Thomas Jefferson Papers
Documents filtered by: Author="Genet, Edmond Charles" AND Recipient="Jefferson, Thomas" AND Recipient="Jefferson, Thomas"
sorted by: date (ascending)

To Thomas Jefferson from Edmond Charles Genet, 23 May 1793

From Edmond Charles Genet

Philadelphie le 23.1 mai 1793. l’an 2e. de la Repe. frse.

M.

Seule contre des hordes innombrables2 de tyrans et d’ésclaves3 qui menacent sa liberté naissante, la nation francoise4 seroit en droit de reclamer5 les obligations qu’imposent aux Etats unis les traités qu’ils ont contractés avec elle et qu’elle a cimentés de son sang;6 mais forte de la grandeur de7 ses moyens et de la puissance de ses8 principes non moins redoutables à ses énnemis que les armes victorieuses9 qu’elle oppose à leur rage, elle vient dans le tems même ou des emissaires de nos ennemis communs faisoient d’inutiles éfforts10 pour neutraliser la reconnoissance, refroidir le zêle, racourcir ou obscurcir11 la vue de vos Concitoyens, Elle vient dis je cette nation genereuse,12 Cette amie fidele de travailler encore à accroitre leur prosperité à augmenter le bonheur dont elle se plait à les voir Jouir.13

Des obstacles élevés dans14 des intentions liberticides par les Ministres perfides du despotisme15 des obstacles dont le but étoit d’arrêter16 les progrès rapidès17 du Commerce des Americains et l’éxtension de leurs maximes bienfaisantes18 n’existent plus. La République francoise ne voyant en eux que des freres, leur a ouvert par les décrets ci Joints19 tous ses ports dans les deux mondes, leur a accorde toutes les faveurs20 dont Jouissent ses propres citoyens dans ses vastes possessions, les a invités à partager les bénefices de sa navigation en accordant à leurs Vaisseaux les mêmes droits qu’aux siens et m’a chargé de proposer à votre gouvernement de Consacrer dans un veritable pacte de famille dans un pacte national les bases libérales et fraternelles21 sur les quelles22 elle désire voir reposer le systême commercial et politique23 de deux peuples dont tous les interêts se Confondent. Je suis revêtu, M., des pouvoirs nécéssaires pour entamer cette importante négociation24 dont les tristes25 annales de l’humanité avant l’Ere brillante qui s’est enfin ouverte pour elle, n’offrent, aucun éxemple.

Dft (DLC: Genet Papers); heavily emended text in Genet’s hand, except for part of dateline (see note 1 below) and several words added in clerical hands; unsigned; above salutation: “Le &c a Mr. Jefferson &c.”; at head of text: “Nouvelles preuves <de fraternité> d’amitié données par la france aux Etats unis”; only the most important emendations are noted below. Tr (AMAE: CPEU, xxxvii); with minor variations; certified by Genet. Recorded in SJL as received 23 May 1793. Enclosure: Decree of the National Convention, 19 Feb. 1793, liberalizing American trade with France and its colonies (see note to Joseph Fenwick to TJ, 25 Feb. 1793); with an accompanying statement by Genet announcing the suspension of a 15 May 1791 law inhibiting Americans from introducing, selling, and arming their ships in France and from enjoying the advantages allowed to vessels built in France (Tr in DNA: RG 59, NL, English translation in the hand of George Taylor, Jr.; PrC in DLC: TJ Papers, 82: 14172, 14228; Tr in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess., in English). Letter and enclosure with translations printed in Message description begins A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great-Britain. Delivered December 5, 1793. With the Papers therein Referred to. To Which Are Added the French Originals. Published by Order of the House of Representatives, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends , 8 (App.), 15–16; translations printed in Correspondence, description begins [Edmond Charles Genet], The Correspondence between Citizen Genet, Minister of the French Republic, to the United States of North America, and the Officers of the Federal Government; to which are Prefixed the Instructions from the Constituted Authorities of France to the Said Minister. All from Authentic Documents, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends 11–13; printed in Correspondance, description begins [Edmond Charles Genet], Correspondance entre le Citoyen Genet, Ministre Plenipotentiaire de la Republique Française pres les Etats-Unis, et les Membres du Gouvernement Féderal, Precedee des Instructions données à ce Ministre par les Autorités constituées de la France, Philadelphia, 1794 description ends 15–17; translations printed in ASP, description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends Foreign Relations, i, 147. Translations of letter and enclosure enclosed in TJ to Washington, 27 May 1793.

