Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson - Volume I
by Thomas Jefferson
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Coffee. Can they not furnish us with this article from Brazil?

Sugar. The Brazil sugars are esteemed, with us, more than any other.

Chocolate. This article, when ready made, as also the cocoa, becomes so soon rancid, and the difficulties of getting it fresh, have been so great in America, that its use has spread but little. The way to increase its consumption would be, to permit it to be brought to us immediately from the country of its growth. By getting it good in quality, and cheap in price, the superiority of the article, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America, which it has in Spain, where they can get it by a single voyage, and, of course, while it is sweet. The use of the sugars, coffee, and cotton of Brazil, would also be much extended by a similar indulgence.

Ginger and spices from the Brazils, if they had the advantage of a direct transportation, might take place of the same articles from the East Indies.

Ginseng. We can furnish them with enough to supply their whole demand for the East Indies.

They should be prepared to expect, that in the beginning of this commerce, more money will be taken by us than after a while. The reasons are, that our heavy debt to Great Britain must be paid, before we shall be masters of our own returns; and again, that habits of using particular things are produced only by time and practice.

That as little time as possible may be lost in this negotiation, I will communicate to you at once, my sentiments as to the alterations in the draught sent them, which will probably be proposed by them, or which ought to be proposed by us, noting only those articles.

Article 3. They will probably restrain us to their dominions in Europe. We must expressly include the Azores, Madeiras, and Cape de Verde Islands, some of which are deemed to be in Africa. We should also contend for an access to their possessions in America, according to the gradation in the 2nd article of our instructions, of May the 7th, 1784. But if we can obtain it in no one of these forms, I am of opinion we should give it up.

Article 4. This should be put into the form we gave it, in the draught sent you by Dr. Franklin and myself, for Great Britain. I think we had not reformed this article, when we sent our draught to Portugal. You know, the Confederation renders the reformation absolutely necessary; a circumstance which had escaped us at first.

Article 9. Add, from the British draught, the clause about wrecks.

Article 13. The passage 'nevertheless,' &c. to run as in the British draught.

Article 18. After the word 'accident,' insert 'or wanting supplies of provisions or other refreshments.' And again, instead of 'take refuge,' insert 'come,' and after 'of the other,' insert 'in any part of the world.' The object of this is to obtain leave for our whaling vessels to refit and refresh on the coast of the Brazils; an object of immense importance to that class of our vessels. We must acquiesce under such modifications as they may think necessary for regulating this indulgence, in hopes to lessen them in time, and to get a pied a terre in that country.

Article 19. Can we get this extended to the Brazils? It would be precious in case of war with Spain.

Article 23. Between 'places' and 'whose,' insert 'and in general, all others,' as in the British draught.

Article 24. For 'necessaries,' substitute 'comforts.'

Article 25. Add 'but if any such consuls shall exercise commerce,' &c. as in the British draught.

We should give to Congress as early notice as possible, of the re-institution of this negotiation; because, in a letter by a gentleman who sailed from Havre, the 10th instant, I communicated to them the answer of the Portuguese minister, through the ambassador here, which I sent to you. They may, in consequence, be making other arrangements, which might do injury. The little time which now remains, of the continuance of our commissions, should also be used with the Chevalier de Pinto, to hasten the movements of his court.

But all these preparations for trade with Portugal will fail in their effect, unless the depredations of the Algerines can be prevented. I am far from confiding in the measures taken for this purpose. Very possibly war must be recurred to. Portugal is at war with them. Suppose the Chevalier de Pinto was to be sounded on the subject of an union of force, and even a stipulation for contributing each a certain force, to be kept in constant cruise. Such a league once begun, other nations would drop into it, one by one. If he should seem to approve it, it might then be suggested to Congress, who, if they should be forced to try the measure of war, would doubtless be glad of such an ally. As the Portuguese negotiation should be hastened, I suppose our communications must often be trusted to the post, availing ourselves of the cover of our cipher.

I am, with sincere esteem, Dear Sir,

your friend and servant,

Th: Jefferson.



