Thomas Jefferson Papers

Draft of a Resolution concerning Money Due British Subjects, [ca. 13 January 1778]

Draft of a Resolution concerning Money Due British Subjects

[ca. 13 January 1778]

And whereas his Britannic majesty did on the day of 1775 undertake by the strength of his fleets to shut up the several ports and havens of the American states and to intercept all commerce between the said states and other parts of the world, to which proceeding the British parliament had previously given their sanction by an act entitled an act1

 whereby the monies belonging to the subjects of his Britannic majesty in the hands of the citizens of this Commonwealth being rendered useless to such citizens who could no longer employ them to any profit, it becomes just that2 no compensation should be yeilded for the use thereof during the time that3 their commerce shall be so interrupted and cut off.

Resolved therefore that it is the opinion of this Committee that nothing should be demandeable under colour of interest or by way of damages for the use or detention of any monies due from any Citizen of this Commonwealth to any British subject from the said  day of 1775 till it shall appear to this assembly that by a restitution of trade the said monies shall become again profitable to the holders thereof and the said states4 at the time of their rupture with Gr. Br. were unprovided with any naval power which might5 such interruption of their commerce and still are unprovided with such a one as may open the same in defiance of the hostile navy.

Dft (DLC). On the same page and on its verso is a list of books, principally legal, omitted here. The draft is undated, and, as proved by the beginning phrase “And whereas,” is only part of what must have been a longer preamble to a committee report.

In the absence of the complete text of this committee report, there can be no certainty as to its date or the particular legislation to which it applies. It may belong to the year 1776 (see TJ’s Bill for Suspending Executions for Debts, 6 Dec. 1776) or it may even refer to the resolutions passed 19 Dec. 1776 calling upon the governor to put into effect the Statute Staple of 27 Edward III, c. 17 (Va. Gaz. description begins Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg, 1751–1780, and Richmond, 1780–1781). Abbreviations for publishers of the several newspapers of this name, frequently published concurrently, include the following: C & D (Clarkson & Davis), D & H (Dixon & Hunter), D &N (Dixon & Nicolson), P & D (Purdie & Dixon). In all other cases the publisher’s name is not abbreviated. description ends [Purdie], Suppl., 20 Dec. 1776, where both resolutions and Statute Staple are printed). Or it may refer to the Bill Concerning Escheats and Forfeitures from British Subjects which TJ drew (q.v., under date 4 June 1779). Or it may possibly refer to some other part of the legislation respecting British subjects or even to a bill that was never enacted. It is placed here because (1) the general sequestration Act passed at the close of the session of Oct. 1777 was the first drastic legislation affecting property of enemy aliens, and (2) because that Act not only contained the first provision for payment of debts owed British subjects but also contained one clause (inserted by amendment) which by inference at least was at variance with the suspension of interest provided for in this draft (see Bill for the Sequestration of British Property, note 3, preceding).

1The Act of Parliament referred to here must have been that of 22 Dec. 1775, “An Act to prohibit all Trade and Intercourse with the Colonies,” Force, Archives, 4th ser., vi, 237.

2The words “they should pay” are deleted in draft.

3The words “the said ports and harbours shall continue” are deleted in draft.

4The words “during their former connection with Gr. Br. being unprovided with” are deleted in draft.

5There is no interruption at this point, but TJ must have omitted one or more words. Perhaps he intended the clause to read, for example, “which might have prevented such interruption‥‥”

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