TJ could not have begun to appreciate the full dimensions of Genet’s proposal for a Pacte National between France and the United States, the details of which involved far more than the new French-American commercial treaty that was its ostensible object, until the French minister published a partial text of his instructions from the Girondin-dominated Provisional Executive Council in December 1793, on the eve of TJ’s retirement as Secretary of State (Correspondence, description begins [Edmond Charles Genet], The Correspondence between Citizen Genet, Minister of the French Republic, to the United States of North America, and the Officers of the Federal Government; to which are Prefixed the Instructions from the Constituted Authorities of France to the Said Minister. All from Authentic Documents, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends 1–7). Envisioning a political and economic agreement strengthening the ties between France and the United States and facilitating American support for Girondin plans to liberate Louisiana and Canada from Spanish and British rule, the Executive Council authorized Genet to negotiate a new treaty of commerce with the United States that was to include four major provisions: an agreement by both parties to exclude from their ports the vessels of nations with closed commercial and colonial systems—a clear call for American economic retaliation against Great Britain; a reciprocal exemption of American and French vessels from the payment of tonnage duties; a mutual naturalization of American and French citizens with respect to commercial matters; and a renewed United States guarantee to defend French possessions in America in return for free trade with France and the French West Indies and a French guarantee to protect America and its trade, including the stationing of French forces in American ports. Except for the last, these provisions were based on proposals TJ had made to previous French diplomatic representatives in the United States and thus were calculated to appeal to his well-known desire for a new commercial agreement with France in order to end American economic dependence on Britain (Correspondence, description begins [Edmond Charles Genet], The Correspondence between Citizen Genet, Minister of the French Republic, to the United States of North America, and the Officers of the Federal Government; to which are Prefixed the Instructions from the Constituted Authorities of France to the Said Minister. All from Authentic Documents, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends 3, 6; Turner, CFM, description begins Frederick Jackson Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers, 1791–1797,” American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1903, II description ends 204, 209–10; TJ to Gouverneur Morris, 28 Apr. 1792, and note; Bowman, Neutrality, description begins Albert H. Bowman, The Struggle for Neutrality: Franco-American Diplomacy During the Federalist Era, Knoxville, Tenn., 1974 description ends 39–46; Peter P. Hill, French Perceptions of the Early American Republic, 1783–1793 [Philadelphia, 1988], 118, 121–2).

TJ delivered Genet’s letter and its enclosure to the President on 24 May 1793, at which point Washington, citing uncertainty about the outcome of the French Revolution, impressed upon him the need to give deliberate consideration to this and other proposals from Genet because the government “ought not to go faster than it was obliged; but to walk on cautious ground.” Three days later TJ supplied Washington with English translations of these documents, and thereafter the President and the Cabinet periodically considered opening negotiations for the proposed treaty during the summer of 1793, with TJ alone favoring it (Washington, Journal, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends 148, 151; TJ to James Madison, 2 June 1793; Notes on Relations with France, 23 Aug. 1793). During this time TJ hinted in conversation with Genet that he could not take up the treaty until the Senate reconvened in the fall. But this was merely a polite fiction to mask the Washington administration’s reluctance to conclude a new treaty because of its satisfaction with the sweeping commercial concessions the French Republic had already made to the United States, its uncertainty about the republican regime’s prospects for survival, and its apprehensions that the political ties hinted at in Genet’s letter would compromise American neutrality. For these reasons, as well as the administration’s decision in August 1793 to seek Genet’s recall, TJ was unable to overcome Cabinet opposition to Genet’s overtures and never entered into negotiations with him for the treaty that he hoped would fundamentally transform the American political economy (TJ to Gouverneur Morris, 16 and 23 Aug. 1793; Notes of Cabinet Meeting on a Commercial Treaty with France, 23 Aug. 1793; Hill, French Perceptions, 114–29; Setser, Reciprocity, description begins Vernon G. Setser, The Commercial Reciprocity Policy of the United States, Philadelphia, 1937 description ends 81–92, 119–26; Merrill D. Peterson, “Thomas Jefferson and Commercial Policy, 1783–1793,” WMQ, description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892- description ends 3d ser., xxii [1965], 584–610; Turner, CFM description begins Frederick Jackson Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers, 1791–1797,” American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1903, II description ends , 258).

1Digits inserted by a clerk in a space left blank by Genet.

2Genet first wrote “une horde innombrable” and then altered it to read as above.

3Preceding two words interlined in place of <d’Esclaves> de barbares.”

4Preceding two words written in the margin in place of “france” and an addition which reads “aprés avoir <verse> repandu ses trésors et s.”

5Genet here canceled “l’éxécution des traités qui.”

6Preceding eight words written in the margin.

7Preceding three words written in the margin in place of an interlined “l’immensité de ses.”

8Preceding six words interlined in place of “et de la Justice de sa cause de ses.”

9Word interlined.

10Genet first wrote “ou <de prétendus politiques mettoient en action tous les ressorts de leur imagination,> l’on faisoit d’inutiles éfforts” before a clerical hand revised the passage to read as above. In the emending process, “l’on” was inadvertently left uncanceled.

11Preceding two words written in the margin.

12Preceding three words written in the margin in a clerical hand.

13Genet here canceled <au milieu meme des dangers qui l’environnent> sans s’occuper de ses propres intérêts.”

14Word interlined in place of “à dessein.”

15Word interlined by a clerical hand in place of “dernier Roi des francois.”

16Preceding eight words altered by Genet from “pour arrêter.”

17Word added in the margin, but omitted in Correspondance.

18Preceding eight words interlined in place of “Etats unis avec les françois.” Message: “de leurs principes.”

19Preceding five words written in the margin.

20AMAE Tr and Correspondance: “toutes les faveurs.”

21Preceding three words interlined.

22Genet here canceled doit reposer” and wrote the next four words in the margin.

23Preceding two words interlined.

24Genet here canceled “et Je recueillerai avec bien du plaisir par l’organe d’un ami aussi sincere que vous des fo.”

25Word written in the margin.

Index Entries