Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 10 August 1785

To John Adams

Paris Aug. 10. 1785.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 4th. inst. came to hand yesterday. I now inclose you the two Arrets against the importation of foreign manufactures into this kingdom. The cause of the balance against this country in favor of England as well as it’s amount is not agreed on. No doubt the rage for English manufactures must be a principal cause. The speculators in Exchange say also that those of the circumjacent countries who have a balance in their favor against France remit that balance to England from France. If so it is possible that the English may count this balance twice: that is, in summing their exports to one of those states, and their imports from it, they count the difference once in their favour: then a second time when they sum the remittances of cash they receive from France. There has been no arret relative to our commerce since that of Aug. 1784. and all the late advices from the French West Indies are that they have now in their ports always three times as many vessels as there ever were before, and that the increase is principally from our States. I have now no further fears of that arret’s standing it’s ground. When it shall become firm I do not think it’s extension desperate. But whether the placing it on the firm basis of treaty be practicable is a very different question. As far as it is possible to judge from appearances I conjecture that Crawford will do nothing. I infer this from some things in his conversation, and from an expression of the Count de Vergennes in a conversation with me yesterday. I pressed upon him the importance of opening their ports freely to us in the moment of the oppressions of the English regulations against us and perhaps of the suspension of their commerce. He admitted it but said we had free ingress with our productions. I enumerated them to him and shewed him on what footing they were and how they might be improved. We are to have further conversations on the subject. I am afraid the voiage to Fontainebleau will interrupt them. From the enquiries I have made I find I cannot get a very small and indifferent house there for the season (that is, for a month) for less than 100. or 150 guineas. This is nearly the whole salary for the time and would leave nothing to eat. I therefore cannot accompany the court there, but I will endeavor to go occasionally there from Paris. They tell me it is the most favourable scene for business with the Count de Vergennes, because he is then more abstracted from the domestic applications. Count D’Aranda is not yet returned from the waters of Vichy. As soon as he returns I will apply to him in the case of Mr. Watson. I will pray you to insure Houdon’s life from the 27th. of last month to his return to Paris. As he was to stay in America a month or two, he will probably be about 6 months absent: but the 3 per cent for the voiage being once paid I suppose they will ensure his life by the month whether his absence be longer or shorter. The sum to be insured is fifteen thousand livres tournois. If it be not necessary to pay the money immediately there is a prospect of exchange becoming more favourable. But whenever it is necessary be so good as to procure it by selling a draught on Mr. Grand which I will take care shall be honoured. Compliments to the ladies & am Dr. Sir Your friend & servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (MHi: AMT); endorsed. PrC (DLC). Recorded in SJL as sent “by Dr. Bancroft.” Entry in SJPL reads: “Adams John. Arret on foreign commerce. Ours. Houdon”; the remainder of this entry, which reads “Sprowle Mrs. Her case,” refers actually to TJ’s letter to Katherine Sprowle Douglas of this date. Enclosures: The two decrees of 10 and 17 July 1785 intended to prohibit importation of English merchandise (Sowerby No. 2295, 2296; Mercure de France, 30 July 1785. Recueil Général des Anciennes Lois Françoises, 1785–89, Paris, 1827, p. 67).

TJ was correct in his conjecture that Crawford (George Craufurd) would do nothing. A few days before this letter was written, Dorset sent the following despatch to Carmarthen: “In my first conversations with Mons. de Vergennes, which, during my residence here of eighteen months, have been very frequent, that minister … shewed no unwillingness to coincide in any measures that might be proposed for the mutual advantage of the two kingdoms, but his conduct as well as his language have of late taken a very different cast… . There is also another cause (in addition to the claims of the St. Eustatius merchants), of much greater weight in my opinion, to which no attention whatever seems to have been given, I mean the Treaty of Commerce between Great Britain and France. I mentioned to your Lordship at the time the extreme desire Mons. de Vergennes expressed to me before the arrival of Mr. Craufurd that that matter might be entered upon, and he seemed indeed to promise himself that, as His Majesty had appointed a Commissioner expressly for the purpose, the business would at once be seriously introduced. But now after so many months, when a large portion of the time fixed by mutual consent for the arrangement is expired, that nothing has been done or even proposed on our part, it is not very surprising to observe a degree of ill-humour, which has already shown itself and is but too plainly manifested by the Arrêts du Conseil that are directly leveled at the commerce of England. Mr. Craufurd transmitted one to you last week, and another is expected to make its appearance in the course of a few days, whereby a duty of 30 per cent will be laid upon English goods of every kind. These Arrêts may be considered also as proofs that the balance of trade is at present much against France, and it is not improbable that the measure has been taken at this time with a design of increasing the discontents which are supposed to be already subsisting amongst our Manufacturers, on account of the arrangements with Ireland” (Camden Society Publications, 3rd ser., xvi; Oscar Browing, ed., “Despatches from Paris, 1784–1790,” i, 63–5; see also p. 67, 77). George Craufurd had been instructed on 2 Sep. 1784 to open negotiations for the commercial treaty that had been stipulated in Article 18 of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 (Camden Society Publications, 3rd ser., xlix; L. G. Wickham Legg, ed., “British Diplomatic Instructions, 1689–1789,” vii, France, Pt. iv, 1745–1789, p. 315–7). In MHi there is a calling card reading “Mr. Craufurd, Commissaire de sa Majesté Britannique. Hôtel d’Orleans, Rue des Petits Augustins.”

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