Paris, December 4,1785.

Dear Sir,

I enclose you a letter from Gatteaux, observing that there will be an anachronism, if, in making a medal to commemorate the victory of Saratoga, he puts on General Gates the insignia of the Cincinnati, which did not exist at that date. I wrote him, in answer, that I thought so too, but that you had the direction of the business; that you were now in London; that I would write to you, and probably should have an answer within a fortnight; and that, in the mean time, he could be employed on other parts of the die. I supposed you might not have observed on the print of General Gates, the insignia of the Cincinnati, or did not mean that that particular should be copied. Another reason against it strikes me. Congress have studiously avoided giving to the public their sense of this institution. Should medals be prepared, to be presented from them to certain officers, and bearing on them the insignia of the order, as the presenting them would involve an approbation of the institution, a previous question would be forced on them, whether they would present these medals. I am of opinion it would be very disagreeable to them to be placed under the necessity of making this declaration. Be so good as to let me know your wishes on this subject by the first post.

Mr. Short has been sick ever since you left us. Nothing new has occurred here, since your departure. I imagine you have American news. If so, pray give us some. Present me affectionately to Mr. Adams and the ladies, and to Colonel Smith; and be assured of the esteem with which I am, Dear Sir,

your friend and servant,

Th: Jefferson.

LETTER CXL.—TO JOHN ADAMS, December 10, 1785


Paris, December 10, 1785.

Dear Sir,

On the arrival of Mr. Boylston, I carried him to the Marquis de la Fayette, who received from him communications of his object. This was to get a remission of the duties on his cargo of oil, and he was willing to propose a future contract. I suggested however to the Marquis, when we were alone, that instead of wasting our efforts on individual applications, we had better take up the subject on general ground, and whatever could be obtained, let it be common to all. He concurred with me. As the jealousy of office between ministers does not permit me to apply immediately to the one in whose department this was, the Marquis's agency was used. The result was to put us on the footing of the Hanseatic towns, as to whale-oil, and to reduce the duties to eleven livres and five sols for five hundred and twenty pounds French, which is very nearly two livres on the English hundred weight, or about a guinea and a half the ton. But the oil must be brought in American or French ships, and the indulgence is limited to one year. However, as to this, I expressed to Count de Vergennes my hopes that it would be continued; and should a doubt arise, I should propose, at the proper time, to claim it under the treaty on the footing gentis amicissimae. After all, I believe Mr. Boylston has failed of selling to Sangrain, and from what I learn, through a little too much hastiness of temper. Perhaps they may yet come together, or he may sell to somebody else.

When the general matter was thus arranged, a Mr. Barrett arrived here from Boston, with letters of recommendation from Governor Bowdoin, Gushing, and others. His errand was to get the whale business here put on a general bottom, instead of the particular one which had been settled, you know, the last year, for a special company. We told him what was done. He thinks it will answer, and proposes to settle at L'Orient for conducting the sales of the oil and the returns. I hope, therefore, that this matter is tolerably well fixed, as far as the consumption of this country goes. I know not as yet to what amount that is; but shall endeavor to find out how much they consume, and how much they furnish themselves. I propose to Mr. Barrett, that he should induce either his State, or individuals, to send a sufficient number of boxes of the spermaceti candle to give one to every leading house in Paris; I mean to those who lead the ton: and at the same time to deposite a quantity for sale here, and advertise them in the petites affiches. I have written to Mr. Carmichael to know on what footing the use and introduction of the whale-oil is there, or can be placed.

I have the honor to be, with very sincere esteem, Dear Sir,

your most obedient, humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.

LETTER CXLI.—TO JOHN ADAMS, December 11, 1785


Paris, December 11, 1785.

