Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on the Constitutionality of Bounties to Encourage Manufacturing, [February 1792]

Notes on the Constitutionality of Bounties to Encourage Manufacturing

[Feb. 1792]

Dear Sir

When we come to select the proper1 manufactures to be encouraged, we must attend to this, that tho labour in general is dearer here than in Europe, yet there is some species of labour which may vie with theirs, to wit 1 of women and chdn. 2 of men on rainy days, days of frost, long nights &c. 3. machines and natural events, to wit wind, water, sun &c. Encourage therefore the manufactures where this Species of labour may be united to the greatest difference of cost of the raw material.

How encourage? The constn. seems to have been jealous of giving the means of encouragemt. from a fear of partiality in their distribn.—The principal means2 in the hands of the genl. govmt. for encouraging3 our own manufactures is to ensure a preference and encourage a demand for them by overcharging the prices of4 foreign by heavy duties. Such other means of encouragemt. as have not been confided to the general government must be left with those of states, that each may deal them out to that degree and in favor of those branches of manufacture for which their circumstances have respectively matured them.

Lay a duty on all importns. = to the bounty they have received, and this in addn. to the general duties.

Household5 manufactures to be encouraged, not public. Few6 instances of the latter being successful and perhaps none of their supporting themselves without burthening the public.

[Those?] which7 wisdom, patriotism and religion dictate to the genl. govmt. not to set the example of risking infractions of an instrument from which it derives all it’s powers, and out of which it has none, and which being dissolved they are dissolved with it.

Bounties8 have in some instances been a successful instrument for the introdn. of9 new and useful manufactures.10 But the use of them has been found almost inseparable from abuse. The power of dispensing them has not been delegated by the Constn. to the Genl. govmt. It remains with the state govmts. whose local information renders them competent judges11 of the particular arts and manufactures for which circumstances have matured them.12 Bound by every tie to preserve the govmt. adopted by our country, and so dear in it’s present form to every republican, [it] behoves the general authority to render sacred by our respect that line which has been drawn between them and the special govmts., and not to set the example of committing infractions on an instrument out of [which?] they have neither powers nor existence;13 resign in this dispentn. therefore in the hands where it has been.

As the general govmt. has no powers but what are given by the Constn.; as that of Levying money on the people to give out in premiums is not among the14 powers in that instrument, nor necessary to carry any of the enumerated powers into exn.

but not finding a power to levy money to be given out in premiums, among these powers of the genl. govmt. enumerated in the constn., nor among those necessary to carry the enumerated powers into execution he [is] unable to say that the Genl. govmt. can avail itself of th[is] incentive to improvement:15

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 69: 12023); entirely in TJ’s hand.

In his Report on Manufactures, which was submitted to the House of Representatives on 5 Dec. 1791, Alexander Hamilton had advocated the use of federal bounties to encourage American manufacturing and argued that the general welfare clause of the Constitution authorized Congress to approve them (Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961-1979, 27 vols. description ends , x, 298–304). TJ opposed this use of the doctrine of implied powers and warned Washington during a private meeting on 29 Feb. 1792 that if the Hamiltonian mode of constitutional interpretation prevailed the powers of the federal government would become unlimited. TJ regarded this prospect with particular alarm because one of the primary postulates of the republican ideology to which he adhered was that the preservation of political liberty required strict constitutional limits on the powers of government (Memoranda of Conversations with the President, 1 Mch. 1792; see also Lance Banning, “Republican Ideology and the Triumph of the Constitution,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892- description ends , 3rd ser., xxxi [1974], 169–83). Although TJ’s notes cannot be dated with certainty, they were probably written about the time of this meeting with the President, and perhaps even in preparation for it.

1TJ here canceled “objects.”

2TJ here canceled “of giving preference to.”

3TJ here first canceled “home” and then “American.”

4TJ here canceled “European.”

5Before this word TJ canceled “The private.”

6Before this word TJ canceled “No.”

7Preceding two words interlined in place of “our,” canceled. TJ also canceled “our” before “patriotism” and “religion” in this sentence.

8TJ originally began this paragraph with this canceled sentence: “The power of giving bounties for the encoragemt. of manufactures or arts has not been delegated by the Constn. to the general government.”

9TJ here canceled “art.”

10TJ here canceled this sentence: “But they have often been an abusive one, for favoring a few at the expence of the many.”

11Preceding word interlined in place of “to this dispensation for the encouragement,” canceled.

12TJ here canceled this partial sentence: “Bound by our affections [for?] the govmt. in it’s present bound principled as well as.”

13TJ here canceled this partial sentence: “Leaving bounties therefore to those.”

14TJ here canceled “enumerated.”

15TJ here canceled “but on the contrary is of opinion they must have recourse to other means.”

Index Entries