Thomas Jefferson’s Memorandum on a Treaty with Algiers
[Philadelphia] Apr. 10. 1792.
If the President should enter into a Provisional convention with the government of Algiers for a sum not exceeding 40,000 dollars, will the Senate advise & consent to it’s ratification, the government of Algiers being made clearly to understand that we are not to be bound by the treaty until it shall be ratified?
If this sum appears too high, what lower limit would the Senate approve?
If the President should enter into a Provisional treaty of peace with the government of Algiers at an expence not exceeding [ ] dollars to be paid on the ratification, & [ ] dollars payable annually afterwards, during it’s continuance, will the Senate advise & consent to the ratification, the government of Algiers being made clearly to understand that we are not to be bound by the treaty until it shall be ratified?
If these sums appear too high, what lower limits would the Senate approve.1
AD, DLC:GW. The cover is mistakenly docketed “July 22d 1790.”
On 9 April, Jefferson wrote in a memorandum: “The Presidt hd wished to redeem our captives at Algiers, & to make a peace with them on paying an annual tribute, the Senate were willing to approve this, but unwilling to have the lower house applied to previously to furnish the money. they wished the President to take the money from the treasury or open a loan for it. they thought that to consult the Representatives on one occasion would give them a handle always to claim it, & would let them in to a participation of the power of making treaties which the constitution had given exclusively to the President & Senate. they said too that if the particular sum was voted by the Represent. it would not be a secret. the President had no confidence in the secrecy of the Senate, & did not chuse to take money from the treasury or to borrow. but he agreed he would enter into provisional treaties with the Algerines, not to be binding on us till ratified here. I prepared questions for consultation with the Senate, & added that the Senate were to be apprised that on the return of the provisional treaty, & after they should advise the ratification, he should not have the seal put to it till the two houses should vote the money. he asked me if a treaty stipulating a sum & ratified by him with the advice of the Senate would not be good under the constitution & obligatory on the Repres. to furnish the money? I answered it certainly would, & that it would be the duty of the representatives to raise the money: but that they might decline to do what was their duty, & I thought it might be incautious to commit himself by a ratification with a foreign nation, where he might be left in the lurch in the execution it was possible too to concieve a treaty which it wd nt be their duty to provide for. he said that he did not like throwing too much into democratic hands, tha[t] if they would not do what the constitution called on them to do, the government would be at an end, & must then assume another form. he stopped here, & I kept silence to see whether he would say any thing more in the same line, or add any qualifying expressions to soften what he had said. but he did neither.
“I had observed that wherever the agency of either or both houses would be requisite subsequent to a treaty to carry it into effect, it would be prudent to consult them previously if the occasion admitted. that thus it was we were in the habit of consulting the Senate previously when the occasion permitted, because their subseqt ratification would be necessary. that there was the same reason for consulting the lower house previously where they were to be called on afterwards, & especially in a case of money, as they held the purse strings & would be jealous of them. however he desired me to strike out the intimation that the seal would not be put till both houses should have voted the money” (Jefferson’s Memoranda of Consultations with the President, 11 Mar.–9 April 1792, DLC: Jefferson Papers).
1. GW presented a modified version of this document to the U.S. Senate on 8 May 1792.