Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Bourne, 22 July 1793

From Benjamin Bourne

Providence 22d. July 1793


I do myself the honor to forward herewith inclosed some information relative to the commerce between the United States and Denmark. Capt. Pearce, who furnishes it has commanded a Vessel several Voyages in that Trade and is in great repute for his veracity and Intelligence. In the hope that this information may conduce to place our commerce with Denmark on a more favorable footing I remain very respectfully your obedt. Servt.

B. Bourn

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thos. Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 29 July 1793 and so recorded in SJL.

Benjamin Bourne (1755–1808), a Harvard graduate, Revolutionary War veteran, and state legislator, represented Rhode Island in the House of Representatives from 1790 to 1796, and served as a United States District Court judge in that state from 1796 to February 1801, when he accepted an appointment from John Adams as a judge of the new First Circuit Court (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828 description ends , i, 217, 381, 383).

Bourne probably enclosed Benjamin Peirce’s 6 July 1793 letter to TJ, judging from the fact that TJ received both letters on the same day. He may also have enclosed another document in which Peirce listed colonial Danish import, tonnage, and anchorage duties and port charges (all of which were paid equally by Danish subjects and American citizens and none of which were levied on imports from Denmark), identified contraband items, and noted that “All goods paying 5 perCt. duty is intitled to a permission for Exporting Sugars: the Value of which is equall to the Duty” (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 236: 42319; in Peirce’s hand; undated, but with the reference to contraband suggesting a date of composition after February 1793).

Two other documents pertaining to American trade with Denmark were evidently enclosed in a 10 Dec. 1793 letter from South Carolina Representative William L. Smith, recorded in SJL as received that date but not found. The first was an 11 July 1793 letter to Smith from Nathaniel Russell, a Charleston merchant, reminding him of their conversation about a commercial treaty with Denmark, enclosing a letter he had received from John J. Clark pointing out the advantages of such an agreement to the United States, and urging Smith to use his influence to bring one about (RC in DLC; addressed: “The Honble. William Smith Esqr.”). The second was Clark’s letter to Russell, written at Wilmington, North Carolina, on 20 Mch. 1793, stating that a commercial treaty with Denmark was especially necessary for the southern states because without it rice and tobacco were subject to the “duty of Aliens, which is one third more than Nations pay that are in treaty with them”; that in practice Americans paid 50 percent more in duties on a hogshead of tobacco and a cask of rice than citizens of nations having commercial treaties with Denmark; that in 1792 1,000 hogsheads of tobacco and 4,800 casks of rice were sold in Copenhagen, all imported on American ships; that members of the Danish court and merchants in Copenhagen believe that Congress should take the initiative in making a treaty with the Danish court, it being older than Congress and the Danish king having expressed his support for such an agreement; and that Smith should press for action at the next meeting of Congress or apply immediately to the President or the Secretary of State so that during recess orders might be given to the American minister in London to negotiate a treaty with the Danish ambassador there (RC in DLC; addressed: “Nathaniel Russell Esqr Merchant Charleston”).

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