Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Hugh Williamson, 11 February 1798

To Hugh Williamson

Philadelphia Feb. 11. 98.

Dear Sir

I have to acknolege the reciept of your favor of the 2d. inst. I [will] with great pleasure sound opinions on the subject you mention, & [see] whether [it] can be brought forward with any degree of strength. I doubt it however, & for [this] reason. you may recollect that a report which I gave in to Congress in […] [93. and] mr Madison’s propositions of Jan. 94 went directly to establish a Navigation act on the British principle. on the last vote given on this (which was in Feb. 94.) from the three states of Massachusets, Connecticut & Rhode island there were 2. votes for it and 20. against it; and from the 3. states of Virginia, Kentuckey & N. Carolina wherein not a single topmast vessel is, I believe, owned by a native citizen, there were 25. votes for & 4. against the measure. I very much suspect that were the same proposition now brought forward, the Northern vote would be [nearly the] same, while the Southern one, I am afraid, would be […]ally varied. […] […]jections of their disinterested endeavors for placing our navigation on an independent footing & forcing on them the British treaty have not had a tendency to […] new offers of sacrifice, and especially under the prospect of a new rejection. you observe that the rejection ‘would change the politics of New England.’ but it would [afford] no evidence which they have not already in the records of Jan. & Feb. 94. however as I before mentioned, I will with pleasure sound the dispositions [on that] subject. if [the proposition] should be likely to obtain a reputable vote, [it may] do good. as to myself I sincerely wish that the whole Union may accomodate their interests to each other, & play into their hands mutually as members of the same family, that the wealth & strength of any one part should be viewed as the wealth & strength of the whole. the Countervailing act of G. [Britain] lately laid before us by the President, offers a just occasion of looking [to our] navigation: for the merchants here say that the effect of it will be that they themselves shall never think of employing an American vessel to carry [provision] to Gr. Britain after a peace. not having […] any conversation on this subject, [I cannot] say whether it has excited sensibility either in the North or South. it shall be tried however. accept assurances of the sincere esteem of Dear Sir Your friend & servt.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); faint; at foot of text: “Dr. Hugh Williamson.”

The countervailing act: with a message of 2 Feb. 1798 the president gave Congress copies of two acts of Parliament, one of which, approved on 4 July 1797, implemented articles of the Jay Treaty. In order “to countervail the Difference of Duty” that favored imports brought to the United States by American vessels over those carried in foreign ships, the act imposed additional duties on American goods brought to Britain in American ships beginning 5 Jan. 1798. Rufus King had protested in vain to the British government that the additional duties went beyond merely putting American and British shipping on an equal footing. The other act of Parliament that Adams sent to Congress, also passed in July 1797, permitted countries friendly to Great Britain to trade with British possessions in India and confirmed the role of the East India Company in regulating that trade (Sir Thomas Edlyne Tomlins and John Raithby, eds., The Statutes at Large, of England and Great Britain, 20 vols. [London, 1811], 19:382–3, 419–20; Perkins, First Rapprochement description begins Bradford Perkins, The First Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1795–1805, Philadelphia, 1955; Berkeley, 1967 description ends , 76–7; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:433).

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