Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Jacob Vernes, 27 December 1788

From Jacob Vernes

Paris 27 Xbre. 1788.

Monsieur

J’ai l’honneur de Vous envoyer les différentes pieces concernant la Saisie de deux Cutters Irlandois à Lorient, le 29 août 1788, dont je pense qu’il est important que Vous ayez connoissance par le rapport que les exportations des Irlandois et Ecossois des ports de France ont avec le commerce des Etats Unis en France; vous verrez l’etat actuel de l’affaire dans la piece intitulée Situation actuelle; j’y joins une copie de la proposition conciliatoire que j’ai été obligé de faire d’apres divers avis, et d’après la position des choses. J’ai laissé le soin de poursuivre l’affaire au grand pere de ma femme, M. Abeille, Inspecteur Général du commerce, rue de la feuillade, homme fort instruit, fort considéré dans le Ministere et dans l’administration, et qui par ses fonctions et ses lumieres, peut souvent rendre de grands Services dans des réclamations aussi justes et aussi utiles à l’Etat, que celle cy.

Il m’a promis ses Soins auprès de M. de Lambert par qui, sur le rapport de M. De Laboulay, doit se décider tout ce qui a trait à cette réclamation; c’est lui qui a prononcé la décision du 13. Xbre. que vous trouverez Copiée au bas du précis.

Si Votre Excellence juge à propos de faire quelques démarches dans cette affaire, je crois qu’elles doivent être célères. M. Abeille a chez lui la collection de toutes les pieces que je vous crois inutiles, mais qu’il vous communiquera très Volontiers.

Je vais partir pour L’Orient où Votre Excellence, que je me propose d’avoir l’honneur de voir demain matin, m’en fera beaucoup de m’y adresser ses observations ou ses ordres sur tout objet qui pourra intéresser les Américains et le commerce des Etats Unis en France. J’aurai beaucoup d’obligation à Votre Excellence si Elle veut bien me faire communiquer les informations qu’elle pourra recevoir relativement à ce commerce que je compte suivre avec beaucoup de suite et d’activité. Je serai bien enchanté de pouvoir être utile à quelque chose à Votre Excellence en Bretagne où je la prie de disposer entièrement de moi et de ma maison, J. J. Berard et Compagnie.

Je suis avec Respect Monsieur Votre très humble et très obeissant Serviteur

Vernes

Mon adresse est: à M. Vernes, associé de M. J. J. Berard, administrateur de la Compe. des Indes à Lorient.

RC (DLC); endorsed. Enclosures (Tr in clerk’s hand in DLC): (1) “No. 1. Nottes en Supplement sur la Saisie de deux Cutters Irlandois a Lorient le 29 Aout 1788,” setting forth (in eleven pages) that for the past five years a number of small Irish and Scottish vessels under 50 tons have openly exported leaf tobacco from L’Orient, giving to the admiralty office a statement of their cargo and tonnage and, in clearing, passing close to the revenue cutters of the farmers-general, even on occasion stopping because of contrary winds to give their declarations to the farmers-general at Port Louis; that two Irish cutters, Fame and Cunningham, were seized without warning, the former regulations having lapsed and such shipments as they were carrying having been tolerated for four years; that these vessels did not behave surreptitiously, but took on their cargo openly and sailed in daylight, submitting their papers without delay when required by the employees of the farmers-general to do so; that the captains and crews were arrested and their cargo seized because their vessels were under 50 tons and thus smaller than those allowed for such trade under the old regulations; that the captains protested and submitted a list of 123 Irish and Scottish vessels which had openly sailed from L’Orient since September 1785 with cargoes of tobacco, brandy, gin, batistes, nankeens, teas, &c., of which 88 were vessels of 6 to 40 tons; that the re-exportation of tobacco to Scotland and Ireland from 1 May 1786 to 1 July 1787 was valued at 500,000livre tournois; that the tolerance of such trade in exporting tobacco in vessels under 50 tons had been practised in other French ports, for example Bordeaux and Roscoff; that there are many reasons for encouraging Scottish and Irish exportations of tobacco from France, such as attracting American trade for this special brand of tobacco, enabling the Irish to export brandies and other French merchandise, and obtaining from them, as is customary, payment for about seven-eighths of their exports in gold or silver specie; that the total value of all exports carried in the 123 vessels, including their expenses in L’Orient, must exceed 3,000,000livre tournois; and that the ministry must be asked to order the crews to be released from their unjust detention and the captains be given an indemnity, since this action of the farmers-general could produce ill consequences for the future, as indicated by the fact that several vessels are already staying away from L’Orient. (2) “No. 2. Dernier Supplément sur la Saisie à Lorient de deux Cutters,” &c., furnishing evidence of the fact that the farmers-general tolerate the carrying on of the export tobacco trade in other ports by vessels under 50 tons, and giving the names of several vessels and their captains that had cleared from Bordeaux. (3) “No. 3. Exposé Succinct de l’affaire des deux petits Batimens Irlandois,” &c., a legal argument restating the facts of the case and arguments outlined in No. 1 concerning the advantages of such trade, the injustice of a sudden and arbitrary attempt to revive a regulation that had been allowed to lapse, &c. (4) “No. 4. Précis de l’affaire des deux Navires Irlandois,” &c., a further appeal summarizing the facts and arguments and pointing out that the only motive for this seizure, as given by the employees of the farmers-general, is the regulations of 8 Mch. 1719 and 10 Oct. 1752, and also an ordinance of the Intendant of Brittany, 13 July 1784, prohibiting the exportation of tobacco in vessels of less than 50 tons; that the appeal of the captains, resting on the droit des gens, had not been granted; and that they had remained in jail for three months while their property spoiled, concluding with a notation of a decision prepared by de Laboulay on 13 Dec. 1788 for M. Lambert: that the affair should be settled by agreement with the two captains whereby they would be released with their crews and given possession of their ships and cargoes on condition that they would not ask for indemnification, but in any case that the captains and crews be released. (5) “No. 5. Proposition Conciliatoire,” &c., stating that the decision of 13 Dec. will deter Irish, Scottish, and English vessels from coming to L’Orient, and proposing that the farmers-general grant permission to export leaf tobacco on all Irish vessels as has been done since 1784, but with such regulations as may be deemed necessary in order to enable the farmers-general to keep watch on all departing vessels (dated “Paris ce Xbre 1788”). (6) “No. 6. Situation actuelle … et proposition conciliatoire pour le terminer,” &c., dated “Paris de 25 Xbre. 1788,” restating the case, and concluding with the conciliatory proposal set forth in the preceding.

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