Thomas Jefferson Papers

II. Notes for Opinion on the Treaty of Alliance with France, [before 28 April 1793]

II. Notes for Opinion on the Treaty of Alliance with France

[before 28 Apr. 1793]

  • the Quest.
    • H’s reasoning.
    • Admitted that this is real i.e. national treaty
    • L. Nations 1. Moral law. 2. Usage. 3. Conventions this Qu. depends on 1st. branch.
  • nature of Moral oblign on individuals
                     societies <aggrete?> aggregate1
  •      evidence of moral sense & reason of men.
  • oblign of Contracts.
    • impossible.—self-destruct.2
  • non-compliance for danger. appeal to <feelings> head & heart—there written—useless, disag.3  —of this ourselves to judge.
       judge rigorously.
  • Restrictions on this right of self liberation from treaty
    • 1. danger great, inevitable, imminent.
      is the present one so?
      • 1. if issue in military despotism.
      • 2.         republic
      • 3. possibility of Rawhead & Bloody bones
      • possibility alwais exists—existed at signature
        must wait moment when imminent.
        is this the last moment.
      • 4. is the danger from guarantee?
            does the guarantee engage us to enter &c.4
        this danger then not certain enough, nor imminent,
      • 5. is it from 17th. Art. asylum. Holld. & Prussia have subscribd.
                            Engld. same art. agt us. has subscribed too.
      • 6. 22d. art. prohib. enemies of France to fit out privateers in our ports.
      •  we may prohibit France the same.
      • 7. the Reception of Minister is act of election, & closes right
        • qualificns
        • no connection with treaty
      • 8. to elect the contince. of a treaty is = makg treaty &c
        • no act necessary.—treaty goes on.
        • if no act done, no infraction of neutraly.
      •  deny that explicit declaration now bars us hereafter.5
  • 2d. Restriction. liberate from only so much of treaty as is dangerous.
    • the residue remns.—option then in opposite party.
    • clause of guarantee only dangerous one.
  • 3. limn. Compensn.

  • self-libern without just cause or compensn gives cause of war to France.

  • Examine Authorities.—how far they weigh.—danger of understg. Vattel witht restrn.
    • Grotius—Puff.—Wolf—Vattel
    • Vattel. 2. 160.6
    •        158. <159.> 163. 219. 220. <233.>
  • [Lengthwise in the margin in darker ink:]
  • Do[es the] guarantee en[gage us to en]ter into the war in any event?
    • Are we to enter into it before called on by our allies?
    • have we been called on?—shall we be called on?—is it yr interest?
    • Can they call on us before invasion, or immintly. threatened?
    • if they can save them themselves, can they call on us?
    • are we to go to war at once witht. trying peaceable negocns?
    • Are we in a condn to go to war?
    • can we be expected to begin before we are in condn?
    • will the islds. be lost if we do not save them?
    • have we the means of saving them?
    • if not, are we bound to go to war for a desperate object?
    • will not 10. years forbearce in us, entitle to some indulgce. from them?

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 84: 14560); written entirely in TJ’s hand on one side of a sheet; undated; left margin torn, obliterating several words conjectured in brackets; printed literally.

These rough notes form the outline for a rebuttal of the reasoning employed by Alexander Hamilton at the 19 Apr. 1793 Cabinet meeting to justify the right of the United States to suspend or renounce the French treaties. To judge by the words, interlineations, and marginalia he added in a darker ink, TJ apparently made the notes at two different sittings sometime after the meeting and before 28 Apr. 1793 (see Document IV below). In his opinion, as in these notes, TJ originally focused on the treaty of alliance, but he altered the opinion to encompass the commercial treaty with France before transmitting it to the President. See also Document i above.

Rawhead & bloody bones: an imaginary horrific figure in English folklore, especially to children, used here by TJ to ridicule Hamilton’s expressed concerns about the possible dangers to the United States of honoring the treaty of alliance with France (OED description begins Sir James Murray and others, eds., A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, Oxford, 1888–1933 description ends ). Holld. & Prussia have subscribd: a reference to clauses in the 1782 Dutch and 1785 Prussian treaties of commerce with the United States that replicated Article 17 of the American commercial treaty with France (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , ii, 64–5, 78, 175). same art. agt us: a reference to Article 40 of the 1786 treaty of amity and commerce between France and Great Britain, whereby each nation agreed to open its ports to ships of the other nation and the prizes they captured from third-party belligerents (Clive Parry, ed., The Consolidated Treaty Series, 231 vols. [Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969–81], l, 90).

1Word inserted in darker ink.

2This line interlined in darker ink.

3Preceding ten words interlined in darker ink.

4TJ subsequently developed this and other questions in the marginal notes printed at the end of the document; he adhered to this logical order in Document iv below.

5This line interlined in darker ink.

6This and the following line added in darker ink.

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