Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 20 June 1792

To George Washington

June 20. 92.

Th: Jefferson, with his respects to the President, incloses him a publication by Mr. Knox an Under-secretary of state in England, who seems to have been the true parent of the British system with respect to our commerce. He asks the favour of the President to read the paper No. 18. page 60. as it shews the expectation of what would be done on our part, and an acknolegement of the injury it would do them, could we enforce it. Papers 12. and 13. are also interesting: but not so pointedly so.

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); endorsed by Washington. Tr (Lb in same, SDC). Not recorded in SJL.

William Knox (1732–1810), who served as British undersecretary of state for American affairs from 1770 to 1782, had been instrumental in the postwar decision to impose restrictions on American trade with the empire (Leland J. Bellot, William Knox: The Life & Thought of an Eighteenth-Century Imperialist [Austin, Tex., 1977], 185–94). The enclosed publication was Knox’s Extra Official State Papers … By a Late Under Secretary of State, 2 vols. (London, 1789). In paper no. 18, an account of his examination by a committee of the Privy Council in March 1784, Knox defended restrictions on American trade with the British West Indies, but admitted that if the United States chose to retaliate by forbidding the entry of British ships or by laying prohibitive tonnage dutes on them, it “certainly would be very prejudicial to the commerce of this country” (same, ii, 60–77). In the other two papers, which appear to have been written about 1784 as well, he respectively suggested various strategies for relegating the United States to the role of a supplier of raw materials for the British economy and argued that trade between the new republic and the British West Indies should only be permitted until Britain and British North America were able to supply the islands’ needs (same, 37–47).

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