Dear Sir,

Baron Polnitz not going off till to-day enables me to add some information which I received from Mr. Barclay this morning. You know the immense amount of Beaumarchais' accounts with the United States, and that Mr. Barclay was authorized to settle them. Beaumarchais had pertinaciously insisted on settling them with Congress. Probably he received from them a denial: for just as Mr. Barclay was about to set out on the journey we destined him, Beaumarchais tendered him a settlement. It was thought best not to refuse this, and that it would produce a very short delay. However, it becomes long, and Mr. Barclay thinks it will occupy him all this month. The importance of the account, and a belief that nobody can settle it so well as Mr. Barclay, who is intimately acquainted with most of the articles, induce me to think we must yield to this delay. Be so good as to give me your opinion on this subject.

I have the honor to be, with very great esteem, Dear Sir,

your most obedient

and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.



Paris, December 21, 1785.


I have received this moment a letter, of which I have the honor to enclose your Excellency a copy. It is on the case of Asquith and others, citizens of the United States, in whose behalf I had taken the liberty of asking your interference. I understand by this letter, that they have been condemned to lose their vessel and cargo, and to pay six thousand livres and the costs of the prosecution before the 25th instant, or to go to the galleys. This payment being palpably impossible to men in their situation, and the execution of the judgment pressing, I am obliged to trouble your Excellency again, by praying, if the government can admit any mitigation of their sentence, it may be extended to them in time to save their persons from its effect.

I have the honor to be, with very great respect, your Excellency's most obedient

and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.



Paris, December 22, 1785.


The death of the late General Oglethorpe, who had considerable possessions in Georgia, has given rise, as we understand, to questions whether these possessions have become the property of the State, or have been transferred by his will to his widow, or descended on the nearest heir capable in law of taking them. In the latter case, the Chevalier de Mezieres, a subject of France, stands foremost, as being made capable of the inheritance by the treaty between this country and the United States. Under the regal government, it was the practice with us, when lands passed to the crown by escheat or forfeiture, to grant them to such relation of the party as stood on the fairest ground. This was even a chartered right in some of the States. The practice has been continued among them, as deeming that the late Revolution should in no instance abridge the rights of the people. Should this have been the practice in the State of Georgia, or should they in any instance think proper to admit it, I am persuaded none will arise in which it will be more expedient to do it, than in the present, and that no person's expectations should be fairer than those of the Chevalier de Mezieres. He is the nephew of General Oglethorpe, he is of singular personal merit, an officer of rank, of high connections, and patronized by the ministers. His case has drawn their attention, and seems to be considered as protected by the treaty of alliance, and as presenting a trial of our regard to that. Should these lands be considered as having passed to the State, I take the liberty of recommending him to the legislature of Georgia, as worthy of their generosity, and as presenting an opportunity of proving the favorable dispositions which exist throughout America towards the subjects of this country, and an opportunity too, which will probably be known and noted here.

In the several views, therefore, of personal merit, justice, generosity and policy, I presume to recommend the Chevalier de Mezieres, and his interests, to the notice and patronage of your Excellency, whom the choice of your country has sufficiently marked as possessing the dispositions, while it has at the same time given you the power, to befriend just claims. The Chevalier de Mezieres will pass over to Georgia in the ensuing spring; but should he find an opportunity, he will probably forward this letter sooner. I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most profound respect,

your Excellency's most obedient

and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.



Paris, December 22, 1785.


By my despatch to Mr. Jay which accompanies this, you will perceive that the claims of the Chevalier de Mezieres, nephew to the late General Oglethorpe, to his possessions within your State, have attracted the attention of the ministry here; and that considering them as protected by their treaty with us, they have viewed as derogatory of that, the doubts which have been expressed on the subject. I have thought it best to present to them those claims in the least favorable point of view, to lessen as much as possible the ill effects of a disappointment: but I think it my duty to ask your notice and patronage of this case, as one whose decision will have an effect on the general interests of the Union.

