Thomas Jefferson Papers

III. Note for the National Intelligencer, [ca. 8 December 1801]

III. Note for the National Intelligencer

[ca. 8 Dec. 1801]

—an anxious solicitude for the * difficulties under which &c

* Note. The Editor is not very certain to what this refers: but conjectures it is principally to the countervailing act passed by the British parliament in 1797. under the 15th. article of the British treaty: the 11th. section of which act lays additional duties of 10. percent on the amount of former duties on all articles except tobacco, & of 1/6 sterl. on every hundred weight of that, carried to Great Britain in American bottoms. this act was communicated to Congress, by the then President, by a message of Feb. 2. 1798. and was printed in the Aurora; perhaps in some, but certainly very few, other papers. the passions of the day wished1 it to be kept out of sight, & especially in that part of the Union to which it was to be most ruinous, where it is probably little known to this day. the circumstances of the war have prevented it’s effect2 from being felt; but the case will be changed on the return of peace. it will in certain cases make a difference of 8. or 10. Dollars a ton in favor of shipping goods in a British rather than an American bottom. the act shall be given at length in an ensuing paper.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 110: unnumbered, following 18835); undated; entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed by Samuel Harrison Smith: “Th. Jefferson Note to Message 1801–1802.” Printed in the National Intelligencer, 9 Dec. 1801, as a footnote to TJ’s annual message, keyed to the text of the message as indicated in the first line above.

By the 15th article of the Jay treaty, the United States and Great Britain “agreed, that no other or higher Duties shall be paid by the Ships or Merchandize of the one Party in the Ports of the other, than such as are paid by the like vessels or Merchandize of all other Nations.” However, the article also stated that “the British Government reserves to itself the right of imposing on American Vessels entering into the British Ports in Europe a Tonnage Duty, equal to that which shall be payable by British Vessels in the Ports of America: And also such Duty as may be adequate to countervail the difference of Duty now payable on the importation of European and Asiatic Goods when imported into the United States in British or in American Vessels.” John Adams’s message to Congress of 2 Feb. 1798 transmitted two acts of Parliament, one of which, dated 4 July 1797, concerned the implementation of the Jay Treaty. The 4 July act placed additional duties on American goods carried to British ports in American ships. In February 1798, TJ expected a swelling of outrage as merchants and shippers, especially in the northeastern United States, saw what the British policy would do to American commerce. However, despite efforts by Benjamin Franklin Bache’s Aurora to call attention to the topic, the passions of the day intervened in the form of the XYZ affair, which during March and April 1798 focused public attention on relations 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 , 2:257; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:103–15; Philadelphia Aurora, 28 Feb. 1798; Vol. 30:93–4, 112, 124, 125–6, 128, 165–6).

In an ensuing paper: Samuel Harrison Smith needed several days to obtain a copy of the 4 July 1797 act of Parliament. Smith found the legislation too long to print in full, but he gave the topic two and a half columns of the National Intelligencer on 23 Dec. 1801, quoting extracts from the act and commenting on it. The article concluded by suggesting that U.S. discriminatory duties, which had given the British justification for their countervailing duties, should be revoked. Some newspapers did print the entire act of Parliament (National Intelligencer, 21, 23 Dec. 1801; New-York Evening Post, 27, 28 Jan. 1802; New-York Herald, 30 Jan. 1802).

1National Intelligencer: “induced.”

2National Intelligencer: “effects.”

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