Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Alexander Hamilton, 1 January 1792

From Alexander Hamilton

Sunday January 1st. 1792

Mr. Hamilton presents his Compliments to Mr. Jefferson. Being engaged in making a comparative statement of the Trade between the US and France and between the US and G Britain; and being desirous of rendering it as candid as possible Mr. H will be obliged to Mr. Jefferson to point out to him the instances, in which the Regulations of France have made discriminations in favour of the U States, as compared with other foreign Powers. Those of Great Britain appear by its statutes which are in the hands of Mr. H; but he is not possessed of the General Commercial Regulations of France.

Mr. H also wishes to be informed whether the Arret of the 9th of May 1789 mentioned by Mr. J in the Notes to his Table be the same with the Ordinance of the Governor General of St. Domingo which is at the end of the Collection of Arrets which Mr. J was so obliging as to lend to Mr. H—which is of that Date.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 1 Jan. 1792 but not recorded in SJL or SJPL.

Hamilton’s comparative statement was almost certainly his “View of the Commercial Regulations of France and Great Britain in reference to the United States.” The object of this paper, which Hamilton never completed, was to counter the strongly anti-British report on commerce TJ was then expected to submit to Congress by demonstrating that British commercial regulations were actually more favorable to the United States than those of France (Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961-1979, 27 vols. description ends , xiii, 395–436). There is no evidence that TJ ever replied in writing to Hamilton’s letter, and in the absence of such a response it is impossible to determine to what extent, if any, the comparison of the British and French commercial systems in Hamilton’s “View” was based on information he might have received from TJ in other ways. The table in which TJ discussed the 9 May 1789 ordinance of the governor of Saint-Domingue permitting the free importation of American flour for four years is printed as an enclosure to TJ to Washington, 23 Dec. 1791. Hamilton was far more critical than TJ of the French government’s policy of preventing the importation of American flour into the French West Indies except in “cases of necessity” (same, p. 415). See also TJ to Washington, 4 Jan. 1792.

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