The Chevalier de Mezieres is nephew to General Oglethorpe; he is a person of great estimation, powerfully related and protected. His interests are espoused by those whom it is our interest to gratify. I will take the liberty, therefore, of soliciting your recommendations of him to the generosity of your legislature, and to the patronage and good offices of your friends, whose efforts, though in a private case, will do a public good. The pecuniary advantages of confiscation, in this instance, cannot compensate its ill effects. It is difficult to make foreigners understand those legal distinctions between the effects of forfeiture of escheat, and of conveyance, on which the professors of the law might build their opinions in this case. They can see only the outlines of the case; to wit, the death of a possessor of lands lying within the United States, leaving an heir in France, and the State claiming those lands in opposition to the heir. An individual thinking himself injured makes more noise than a State. Perhaps too, in every case which either party to a treaty thinks to be within its provisions, it is better not to weigh the syllables and letters of the treaty, but to show that gratitude and affection render that appeal unnecessary. I take the freedom, therefore, of submitting to your wisdom the motives which present themselves in favor of a grant to the Chevalier de Mezieres, and the expediency of urging them on your State as far as you may think proper.

I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the highest respect, Gentlemen,

your most obedient

and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.

LETTER CXLV.—TO JOHN ADAMS, December 27, 1785


Paris, December 27, 1785.

Dear Sir,

Your favors of the 13th and 20th were put into my hands today. This will be delivered to you by Mr. Dalrymple, secretary to the legation of Mr. Crawford. I do not know whether you were acquainted with him here. He is a young man of learning and candor, and exhibits a phenomenon I never before met with, that is, a republican born on the north side of the Tweed.

You have been consulted in the case of the Chevalier de Mezieres, nephew to General Oglethorpe, and are understood to have given an opinion derogatory of our treaty with France. I was also consulted, and understood in the same way. I was of opinion the Chevalier had no right to the estate, and as he had determined the treaty gave him a right, I suppose he made the inference for me, that the treaty was of no weight. The Count de Vergennes mentioned it to me in such a manner, that I found it was necessary to explain the case to him, and show him that the treaty had nothing to do with it. I enclose you a copy of the explanation I delivered him.

Mr. Boylston sold his cargo to an agent of Monsieur Sangrain. He got for it fifty-five livres the hundred weight. I do not think that his being joined to a company here would contribute to its success. His capital is not wanting. Le Conteux has agreed that the merchants of Boston, sending whale-oil here, may draw-on him for a certain proportion of money, only giving such a time in their drafts, as will admit the actual arrival of the oil into a port of France for his security. Upon these drafts, Mr. Barrett is satisfied they will be able to raise money to make their purchases in America. The duty is seven livres and ten sols on the barrel of five hundred and twenty pounds French, and ten sous on every livre, which raises it to eleven livres and five sols, the sum I mentioned to you. France uses between five and six millions of pounds' weight French, which is between three and four thousand tons English. Their own fisheries do not furnish one million, and there is no probability of their improving. Sangrain purchases himself upwards of a million. He tells me our oil is better than the Dutch or English, because we make it fresh; whereas they cut up the whale, and bring it home to be made, so that it is by that time entered into fermentation. Mr. Barrett says, that fifty livres the hundred weight will pay the prime cost and duties, and leave a profit of sixteen per cent, to the merchant. I hope that England will, within a year or two, be obliged to come here to buy whale-oil for her lamps.

I like as little as you do, to have the gift of appointments. I hope Congress will not transfer the appointment of their consuls to their ministers. But if they do, Portugal is more naturally under the superintendence of the minister at Madrid, and still more naturally under that of the minister at Lisbon, where it is clear they ought to have one. If all my hopes fail, the letters of Governor Bowdoin and Gushing, in favor of young Mr. Warren, and your more detailed testimony in his behalf, are not likely to be opposed by evidence of equal weight, in favor of any other. I think with you, too, that it is for the public interest to encourage sacrifices and services, by rewarding them, and that they should weigh to a certain point, in the decision between candidates.

I am sorry for the illness of the Chevalier Pinto. I think that treaty important: and the moment to urge it, is that of a treaty between France and England.

