James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 24 June 1804

From Thomas Jefferson

June 24. 04.

Th: J. to J. M.

The inclosed case respecting the construction of a treaty merits good consideration.1 Can broad words in a treaty be controuled by narrower in a law? And is it certain the law here intended to controul? Reason & probability is against it.


1Jefferson probably enclosed Gallatin’s letter to him of 23 June 1804 (DLC: Jefferson Papers; 5 pp.), which discussed “a right claimed by Spanish Subjects to relade on board of a different Vessel without securing the duties, the cargo of a Vessel which had put in Norfolk from distress and was afterwards condemned as not being sea-worthy.” The dispute hinged on the conflict between Article 10 of the Treaty of San Lorenzo, which specified that the relading of a “wrecked, foundered, or otherwise damaged” vessel be duty-free, and section 60 of the 1799 U.S. statute “An Act to regulate the collection of duties on imports and tonnage,” which required duties to be paid on unladen cargoes of ships that had arrived in distress. There is no written record of JM’s advice on this case, but Jefferson wrote Gallatin on 26 June (DLC: Jefferson Papers) that it was clear that “the Xth. article of the Spanish treaty intended to provide for relading indifferently in any vessel, otherwise the case of wreck for which it was intended to provide would be left unprovided. But the legislative provision having been deemed more narrow, I see no remedy but to extend all the favor the case admits to the party, and to lay the matter before Congress for a provision commensurate with the treaty, and for indemnification to the party” (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 2:325–26; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 1:627, 672–73).

Index Entries