Thomas Jefferson Papers

Report on Matters for Negotiation with Great Britain, 12 December 1791

Report on Matters for Negotiation with Great Britain

The discussions which are opening between Mr. Hammond and our government, have as yet looked towards no objects but those which depend on the treaty of peace. There are however other matters to be arranged between the two governments, some of which do not rest on that treaty. The following is a statement of the whole of them.

1. The Western posts.

2. The Negroes carried away.

3. The debt of their bank to Maryland, and perhaps to Rho. island.

4. Goods taken from the inhabitants of Boston, while the town was in their possession and compensation promised.

5. Prizes taken after the dates at which hostilities were to cease.

6. Subsistence of prisoners.

7. The Eastern boundary.

Which of these shall be taken into the present discussion?

Which of them shall be left to arrangement through the ordinary channels of our ministers, in order to avoid embarrassing the more important points with matter of less consequence?

On the subject of Commerce, shall Mr. Hammond be desired to produce his powers to treat, as is usual, before conferences are held on that subject?

Th: Jefferson
Dec. 12. 1791.

MS (DLC). PrC (DLC). Entry in SJPL reads: “Subjects of discussion with Mr. Hammond.”

The exact purpose of this document is not altogether clear. The care with which TJ drafted it and the subject matter with which it deals indicates that he probably prepared it for Washington’s use in order to solicit the President’s guidance on the course he should pursue during his forthcoming negotiations with George Hammond. But there is also evidence suggesting that it might have been considered by the cabinet as well as by the President. Hammond reported, apparently on the basis of information supplied by the Secretary of the Treasury, that at about this time TJ discussed the subject of the British minister’s authority to negotiate a commercial treaty with the United States during what Hammond was pleased to describe as a meeting of the “council” (Hammond to Grenville, 19 Dec. 1791, PRO: FO 4/11, f. 255–9). Yet whether this report was considered by the President alone or in conjunction with the cabinet, it is instructive to note that within three days after drawing up this document TJ had concluded that the third through the sixth points enumerated therein were “smaller matters” which were inappropriate for the Secretary of State to discuss with the British minister and decided instead to focus his attention on the rest of the issues mentioned in the report (TJ to Hammond, 15 Dec. 1791).

Maryland’s effort to regain control of the stock it had acquired in the Bank of England before the Revolutionary War was a minor irritant in Anglo-American relations for over two decades until it was finally resolved during TJ’s first term as President (Jacob M. Price, “The Maryland Bank Stock Case: British-American Financial and Political Relations before and after the American Revolution,” Aubrey C. Land, Lois G. Carr, and Edward C. Papenfuse, eds., Law, Society, and Politics in Early Maryland [Baltimore, 1977], p. 3–40).

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