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To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, [7 July 1801]

From Albert Gallatin

[7 July 1801]

The Secretary of the Treasury has the honor to enclose for the consideration of the President the draught of an intended circular to the Collectors on the subject of certificates of health.

A letter from Mr King on the subject; observations of the Secy. of State, to whom the rough draught was communicated, which observations have produced the last paragraph but one in the circular; and a letter from Dr. Rush received since the circular was prepared are also enclosed.

It is intended to have the circular printed & transmitted immediately; and as the season is far advanced, it would perhaps save some time, if the President would at once make in the draught the alterations he may think necessary—

Respectfully submitted by

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); undated; endorsed by TJ as received 7 July and “certificate of health” and so recorded in SJL but as a letter of 12 July, perhaps the date TJ returned the draft of the circular to Gallatin. Enclosures not found, but see below.

About 1 July, Gallatin communicated a rough draft of his circular on health certificates to Madison (see Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:366–7). Consisting of only two paragraphs, the first indicated that certificates testifying to the health of U.S. seaports might “tend to alleviate the hardships of the Quarantine laws of foreign Countries.” In the second paragraph, Gallatin stressed that the certificates “should uniformly comport with strict truth” and be countersigned by the naval officer at the port. The circular as sent to the customs collectors on 15 July consisted of nine paragraphs. Although a draft in TJ’s hand has not been found, he may have contributed significantly to the extended text (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:377–8).

The call for health certificates originated in the secretary of state’s office. Thomas Bulkeley, U.S. consul at Lisbon, repeatedly requested that a routine procedure for the issuance of health certificates from U.S. customs collectors be established to alleviate quarantines. On 9 June, Madison informed Charles Pinckney, as the new minister to Spain, that the Spanish quarantine laws were “unnecessarily rigorous” and injurious to U.S. trade. He noted that Bulkeley had suggested that U.S. vessels carry certificates of health addressed to the consuls. Madison continued: “The idea has been stated to the Secretary of the Treasury, and it is probable that with the approbation of the President, it will be carried into effect thro’ the Custom House.” On 23 June, Benjamin Rush advised Madison that the quarantine laws passed by several states to control yellow fever epidemics should be abolished because the fever was not contagious and unnecessarily interrupted American commerce. To this Madison replied that the quarantine laws in Europe, which oppressed U.S. commerce, had been brought to the attention of the executive, and arrangements were being considered to diminish or alleviate the problem. Madison noted that foreign countries probably would not agree with Rush’s views on yellow fever (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:53, 276–7, 339, 354–5).

The circular on health certificates, as transmitted to the customs collectors on 15 July, was printed in the National Intelligencer on 3 Aug. It described the information to be included in bills of health. If the port from which the vessel was sailing was free of “prevailing sickness,” the collector was instructed to enter “No plague or other contagious or dangerous disease at present exists.” But if that was not the case, the blank was to be filled in so as to “clearly and unequivocally express the nature of the existing disorder.” In the 13 ports with naval officers, the officers were to countersign the document. In other ports the customs collector would certify them, with the board of health or municipal authority attesting to the document. If possible, owners of vessels were encouraged to obtain a certification of the facts stated in the health bill from the consul or agent of the country to which the vessel was bound (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:377–8; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:453–4).

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