Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on British Commercial Relations with United States, [12 March 1792]

Notes on British Commercial Relations with United States

[12 Mch. 1792]

Two facts affirmd. viz.

  • 1. that we have not capital enough for commerce
  • 2. that the capitals of persons residt. in Brit. necessary
  • 1. perhaps true.
    • but not so much necessary as may be imagd.
    • commerce may be overstrained
    • Phila. N.Y. Boston very wealthy
    • but be it so. I am not prepard to deny so I will admt. there may be such an opinion
  • 2. British capitals are necessary
    • not more so than Dutch and French
    • the latter will come in if made their int.
  • What are the remedies to this embarismt.
  • I. The S. of T. proposes
    • 1. to submit with resignation without any opposition
    • 2. in meantime raise manufactures.
    • 1. other passions besides avarice-resentmt.
      • man disposed to sacrifice much of his other passions to resentmt.
      • our countrymen shd. do so for commerce
    • 2. the Eng. will keep the start they have in manuf. stern chase is a long chase
  • II. My propositions
    • 1. to prevent diversion of our own capital
    • 2. to induce British capitalist to transport himself here with his capital, by embarrassing his employment of it while he resides in Britain there being no employmt. or less advantageous in Europe, induces him to employ here. Same cause will induce to come here if necessary
    • 3. the few who refuse to come will lend their money, or give credit for goods
      This necessary for a short time only. We can soon do without this class of Brit. capitalists.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 72: 12458); entirely in TJ’s hand. Recorded in SJPL under 12 Mch. 1792; entry reads: “Th:J’s Notes on commerce with Gr. Br.”

TJ’s recollection of his conflict with Hamilton over the negotiation of commercial treaties with France and Great Britain probably prompted him to write these notes (see Memoranda of Consultations with the President, 11 Mch.-9 Apr. 1792). In addition to justifying TJ’s policy of commercial retaliation against the British, the notes also consist of observations on Hamilton’s remarks in his Report on Manufactures about the need for foreign capital to spur American industrial development (Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961-1979, 27 vols. description ends , x, 274–7). It is also possible that the two facts affirmd. were arguments in support of a commercial treaty with Great Britain advanced by Hamilton in the cabinet in December 1791 (see note to TJ to Washington, 26 Nov. 1791).

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