Lambe, who left this place the 6th of November, was at Madrid the 10th of this month. Since his departure, Mr. Barclay has discovered that no copies of the full powers were furnished to himself, nor of course to Lambe. Colonel Franks has prepared copies, which I will endeavor to get, to send by this conveyance for your attestation: which you will be so good as to send back by the first safe conveyance, and I will forward them. Mr. Barclay and Colonel Franks being at this moment at St. Germain, I am not sure of getting the papers in time to go by Mr. Dalrymple. In that case, I will send them by Mr. Bingham.

Be so good as to present me affectionately to Mrs. and Miss Adams, to Colonels Smith and Humphreys, and accept assurances of the esteem with which I am, Dear Sir,

your friend and servant,

Th: Jefferson.




Paris, January 2,1786

Several conferences and letters having passed between the Count de Vergennes and myself, on the subject of the commerce of this country with the United States, I think them sufficiently interesting to be communicated to Congress. They are stated in the form of a report, and are herein enclosed. The length of this despatch, perhaps, needs apology. Yet I have not been able to abridge it, without omitting circumstances which I thought Congress would rather choose to know. Some of the objects of these conferences present but small hopes for the present, but they seem to admit a possibility of success at some future moment.


I am, Sir, your most obedient

and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.

[The following is an extract from the report referred to in the preceding letter, embracing every thing interesting therein, not communicated to the reader in the previous correspondence.]


The next levee day at Versailles, I meant to bring again under the view of the Count de Vergennes, the whole subject of our commerce with France; but the number of audiences of ambassadors and other ministers, which take place, of course, before mine, and which seldom, indeed, leave me an opportunity of audience at all, prevented me that day. I was only able to ask of the Count de Vergennes, as a particular favor, that he would permit me to wait on him some day that week. He did so, and I went to Versailles the Friday following, (the 9th of December.) M. de Reyneval was with the Count. Our conversation began with the usual topic; that the trade of the United States had not yet learned the way to France, but continued to centre in England, though no longer obliged by law to go there. I observed, that the real cause of this was to be found in the difference of the commercial arrangements in the two countries; that merchants would not, and could not, trade but where there was to be some gain; that the commerce between two countries could not be kept up, but by an exchange of commodities; that, if an American merchant was forced to carry his produce to London, it could not be expected he would make a voyage from thence to France, with the money, to lay it out here; and, in like manner, that if he could bring his commodities with advantage to this country, he would not make another voyage to England, with the money, to lay it out there, but would take in exchange the merchandise of this country. The Count de Vergennes agreed to this, and particularly, that where there was no exchange of merchandise, there could be no durable commerce; and that it was natural for merchants to take their returns in the port where they sold their cargo. I desired his permission then, to take a summary view of the productions of the United States, that we might see which of them could be brought here to advantage.

1. Rice. France gets from the Mediterranean a rice not so good indeed, but cheaper than ours. He said that they bought of our rice, but that they got from Egypt, also, rice of a very fine quality. I observed that such was the actual state of their commerce in that article, that they take little from us. 2. Indigo. They make a plenty in their own colonies. He observed that they did, and that they thought it better than ours. 3. Flour, fish, and provisions of all sorts, they produce for themselves. That these articles might, therefore, be considered as not existing, for commerce, between the United States and the kingdom of France.

