Decer. 22 1807
I enclose copy of a circular sent this evening (22 Decer.) to all the sea-ports—Will any other instructions be necessary? & will an express go to New Orleans? On first view of the act, the following defects appear.
1. Want of penalties—Supposing a vessel to sail without a clearance contrary to the act, the only penalty is that of five hundred dollars by virtue of the 93d Sect. of the collection law—Vol. 4th page 433. We must therefore depend on physical force to detain vessels; & there are many ports where we have neither revenue cutters nor perhaps more than one single officer.
2. Coasting vessels—As there is no mention made of them in the act, they remain under the operation of the general revenue laws. By these (8th Sect. coasting act—2 Vol. page 174) any coasting vessel is liable to forfeiture as well as her cargo, if she proceeds on a foreign voyage. But that is the only penalty, as no bond is given by the owner or master in relation to that point. There is nothing therefore to prevent coasting vessels clearing say for New Orleans or any other port of the United States, & going with their cargo to a foreign port, where vessel and cargo will be sold & nothing left to which the forfeiture can attach. They may also deliver their cargoes on board of foreign vessels on our coast without going to a foreign port.
3. A smaller defect consists in this, that foreign vessels which are permitted to land their imported cargoes, though they may not take return cargoes, may export specie.
Respectfully Your obt. Sert.
Decer. 23d 1807
This letter not finished till 23d.; but the circular was transmitted 22d. evening
DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.