Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Brissot de Warville, 16 August 1786

To Brissot de Warville

Paris Aug. 16. 1786.

Sir

I have read with very great satisfaction the sheets of your work on the commerce of France and the United states which you were so good as to put into my hands. I think you treat the subject, as far as these sheets go, in an excellent manner. Were I to select any particular passages as giving me particular satisfaction, it would be those wherein you prove to the United states that they will be more virtuous, more free, and more happy, emploied in agriculture, than as carriers or manufacturers. It is a truth, and a precious one for them, if they could be persuaded of it. I am also particularly pleased with your introduction. You have properly observed that we can no longer be called Anglo-Americans. That appellation now describes only the inhabitants of Novas Scotia, Canada, &c. I had applied that of Federo-Americans to our citizens, as it would not be so decent for us to assume to ourselves the flattering appellation of Free-Americans.

There are two passages in this work on which I am able to give you information. The first is in page 67 ‘ils auront le coton quant ils voudront se livrer à ce genre de culture,’ and the note ‘l’on voit dans la baie de Massachusets &c.’ The four Southernmost states make a great deal of cotton. Their poor are almost entirely clothed in it in winter and summer. In winter they wear shirts of it, and outer clothing of cotton and wool mixed. In Summer their shirts are linnen but the outer clothing cotton. The dress of the women is almost entirely [made of] cotton manufactured by themselves, except the richer class, and even many of these wear a good deal of home-spun cotton. It is as well manufactured as the calicoes of Europe. Those 4. states furnish a great deal of cotton to the states North of them, who cannot make it, as being too cold.—There is no neighborhood in any part of the United states without a water-grist-mill for grinding the corn of the neighborhood. Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, abound with large manufacturing mills for the exportation of flour. There are abundance of saw-mills in all the states. Furnaces and forges of iron, I believe in every state, I know they are in the nine Northernmost. There are many mills for plating and slitting iron, and I think there are many distilleries of rum from Norfolk in Virginia to Portsmouth in New Hampshire. I mention these circumstances because your note seems to imply that these things are only in the particular states you mention.

The second passage is page 101. and 102. where you speak of the ‘ravages causés par l’abus des eaux de vie’ which seems, by the note in page 101. to be taken on the authority of Smith. Nothing can be less true than what that author says on this subject; and we may say in general that there are as many falshoods as facts in his work. I think drunkenness is much more common in all the American States than in France, but it is less common there than in England. You may form an idea from this of the state of it in America. Smith saw every thing thro’ the medium of strong prejudice. Besides this he does not hesitate to write palpable lies, which he was conscious were such.—When you proceed to form your table of American exports, and imports, I make no doubt you will consult the American traveller, the estimates in which are nearer the truth than those of Ld. Sheffield and Deane, as far as my knowlege of the facts enables me to judge. I must beg your pardon for having so long detained those sheets. I did not finish my American dispatches till the night before last, and was obliged yesterday to go to Versailles. I have the honour to be with very great respect, Sir, your most obedient & most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC).

