Alexander Hamilton Papers
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From Alexander Hamilton to Edmund Randolph, [1–12 December 1794]

To Edmund Randolph1

[Philadelphia, December 1–12, 1794]2

Remarks on Lord Grenvilles project of a Commercial Treaty made at the request of E Randolph Esquire   Secty of States

A3   Inasmuch as the light house duties, which are excepted, constitute an additional charge on Vessels of the UStates beyond those of G. Britain in British Ports, this article, which puts British vessels in our ports exactly upon the same footing with ours wants reciprocity.4 But the most important consideration will be, that as the distinctions which now exist between foreign and our own vessels are really of importance to our Trade, our Merchants will see them relinquished with reluctance unless there be some clear equivalent.5 If the stipulation extends to duties on goods brought in British Bottoms, the conclusion is so much the stronger.6

B7   This article in its operation wants reciprocity. The British system8 contains now numerous prohibitions, ours none. To fix this state of things is to renounce an important right to and place ourselves on an unequal footing. It gives a claim to some equivalent.

C9   It may be supposed that the Equivalent in both cases is to be found in this article. It would be so (excepting one circumstance that will be presently mentioned) if the duration of the privileges granted was coextensive with that of the other parts of the Treaty.10 But the short term of the privileges here proposed to be granted renders them of inconsiderable value. The Proviso too prohibits vessels of the UStates from carrying “West India” productions from the British Islands or the UStates to any other part of the World. If this prohibition is to be taken in a literal sense and to extend to the West India possessions of other countries than GBritain, it would be to renounce a valuable branch of Trade now enjoyed and probably more than would be gained.11

D12   The giving a duration of twelve years to the Treaty as it respects the Trade with Europe and of only two years as it respects the West Indies will be very unacceptable.13 It will be the more so as the Project does not even secure the Status Quo with the European Dominions of Great Britain that is it does not secure the particular privileges and exemptions which we now enjoy by Proclamation compared with other foreign Nations.14

AH

Mr. Hamilton communicates these remarks in personal confidence to Mr. Randolph with this request that no copy of them may be taken & that this paper may be returned after it serves the purpose for which the remarks were requested.

ADS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1On September 13, 1794, John Jay sent to Randolph copies of two “Drafts or Projects” of treaties which Lord Grenville, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had submitted to Jay on August 30, 1794 (LC, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1792–1870, Vol. 1, June 23, 1794–March 5, 1795, National Archives; copy, New-York Historical Society, New York City). Randolph received Jay’s letter on November 11, 1794 (Randolph to Jay, November 12, 1794 [LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, Vol. 2, August 22, 1793–June 1, 1795, National Archives]). The first draft deals with all points in dispute between the United States and Great Britain; the second is concerned with commercial regulations between the two nations. In response to Randolph’s request for comments on Grenville’s proposed commercial treaty, H prepared the “Remarks” printed above. Randolph incorporated H’s “Remarks” in the instructions which he sent to Jay on December 15, 1794 (LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 2, August 22, 1793–June 1, 1795, National Archives).

2In JCHW description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1851–1856). description ends , V, 29, this document is dated “1794.”

3This section of H’s “Remarks” refers to Article 3 of Grenville’s proposed commercial treaty. Article 3 reads: “The Vessels of the Two contracting parties respectively coming to the Dominions or Territories aforesaid, shall enjoy the same liberty in respect of the Entry & Discharge of their lawfull Cargoes, and all other regulations which respect the general convenience and advantage of Commerce as now are, or shall at any time be enjoyed by any other Foreign Nation, which shall be the most favored in that respect, and no distinction shall exist of Tonnage or other Duties, (such Light House Duties excepted, as are levied for the Profit of Individuals or of Corporations,) by which the Vessels of the one party shall pay in the Ports of the other, any higher or other Duties, than shall be paid in similar Circumstances, by the Vessels of the Foreign nation the most favored in that respect, or by the Vessels of the Party into whose Ports they shall come” (copy, RG 59, Despatches from the United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1792–1870, Vol. 1, June 23, 1794–March 5, 1795, National Archives).

4Opposite this paragraph H wrote: “Note I observe the light house duties of the particular kind are afterwards relinquished.” H is referring to changes which had been made in the proposed commercial treaty in the course of conversations and letters between Grenville and Jay. In his “Observations” on the treaty, dated September 7, 1794, Grenville changed the last sentence in Article 3 to read as follows: “… by which the Vessels of the One Party shall pay in the Ports of the other, any higher or other duties than shall be paid in similar circumstances by the Vessels of the Foreign Nation the most favored in that respect, or any higher or other duties than shall be paid in similar cases by the Vessels of the Party itself into whose Ports they shall come” (copy, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1792–1870, Vol. 1, June 23, 1794–March 5, 1795, National Archives).

