Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes for Message to Congress, 17 December 1807

17 Dec 1807

Although the decree of the French govmt of Nov. 21. comprehended, in it’s literal term with commerce of the US. yet the prompt explanation by one of the Ministers of that government that it was not so understood and that our treaty would be respected, the practice which took place in the French ports conformably with that explanation and the recent interference of that government to procure in Spain a similar construction of a similar decree there, had given well founded expectation that it would not be extended to us; & this was much strengthened by the consideration of their obvious interests. but the information from our minister at Paris now communicated to Congress is that it is determined to extend the effect of that decree to us. and it is probable that Spain & the other Atlantic and Mediterranean states of Europe will cooperate in the same measure.

The British regulations had before reduced us to a direct voyage to a single port of their enemies, and it is now believed they will interdict all commerce whatever with them. a proclamation too of that government of   .(not officially indeed communicated to us, yet so given out to the public as to become a rule of action with them) seems to have shut the door on all negociation with us, except as to the single aggression on the Chesapeak.

The sum of these mutual enterprizes on our national rights is that

France & her allies reserving for further considern the prohibiting our carrying any thing to the British territories, have virtually done it by prohibiting restraining our bringing a return cargo from them: & Gr. Britain after prohibiting a great proportion of our commerce with France & her allies, is now believed to have prohibited the whole, the whole world is thus laid under interdict by these two nations, and our vessels, their cargoes & crews are to be taken by the one or the other, for whatever place they may be destined, out of our own limits. if therefore on leaving our harbors we are certainly to lose them, is it not better, as to vessels cargoes & seamen to keep them at home? this is submitted to the wisdom of Congress who alone are competent to provide a remedy.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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