Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Trumbull, 14 July 1789

From John Trumbull

London, 14 July 1789. Sends an extract from “The Bill to regulate the Collection of Impost,” which declares that until the states of Rhode Island and North Carolina accede to the Constitution and become subject to the laws made thereunder, all “goods, wares and merchandize” not produced in the said states but imported into the United States from those states “shall be subjected to the same duties as goods imported from foreign countries.” Also sends an extract of an Act of the General Assembly of Rhode Island “for levying and collecting certain duties and imposts,” and providing that “the same duties and imposts” levied by the “general Legislature” of the eleven states in the “new confederacy” shall be collected on all articles imported into Rhode Island from any of the said eleven states. “Perhaps you have the foregoing already but its better to have duplicates than no information at all. I enclose a scrap of a Newspaper which gives you the character and temper of R Island. I find no other matter worth your notice. The June packet not arrived.” Encloses letter for Cutting.

RC (DLC); 3 p.; endorsed; the extracts are transcribed in Trumbull’s hand at the head of his letter. Recorded in SJL as received 18 July 1789. Enclosures: (1) An otherwise unidentified letter to Cutting. (2) A newspaper clipping reading as follows: “Extract of a letter from the state of Rhode-Island, dated May 23, 1789.—‘The enemies of the Federal government triumph more than ever in this state, since the bill passed the House of Representatives of Congress, for levying a duty on all foreign merchandize, exported from this to any other state. As that bill exempts articles that are the growth and manufacture of this state, from being subject to impost, it places the farmers, who are generally antifederalists, in such a situation as they have wished. They now derive all the advantages that the new government is capable of producing by encouraging the sale of domestic articles; while they are not exposed to any of its inconveniences. In addition to this reason, they are exceedingly gratified at such a stroke levelled at the mercantile interest. The legislature of this state have laid duties similar to what Congress impose. Our merchants therefore pay duties at home in the first instance, and afterwards in the state to which they export such goods. This operates peculiarly hard, and will, I fear, be a means of hindering our majority from consenting to have a convention called, as they take pleasure in seeing the merchants crushed. They say they have greater advantages without entering into the union, than they could derive by becoming a member of it. I hope Congress will consider our situation and put the different classes of people in this state in a predicament equally disagreeable, by subjecting domestic articles to a similar imposition as they do foreign, that are exported from this to any other state. Such a measure would soon draw our obstinate majority into the views of honesty, and the United States’ (clipping from an unidentified newspaper, DLC: TJ Papers, 49: 8373-a).

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