5In distinguishing between United States and foreign commerce, British commercial policy provided that “… the commerce of the United States, with respect to certain articles above enumerated and described … [be granted] the same preference as is granted to the commerce of the islands and plantations in America, remaining under your Majesty’s dominion” (Report of the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council, Appointed for all Matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations, on the Commerce and Navigation between his Majesty’s Dominions, and the Territories belonging to the United States of America [London, 1791], in Nathaniel Atchenson, ed., Collection of Interesting and Important Reports and Papers on the Navigation and Trade of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Colonies in the West Indies and America, with Tables of Tonnage and of Exports and Imports, &c, &c. &c. [Printed by Order of “The Society of Ship-Owners of Great Britain.” And Sold by J. Stockdale, Piccadilly: J. Butterworth, Fleet-Street: and J. and J. Richardson, Cornhill, 1807], 53). The same report also notes that the United States was exempt from the British duty on aliens, which other foreign nations were required to pay (Report of the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council …, 54).

6For these duties, see “An Act to provide more effectually for the collection of the duties imposed by law on goods, wares and merchandise imported into the United States, and on the tonnage of ships or vessels” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 145–78 [August 4, 1790]).

7This section of H’s “Remarks” refers to Article 5 of Grenville’s proposed commercial treaty. Article 5 reads: “No new Prohibition shall be laid in any of the Territories or Dominions aforesaid, by one of the contracting Parties, on the importation of any Article being the Growth Produce or Manufacture of the Territories or Dominions of the other, nor shall Article being of the growth produce or Manufacture, of any other Country be prohibited to be imported into the Dominions of one of the contracting Parties by the Vessels of the other, except such Articles only as are now so prohibited” (copy, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1792–1870, Vol. 1, June 23, 1794–March 5, 1795, National Archives).

8For the rules of the “British system,” see “An Act for regulating the Trade between the Subjects of his Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in North America, and in the West India Islands, and the Countries belonging to the United States of America; and between his Majesty’s said Subjects and the Foreign Islands in the West Indies” (28 Geo. III, C. 6 [1788]).

9This section of H’s “Remarks” refers to Article 6 of Lord Grenville’s proposed commercial treaty. Article 6 reads: “… His Majesty consents that it shall and may be lawfull, during the Time hereinafter limited, for the Citizens of the United States of America, to carry to any of his Majesty’s Islands and Ports in the West Indies, from the United States, in their own Vessels, not being above the burthen of Seventy Tons, any goods or merchandise being of the growth or produce of the said States, which it is or may be lawfull, to carry to the said Islands and Ports from the said States in British Vessels, and that the said American Vessels and their Cargoes shall pay there no other or higher Duties than shall be payable by British Vessels in similar circumstances: And that it shall be lawfull to the said American Citizens to purchase, load and carry away in their said Vessels to the United States, from the said Islands and Ports, all such Articles being of the growth and Produce of the said Islands, as may by Law be carried from them to the said States in British Vessels; and subject only to the same duties and Charges on Exportation, to which British Vessels are or shall be subject in similar circumstances; Provided always, that they carry and land the same in the United States only, it being expressly agreed and declared that, during the continuance of this Article, The United States will prohibit the carrying any West India productions or manufactures in American Vessels, either from his Majesty’s Islands or from the United States, to any part of the World except the United States,—reasonable Sea Stores excepted, and excepting also Rum made in the United States from West India Molasses” (copy, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1792–1870, Vol. 1, June 23, 1794–March 5, 1795, National Archives).

10Although Article 7 specified that the treaty was to be effective for twelve years after the end of the European war, Article 6 was to be in force for only two years after the war ended (copy, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Great Britain, 1792–1870, Vol. 1, June 23, 1794–March 5, 1795, National Archives).

11In 1784, France opened the French West Indies to foreign ships, which were allowed to bring enumerated goods into specified ports and to take back rum and molasses (Recueil Général des Anciennes Lois Françaises, Depuis L’An 420 Jusqu’ à La Révolution de 1789, par MM. Jourdan, Docteur en droit, Avocat à la Cour royale de Paris; Isambert, Avocat aux Conseils du Roi et à la Cour de Cassation; Decrusy, ancien Avocat à la Cour royale de Paris [Paris, 1827], XXVII, 459–64).

12See note 10.

13See note 10.

14See note 5.

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