James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, [1 January] 1791

From Thomas Jefferson

Saturday morng. [1 January 1791]

Th: J. to J. M

I intended to have called last night & left with you the inclosed draught of a lre. to Otto but it was so cold I could not give up my hack.1 I recieved yours soon after I came home. Of the two constructions I observe you lean more to the 2d. and I more to the 1st. on account of the consequences to which the 2d may be pursued.2 My first idea was to write this lre. to Otto and previously communicate it to the President, & he perhaps to the Senate. But I have concluded to throw it into the form of a report to the President, to be submitted to the Senate. This will permit me to speak without reserve, to admit the force of the 2d. construction, & to enforce the proposition I suggest in the close, by shewing what valuable branches of our commerce hang on the will of the French nation. I shall see you at dinner, & be glad to exchange further thoughts on the subject which is an important one.

RC (DLC). At the bottom of the page JM wrote “Jany. 1. 1791.” Enclosure not found (see n. 1).

1Otto, the French chargé d’affaires, had sent a formal protest to Jefferson representing that the U.S. tonnage acts, by not excepting France from the extra tonnage imposed on foreign vessels, violated the treaty of amity and commerce between the two nations. The enclosed draft has not been found, but its substance is contained in Jefferson’s report to the president of 18 Jan. 1791. For all the documents relating to this incident, preceded by editorial discussion, see Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, 1950—). description ends , XVIII, 516–77.

2For Jefferson’s exposition of the “two constructions” of the treaty of amity and commerce, see his report to the president of 18 Jan. 1791.

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