I proceeded to those capable of becoming objects of exchange between the two nations. 1. Peltry and furs. Our posts being in the hands of the English, we are cut off from that article. I am not sure even, whether we are not obliged to buy of them, for our own use. When these posts are given up, if ever they are, we shall be able to furnish France with skins and furs, to the amount of two millions of livres, in exchange for her merchandise: but, at present, these articles are to be counted as nothing. 2. Potash. An experiment is making whether this can be brought here. We hope it may, but at present it stands for nothing. He observed that it was much wanted in France, and he thought it would succeed. 3. Naval stores. Trials are also making on these, as subjects of commerce with France. They are heavy, and the voyage long. The result, therefore, is doubtful. At present, they are as nothing in our commerce with this country. 4. Whale-oil: I told him I had great hopes, that the late diminution of duty would enable us to bring this article with advantage, to France: that a merchant was just arrived (Mr. Barrett), who proposed to settle at L'Orient, for the purpose of selling the cargoes of this article, and choosing the returns. That he had informed me, that in the first year, it would be necessary to take one third in money, and the remainder only in merchandise; because the fishermen require, indispensably, some money. But he thought that after the first year, the merchandise of the preceding year would always produce money for the ensuing one, and that the whole amount would continue to be taken annually afterwards, in merchandise. I added, that though the diminution of duty was expressed to be but for one year, yet I hoped they would find their advantage in renewing and continuing it: for that if they intended really to admit it for one year only, the fishermen would not find it worth while to rebuild their vessels and to prepare themselves for the business. The Count expressed satisfaction on the view of commercial exchange held up by this article. He made no answer as to the continuance of it; and I did not choose to tell him, at that time, that we should claim its continuance under their treaty with the Hanseatic towns, which fixes this duty for them, and our own treaty, which gives us the rights of the most favored nation. 5. Tobacco. I recalled to the memory of the Count de Vergennes the letter I had written to him on this article; and the object of the present conversation being, how to facilitate the exchange of commerciable articles between the two countries, I pressed that of tobacco in this point of view; observed that France, at present, paid us two millions of livres for this article; that for such portions of it as were bought in London, they sent the money directly there, and for what they bought in the United States, the money was still remitted to London, by bills of exchange: whereas, if thy would permit our merchants to sell this article freely, they would bring it here, and take the returns on the spot, in merchandise, not money. The Count observed, that my proposition contained what was doubtless useful, but that the King received on this article, at present, a revenue of twenty-eight millions, which was so considerable, as to render them fearful of tampering with it; that the collection of this revenue by way of Farm, was of very ancient date, and that it was always hazardous to alter arrangements of long standing, and of such infinite combinations with the fiscal system. I answered, that the simplicity of the mode of collection proposed for this article, withdrew it from all fear of deranging other parts of their system; that I supposed they would confine the importation to some of their principal ports, probably not more than five or six; that a single collector in each of these, was the only new officer requisite; that he could get rich himself on six livres a hogshead, and would receive the whole revenue, and pay it into the treasury, at short hand. M. de Reyneval entered particularly into this part of the conversation, and explained to the Count, more in detail, the advantages and simplicity of it, and concluded by observing to me, that it sometimes happened that useful propositions, though not practicable at one time, might become so at another. I told him that that consideration had induced me to press the matter when I did, because I had understood the renewal of the Farm was then on the carpet, and that it was the precise moment, when I supposed that this portion might be detached from the mass of the Farms. I asked the Count de Vergennes whether, if the renewal of the Farm was pressing, this article might not be separated, merely in suspense, till government should have time to satisfy themselves on the expediency of renewing it. He said no promise could be made.

In the course of this conversation, he had mentioned the liberty we enjoyed of carrying our fish to the French islands. I repeated to him what I had hinted in my letter of November the 20th, 1785, that I considered as a prohibition, the laying such duties on our fish, and giving such premiums on theirs, as made a difference between their and our fishermen of fifteen livres the quintal, in an article which sold for but fifteen livres. He said it would not have that effect, for two reasons. 1. That their fishermen could not furnish supplies sufficient for their islands, and, of course, the inhabitants must, of necessity, buy our fish. 2. That from the constancy of our fishery, and the short season during which theirs continued, and also from the economy and management of ours, compared with the expense of theirs, we had always been able to sell our fish, in their islands, at twenty-five livres the quintal, while they were obliged to ask thirty-six livres. (I suppose he meant the livre of the French islands.) That thus, the duty and premium had been a necessary operation on their side, to place the sale of their fish on a level with ours, and, that without this, theirs could not bear the competition.

