, but as yet without the report explaining it’s principles? having written to Europe for some wines, I was led by curiosity to look at that part of the tariff to see what duties I should have to pay, and found it in the followg articles.

‘Claret & other wines not enumerated, imported
 in bottles, per gallon
 70. cents.
 when imported otherwise than in bottles  25. cents
black bottles, glass, quart, per gross 144  cents’

the duty on the wine then being 6¼ cents per quart, & on the bottle 1. cent = 7¼ cents the act of putting it into the bottle where made (and where it is so much better that it should be done) is dutied at 11½ cents the bottle. this wants proportion an essential principle in just taxation; and if considered morally, is a premium for encoraging in the higher classes of society the same drunkenness which whiskey has introduced into the lower, by giving the monopoly of our tables to the strong wines. these will be always imported in the cask, and the bottle come empty, so as never to pay the additional 11½ cents per bottle for bottling. the light wines on the contrary which will not bear transportation in the cask, as Florence for instance, must pay the prohibitory duty, or stand prohibited. it will really be a proscription of them. yet it is much for the comfort and temperance of society to encourage them. there are abundance of good wines in Europe (called ordinary, or country wines, and sometimes having appropriate names), such as one would be willing to drink every day, which are sold there at 2. cents the quart, and would not bear transportation in the cask. these, with an ad valorem duty proportioned to that of the others, would cost here less than cyder, and would extend the comfort of that liquor, now enjoyed by the few wealthy only to a vast circle of our citizens to the expulsion of that loathsomeness and death they now drink in the form of whisky. would it not be better, my dear Sir, to let the bottled wine stand on it’s former ground? we have always paid duty for the wine by the gallon, whether brought in cask or bottles, and, if in the latter, the duty on that was added. in the case above particularised, 25. cents would be paid for the gallon of wine, and 4. cents for the bottles containing it. excuse this suggestion. it is not to give you the trouble of an answer, but merely to draw your attention, if it should have been an accident of inadvertence. I subjoin the copy of a Tariff for wines which I prepared for mr Gallatin when we were in office together, and which was to have been proposed instead of the tariff then existing, if that law had come under consideration in our time. it may enable you to be more specific in your enumeration if you think that desirable. the classification and prices are on my own knolege. I salute you with great and friendly respect.

Th: Jefferson

p. galln 
25 pc
Tokay, Cape, Malmesey, Hock  4.00   1.00
Champagne, Burgundy, Hermitage, *Claret 2.75   .68¾ 
Medoc, Grave, Palus, Coterotie, Condrieu, Moselle 1.25   .31¼
Madeira, London particular 2.20   .55
Madeira, all other 1.80   .45
Pacharetti, Sherry 1.50   .37½
St Lucar, and all wines of Portugal .80   .20
Sicily, Teneriffe,Fayal,Malaga & other Western islands .67   .16¾

all non-enumerated wines 25. p.c. ad valorem.

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Mr Dallas”; endorsed by TJ.

The Washington Daily National Intelligencer of 20 Feb. 1816 and other public papers printed Dallas’s report along with a schedule of articles on which duties were to be levied. Dallas presented his “report on the subject of a general tariff of duties proper to be imposed on imported goods, wares, and merchandise” to the United States House of Representatives on 13 Feb. 1816 (ASP, Finance, 3:85–99). The proposed tariff became law on 27 Apr. 1816 with no changes to the portion TJ transcribed above (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 3:310–4). On 1 June 1807 TJ wrote to Albert gallatin, then the secretary of the treasury, suggesting the alternative tariff given in the postscript above (DLC). The text originally sent to Gallatin varies slightly in semantics, provides additional calculations, and includes “St George” among the wines enumerated from sicily, teneriffe, fayal, malaga & other western islands.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

* *the term Claret should be expunged, there being no definite wine of that name, and instead of it should be enumerated the 4. crops, Lafitte, Latour, Margaux & Hautbrion, the only wines of that family of distinguished price.


  Medoc includes Blanquefort, Calon, Leoville, Cantenac Etc
Grave includes Barsac, Sauterne, Beaume, Preignac, St Bris, Carbonien, Langon, Podenac Etc

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