Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Jay, 13 August 1785

From John Jay

Office for foreign Affairs 13th. August 1785

Dr Sir

Since the Date of my last to you which was the 13th. Ultimo I have been honored with your Joint Letter of the 11th. May and with two others from you of the same Date.

As yet Congress have not communicated to me any Resolutions on the Subjects of the several Letters from their Ministers which have been received and laid before them, and the Convention respecting consular Powers is still under their Consideration.

The Board of Commissioners for the Treasury is now complete, Congress having been pleased to appoint Mr. Arthur Lee to be one of them.

The Answer ot Governor Rutledge who has been elected for the Hague, has not yet come to Hand.

A Requisition on the States for Supplies is preparing and it is thought will pass in the Course of the next Month. If punctually complied with, it will greatly reestablish our Credit with those, who entertain Doubts respecting it.

Our Harvest is good, and though the Productions of the Country are plenty, yet they bear a high Cash Price, so that the Complaint of the want of Money in the Country, is less well founded than a Complaint of Distrust and want of Credit between Man and Man would be. For the apprehension of paper Money alarms those who have any Thing to lend, while they who have Debts to pay are zealous Advocates for the Measure. Until that Matter is decided there will be little Credit, and I sometimes think the less the better.

The Letters I have received from Mr. Adams were written immediately after his Presentation and contain nothing of Business, so that our Suspence on certain interesting Points still continues.

I herewith enclose by Order of Congress some Papers on the Subject of our Trade with the French which it may be useful for you to know the Contéents of, and also some late newspapers which tho’ not very interesting may not be altogether useless. I have the honor to be &c.,

John Jay

FC (DNA: PCC, No. 121); at head of letter: “To the Honorable Thos. Jefferson Esquire.” Recorded in SJL as received 18 Sep. 1785. Enclosures (DNA: PCC, No. 121): (1) Robert Morris to the President of Congress, 30 Sep. 1784, enclosing copy of Lafayette to Morris, 14 Aug. 1784; he praises Lafayette’s efforts toward lifting the French restrictions on American commerce, though he is aware of “the Delicacy and perhaps Danger of asking from France the Moderation or Abolition of particular Duties, thereby establishing a Precedent for similar Requests on her Part.” (2) Lafayette to Calonne, 31 Jan. 1784, expressing his appreciation of the designation of four free French ports: “it is very opportunely you have step’d in to turn the Current which carried the whole of the american commerce to England”; he urges the reduction of the “Fees of Office, of Anchorage, of the Admiralty” and reports the observations of certain American merchants, Wadsworth, Carter, and Nesbitt, on the regulations and the difficulties they might encounter. (3) Lafayette to Calonne, 10 Feb. 1784, repeating his requests for reducing the duties; he expresses his apprehensions of the “bad Consequences from the Commission given by the Farmers of Virginia Tobacco. At present it is brought from the Ukraine, and in general instead of buying that of America, the Farmers take the other at a low Price and of a very bad Quality”; American merchants have suggested too that Le Havre might also be made a free port, for “it would give a Superiority to the Manufactures of Normandy and facilitate the Vent of the Articles fabricated at Paris. Vessels loaded in England, tempted by the Commodity and the Vicinity of the Port, would call and take in some french Productions.” (4) Lafayette to Calonne, 26 Feb. 1784, enclosing the opinions of American merchants on the duties in the free ports, which “are less burthensome from their Amount than from their Multiplicity; to abolish them entirely would perhaps be difficult, but they might be at first lessened and afterwards united under one Denomination, to be paid at so much for a Vessel of three Masts, so much for one of two Masts, and so on without troubling themselves about the Tonnage… . This method will deprive no one of their Dues for the Subdivision of the Profits can be made by those who claim them.” (5) Lafayette to Calonne, 5 Mch. 1784, informing him that he has seen Chardon who foresees the need for “new and more particular Statements [of the duties]”; Lafayette urges the concluding touches to the establishment of the free ports and passes on the American merchants’ suggestion that returns for the importation of flour into the French islands be made in wines, or French manufactures, which “may be joined with the excellent Idea which Mr. the Comptroller General as well as the Count d’Estaing gave me, of a moderate Duty subject to Drawback.” (6) Calonne to Lafayette, 8 Mch. 1784, saying that the time to submit to the king a proposal to reduce and simplify duties in the free ports will be when Calonne receives an account of their present nature and number; “the Determination that his Majesty has just taken on my Report to suppress all Duties on the Exportation of our Brandies, is a further Proof of the Attention given to every Part of our Commerce with the United States.” (7) Calonne to Lafayette, 17 May 1784, enclosing copies of the act designating the free ports; though a brief delay in its force will be necessary, he has taken precautions that no American vessels shall be denied the privileges of the free port if they sailed from America in anticipation of them; refutes certain claims made in Le Couteulx’s memorial on tobacco but reports that the Farmers-General have agreed to buy tobacco only in France or America and that a warehouse will be established in L’Orient. (8) Calonne to Lafayette, 11 June 1784, enclosing a list to be sent to American merchants of the duties payable by American vessels in the free ports; when their specific recommendations and observations are received, Calonne will submit his proposals to the King. (9) Calonne to Lafayette, 16 June 1784, saying that he cannot accede to Lafayette’s request for the reduction and unification of duties before the latter leaves for America: “The Duties payable by the United States belong to the Admiral to Officers of the Admiralty and to particular Cities and Noblemen. Both one and the other would be apt to lay Claims of Indemnity for the Privation or Reductions of their Duties, and you will agree that it would not be just to reduce them or even to suspend them, without hearing the Parties interested. The same may be urged against reducing the whole of the Duties to one Denomination.” (10) Castries to Lafayette, 17 June 1784, saying that, though he appreciates Lafayette’s reasons for his proposals, “it will be impossible for us to give that Degree of Liberty which you desire”; he can promise only a free port in each colony, the perpetuation of previous privileges, and “that the Duties will be as moderate as possible”; the “Interest of our own Commerce demands some Consideration,” but he will discuss the matter with Franklin and Thomas Barclay. (11) A printed broadside dated 14 Mch. 1785 entitled “State of the Duties Payable by Vessels of the United States of America, In the Ports of Marseilles, Bayonne, L’Orient, and Dunkirk” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxix, 917, No. 457; Jay had previously sent a copy of this same broadside to TJ with his letter of 15 Apr. 1785).

Index Entries