The number of sheets of your work that Brissot de Warville sent to TJ cannot be determined; the volume of which he was joint author with Etienne Clavière was not published until 1787 and was entitled: De la France et Des Etats-Unis, ou de l’Importance de la Révolution de l’Amérique pour le bonheur de la France, des Rapports de ce Royaume & des Etats-Unis, des avantages réciproques qu’ils peuvent retirer de leurs liaisons de Commerce, & enfin de la situation actuelle des Etats-Unis; it was dedicated to Congress “et aux amis des Etats-Unis, dans les Deux Mondes.” The Introduction that pleased TJ so much pointed out that, no sooner had England lost the colonies than her writers (Sheffield and others) began to emphasize the importance of restoring American commerce to its former channels; that, despite the great value of American commerce to France, there was in general little public interest in the subject; and that one of the chief causes of this indifference was the absence of freedom of the press, whereby discussion of political questions was curtailed and many political advantages lost. As finally published, the work revealed many traces of TJ’s influence. It included (p. 330–6) the text of Calonne’s letter to TJ of 22 Oct. 1786 and the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (p. 336–9). In addition, the concluding chapter—a vigorous refutation of the idea that anarchy prevailed in America because of Shays’ rebellion, the clamors for paper money, and other evidences of popular discontent—contained some materials that could evidently have been furnished only by TJ. In respect to the adoption of a money unit by Congress, the authors observe: “On a suivi pour ce réglement le plan proposé par le judicieux et savant M. Jefferson. Une des parties les plus frappantes de ce plan est de réduire tous les calculs sur les monnoies à la raison décimale” (p. 321). Also, the allegation that England had declined to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce on the ground that the constitutions “n’étoient pas encore assez fixes” (p. 327) must have come from him. His influence seems discernible, too, in the substance if not the phraseology of the eloquent passage at p. 320–4, reflecting arguments that TJ had been employing for months past: “Observez en effet tout ce qui s’est passé dans les Etats-Unis depuis le retour de la paix, et vous retrouverez cet esprit public, dans tous leurs actes législatifs, dans toutes leurs réformes, dans toutes leurs améliorations, dans tous leurs développemens. Vous le retrouverez dans cette cession généreuse & sans exemple dans l’histoire, que divers Etats ont faite au congrès, de leurs territoires trop étendus; cession bien propre à disculper ces républiques des vues d’ambition et d’aggrandissement qu’on leur prête; cession qui affermit leurs bases en circonscrivant à jamais leurs limites.—Vous le retrouverez dans la volonté unanime et déclarée de tous les Etats, de payer la dette publique, et dans leur intention d’acquiescer aux moyens infaillibles qui doivent l’éteindre. Il est du devoir des vrais amis des Américains libres d’insister sur ce concert, pour rassurer les François et les autres Européens qui sont leurs créanciers.—Vous le retrouverez dans ce réglement du congrès qui simplifie les monnoies, qui les réduit à des divisions faciles pour le commerce; qui donne à l’Europe un grand exemple, l’exemple de plusieurs Etats indépendans les uns des autres, occupant une vaste étendue, et n’ayant cependant qu’une même monnoie, comme un même poids, de mêmes mesures, un même language‥‥ Vous le retrouverez cet esprit public dans l’accord de tous les Etats pour n’avoir qu’une régle commune relative au commerce extérieur, et pour réformer les abus qui peuvent s’être glissés dans le systême fédéral.—Vous le retrouverez dans la disposition générale de tous les Etats à bien accueillir les étrangers, dans ce traité de paix et d’amitié entre eux et la Prusse; où, pour la premiere fois, on abjure les préjugés ridicules qui souillent encore la diplomatique de nos jours; où l’on convient enfin, que la guerre ne frappera plus ni sur l’agriculture ni sur l’industrie, ni sur le commerce.—Vous le retrouverez dans cette anxiété qu’éprouvent tous les Américains vertueux à la vue du luxe qui s’accroît chez eux; dans les moyens qu’ils prennent pour l’arrêter & pour conserver leur première simplicité.—Vous le retrouverez dans toutes les loix passées par les divers Etats; dans celle qui rappelle les loyalistes; car l’esprit public ne connoît point de vengeance implacable; dans cette autre loi qui supprime les confiscations de biens des coupables; pratique barbare, enfantée dans les tems désastreux des proscriptions Romaines, conservée par l’esprit de rapine de la féodalité.—Vous le retrouverez dans ces réglemens sur la religion, qui établissent par-tout une tolérance civile et religieuse; tolérance si nécessaire à l’harmonie et dont l’ignorance seule ou les préjugés peuvent combattre les avantages évidens.—Vous le retrouverez dans toutes les loix qui sanctionnent l’établissement de maisons d’éducation, de grands chemins, de canaux, et de tout ce qui peut contribuer à la commodité et à l’aggrandissement du commerce intérieur.” consult the american traveller: That is, Alexander Clunie’s The American Traveller: or, observations on the present state, culture and commerce of the British Colonies in America, and the further improvements of which they are capable; with an account of the exports, imports and returns of each Colony respectively (London, 1769; Sowerby No. 3611).

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