Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 13 August 1803

From Albert Gallatin

New York 13th August 1803

Dear Sir

I have this day received your favour of the 8th instt. My knowledge of the duties required from a neutral on the particular point in question is not sufficient to throw any light on the subject. It is important to confer any thing in the shape of an obligation on the first consul; it is much more important to commit no act which may justly be considered as a breach of neutrality; for, from other nations we want justice much more than favours. Whether the granting a passage to Jerome Bonaparte on board one of the frigates of the United States may be fairly considered by Great Britain as a deviation from the rules of conduct imposed upon us by the law & customs of nations is the point on which I cannot form a precise opinion. Upon a first impression, I would rather incline to the belief that it may be so considered. Private vessels may export contraband articles but are liable to seizure & condemnation. Public vessels ought not, in any instance, to do acts which would expose private vessels to just condemnation. Unless that principle be admitted, the right of the belligerent powers to search & send for adjudication public vessels of the neutrals will be insisted on. Subjects of an enemy & a fortiori officers & troops of that enemy are considered as contraband. Is not Jerome Bonaparte an officer in the service of the French republic? If he is, may not the act of transporting him from the neutral country to his own be considered as aiding the enemy of Great Britain?

If you shall be of opinion that the act may be fairly justified, I think it should be done though it may not please Great Britain. If you are of a contrary opinion, it should be refused at the risk of displeasing the first consul. If the act is of a doubtful nature, the effect which granting or refusing a passage may have on both nations may become a proper subject of consideration; and of that also I am unable to judge. If the frigates could be dispatched, before a formal application shall be made; it would be much better.

Samuel Bishop the collector of New Haven is dead. Many applications will be made for the office. I think it my duty to state that if Abraham Bishop can be trusted in money matters & if his appointment should not be judged to produce an unfavorable effect in Connecticut, he has a strong claim on the Treasury Department; having, this summer, completed at my request a digest of all our revenue laws which he understands better than any officer of the United States.

I have the honor to be with perfect respect & sincere attachment Your obedt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States at Monticello Milton Virginia”; franked; postmarked 15 Aug.; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Aug. and “Jerome Bonaparte Abram Bishop” and so recorded in SJL.

a fortiori: that is, “all the more.”

Gallatin made arrangements with abraham bishop to have the digest of the revenue laws delivered to him in New York City. Gallatin planned to produce “a compilation of the decisions” made by the Treasury Department in cases arising under the revenue laws (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47-51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 8:505, 545, 614). For Bishop’s understanding of the collection laws and his call to organize them for the sake of clarity, see Vol. 39:260-4.

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