Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Anderson, 4 June 1793

To Nathaniel Anderson

Philadelphia June 4. 1793.


I am just now favored with yours of May 26th. The neutrality of the US. so far as depends on France is on the f[irmest] ground. Her minister has not only not required our guarantee of the W. India islands, but has declared that France does not wish to interrupt our peace and prosperity by doing it. She wishes [us] to remain in peace, and has opened all her ports in every part [of the] world to our vessels on the same footing as to her own. With respect to England, if she consults either justice, public1 economy, or the private interest of her citizens, she will certainly leave us neutral.—You say you are about purchasing an American ship. The merchants seem not to have adverted sufficiently to the circumstance that [it] suffices that a vessel be American-owned to be entitled to the protection of our flag: if she be American-built, also, she has the additional title to pay lower duties at home.2 But if a vessel belong to Americans, [no] foreigner has a right to touch her any more than they might [any] other American property. The Custom house officers have [been] accordingly instructed to give passports to all vessels bonâ fide owned by American citizens. Were we to depend on our home-built vessels only, much of our productions must remain on our hands. It would be well that this circumstance were made more known to the merchants. I am with great esteem Dear Sir your friend & servt

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); with faded words supplied from Tr in PRO; at foot of text: “Mr. N. Anderson.” Tr (PRO: FO 95/1); with extract of TJ to James Brown, 9 June 1793, on verso. Tr (DLC); 19th-century copy; with gaps for words faded in PrC filled by a different hand.

Anderson and fellow Richmond merchant James Brown, to whom a few days later TJ sent a similar statement of the recent decision to give passports to all American-owned ships, whether foreign-built or not, evidently took TJ’s hint and made this information known to the merchants, for on 20 June 1793 John Hamilton, the British consul at Norfolk, sent Lord Grenville a copy of this letter and an extract from that to Brown, which he described collectively as a “circular letter” to merchants in the United States (TJ to Brown, 9 June 1793; Hamilton to Grenville, 20 June 1793, PRO: FO 95/1).

1Word interlined in place of “or.”

2Preceding two words interlined.

Index Entries