Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to David Ramsay, 27 October 1786

To David Ramsay

Paris Oct. 27. 1786.

Dear Sir

I mentioned to you in a former letter that as the booksellers in London were afraid to sell your book there, I would have some copies brought here, advertising in the London papers that they could be furnished weekly from hence by the Diligence. 50 copies are just arrived, and 50 more are on the way. The translation will come from the press in a few days.1

Having observed the immense consumption of rice in this country, it became matter of wonder to me why so few ships come here with that article from S. Carolina and Georgia. The information I received on my first enquiries was that little Carolina rice came here because it was less clean and less good than what is brought them from the Levant. Further enquiry however has satisfied me of the inexactitude of this information. The case is as follows. About one half the rice consumed in France is from Carolina. The other half is chiefly from Piedmont. The Piedmont rice is thought by connoisseurs to be best au gras, the Carolina rice best au lait. Yet the superior whiteness of the latter is so much more pleasing to the eye as to compensate with many purchasers it’s deficiency in quality. Carolina rice sells at Havre by wholesale at 22, 23, and 24 livres the French quintal, the livre being 10d sterling and the French quintal 109 ℔. the English. At the approach of Lent it rises to 27 livres. It is retailed in Paris at from 6 to 10 sous the French pound according to it’s quality, being sorted. Piedmont rice sells always at 10 sous (5d sterling) the pound. In the wholesale it is 3 or 4 livres the quintal dearer than Carolina rice. This would supplant that of Piedmont if brought in sufficient quantity, and to France directly. But it is first carried and deposited in England, and it is the merchant of that country who sends it here, [drawing] a great profit himself, while the commodity is moreover subjected to the expences of a double voiage. You will perceive by the inclosed letter that the government here is disposed to encourage it’s importation. I think they will receive it duty free, or under a very light duty, barely sufficing to indicate the quantity imported. When I compare the price of this article here with what it is in London or Charlestown, I cannot help hoping the difference will be sufficient to draw to this country immediately what it’s consumption would call for. It must come to Havre or Rouen and must arrive there in time to reach Paris by the 1st of February, that is to say a month before the Careme, as most persons lay in their provision of rice during that period. This condition is so indispensible that it certainly loses it’s sale if it arrives later. I send you some specimens of the different kinds of rice as sold here. If by making known these details, you think the intercourse between our country and this may be improved, I am sure you will take on yourself the trouble of doing it, nobody being more sensible than you are of the motives both moral and political which should induce us to bind the two countries together by as many ties as possible of interest and affection. [I cannot pretend to affirm that this country will stand by us on every just occasion. But I am sure, if this will not, there is no other on earth that will. I am with very great esteem Dear Sir your most obedient & most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson]2

PrC (DLC); written with TJ’s left hand. Enclosure: Printed text of Calonne to TJ, 22 Oct. 1786.

With the exception of the beginning and close of this letter, as indicated in notes 1 and 2, the full text was printed by Ramsay in the South Carolina Gazette on the suggestion of some members of the legislature to whom it had been shown and who thought it would be “beneficial to the public and not indelicate” to be printed (Ramsay to TJ, 7 Apr. 1787). Thus it came to be reprinted in other papers and in The American Museum, July 1787, ii, 83. Otto in New York came upon this public version of the letter and transmitted it to Vergennes on 30 Mch. 1787 with the following comment: “Vous verrés par la lettre ci jointe de M. Jefferson que ce ministre desire infiniment d’attirer les Caroliniens en france. Le dernier paragraphe de cette Lettre contient un temoignage si evident de ses bonnes dispositions envers nous qu’il sert de preuve à ce que j’ai eu l’honneur de Vous mander précédemment à son egard” (Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxii; the text of TJ’s letter in French is in same, with the following caption: “Traduction d’une Lettre de M. Jefferson, Ministre Plenipre. des Etats unis près de Sa Majesté, à un Delegué de la Caroline Meridionale”—a translation of the caption with which TJ’s letter appeared in print). The “dernier paragraphe” to which Otto referred was not, of course, the final paragraph of the letter as written. This partial publication was timely and perhaps helped to counterbalance the effect of the unauthorized publication of TJ’s letter to Jay of 27 May 1786, q.v. At the time Otto transmitted the printed version, Van Berckel, the Dutch minister, had just protested to Congress against the Virginia Act granting exemption of duties to French brandies as being in violation of the most-favored-nation clause of the Treaty with the Netherlands of 1782, a protest which, on Jay’s report, Congress in Oct. 1787 conceded to be valid (Van Berckel to Jay, 20 Feb. 1787, DNA: PCC, No. 99; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xxxii, 116; xxxiii, 453, 676). The Virginia delegates in Congress met with Otto on this matter in Mch. 1787—having already been in consultation with him on the Mississippi question (Madison to TJ, 19 Mch. 1787)—and agreed to argue that the Virginia Act was not in the nature of a special favor to France but “une compensation des avantages mentionnés dans la lettre de M. Calonne à M. Jefferson.” Otto thought that this explanation, though a bit strained, would be useful, and added: “Les Virginiens … ne se bornent pas aux faveurs qu’ils ont accordées à nos eaux de vie et à nos vins, ils se proposent de les etendre à nos soiries et à nos draps. M. Grayson un de leurs Delegués qui nous est le plus devoué vient de me dire qu’il regarde cette mesure comme indispensable afin d’emanciper son Etat des entraves du Commerce Anglois. Il veut lui même en faire la motion dans la prochaine Assemblée et il m’a demandé si un droit de 100. sous par aune sur les etoffes Angloises n’equivaudroit pas à une prohibition. Je lui ai fait observer qu’il seroit dangereux de porter cette mesure aussi loin de peur de la faire annuller par une assemblée subsequente, mais qu’un droit modique suffiroit pour mettre le commerçant françois au dessus de la concurrence, ce qui auroit d’ailleurs l’avantage de ne pas exciter les clameurs et les intrigues du parti Anglois’—Il a gouté ce raisonnement et il va s’occuper des moyens de faire passer sa motion. J’entre dans ces details … puisque la Virginie ainsi que la Caroline offre sans aucune comparaison le plus grand debouché à notre commerce” (Otto to Vergennes, 30 Mch. 1787; Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxii; transcripts in DLC). But this affair, as the ardent Francophile Grayson later pointed out in a “perfectly confidential” letter to William Short, had opened the eyes of Congress so that they were beginning to “recover from their treaty madness” (Grayson to Short, 16 Apr. 1787; Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , viii, No. 639).

1This paragraph is not included in the text as printed in The American Museum and newspapers, and is not in the translation as sent by Otto to Vergennes.

2The passage in brackets (supplied) is not in the text as published and is not in the Otto translation.

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