I have here brought together the substance of what was said on the preceding subjects, not pretending to give it verbatim, which my memory does not enable me to do. I have, probably, omitted many things which were spoken, but have mentioned nothing which was not. I was interrupted, at times, with collateral matters. One of these was important. The Count de Vergennes complained, and with a good deal of stress, that they did not find a sufficient dependence on arrangements taken with us. This was the third time, too, he had done it; first, in a conversation at Fontainebleau, when he first complained to me of the navigation acts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire; secondly, in his letter of October the 30th, 1785, on the same subject; and now, in the present conversation, wherein he added, as another instance, the case of the Chevalier de Mezieres, heir of General Oglethorpe, who, notwithstanding that the 11th article of the treaty provides, that the subjects or citizens of either party shall succeed, ab intestato, to the lands of their ancestors, within the dominions of the other, had been informed from Mr. Adams, and by me also, that his right of succession to the General's estate in Georgia was doubtful. He observed too, that the administration of justice with us was tardy, insomuch, that their merchants, when they had money due to them within our States, considered it as desperate; and, that our commercial regulations, in general, were disgusting to them. These ideas were new, serious, and delicate. I decided, therefore, not to enter into them at that moment, and the rather, as we were speaking in French, in which language I did not choose to hazard myself. I withdrew from the objections of the tardiness of justice with us, and the disagreeableness of our commercial regulations, by a general observation, that I was not sensible they were well founded. With respect to the case of the Chevalier de Mezieres, I was obliged to enter into some explanations. They related chiefly to the legal operation of our Declaration of Independence, to the undecided question whether our citizens and British subjects were thereby made aliens to one another, to the general laws as to conveyances of land to aliens, and the doubt, whether an act of the Assembly of Georgia might not have been passed, to confiscate General Oglethorpe's property, which would of course prevent its devolution on any heir. M. Reyneval observed, that in this case, it became a mere question of fact, whether a confiscation of these lands had taken place before the death of General Oglethorpe, which fact might be easily known by, inquiries in Georgia, where the possessions lay. I thought it very material, that the opinion of this court should be set to rights on these points. On my return, therefore, I wrote the following observations on them, which, the next time I went to Versailles (not having an opportunity of speaking to the Count de Vergennes), I put into the hands of M. Reyneval, praying him to read them, and to ask the favor of the Count to do the same.

Explanations on some of the subjects of the conversation, which I had the honor of having with his Excellency, the Count de Vergennes, when I was last at Versailles.

The principal design of that conversation was, to discuss, those articles of commerce which the United States could spare, which are wanted in France, and, if received there on a convenient footing, would be exchanged for the productions of France. But in the course of the conversation, some circumstances were incidentally mentioned by the Count de Vergennes, which induced me to suppose he had received impressions, neither favorable to us, nor derived from perfect information.

The case of the Chevalier de Mezieres was supposed to furnish an instance of our disregard to treatises; and the event of that case was inferred from opinions supposed to have been given by Mr. Adams and myself. This is ascribing a weight to our opinions, to which they are not entitled. They will have no influence on the decision of the case. The judges in our courts would not suffer them to be read. Their guide is the law of the land, of which law its treaties make a part. Indeed, I know not what opinion Mr. Adams may have given on the case. And, if any be imputed to him derogatory of our regard to the treaty with France, I think his opinion has been misunderstood. With respect to myself, the doubts which I expressed to the Chevalier de Mezieres, as to the success of his claims, were not founded on any question whether the treaty between France and the United States would be observed. On the contrary, I venture to pronounce that it will be religiously observed, if his case comes under it. But I doubted whether it would come under the treaty. The case, as I understand it, is this. General Oglethorpe, a British subject, had lands in Georgia. He died since the peace, having devised these lands to his wife. His heirs are the Chevalier de Mezieres, son of his eldest sister, and the Marquis de Bellegarde, son of his younger sister. This case gives rise to legal questions, some of which have not yet been decided, either in England or America, the laws of which countries are nearly the same.

1. It is a question under the laws of those countries, whether persons born before their separation, and once completely invested, in both, with the character of natural subjects, can ever become aliens in either? There are respectable opinions on both sides. If the negative be right, then General Oglethorpe having never become an alien, and having devised his lands to his wife, who, on this supposition, also, was not an alien, the devise has transferred the lands to her, and there is nothing left for the treaty to operate on.

2. If the affirmative opinion be right, and the inhabitants of Great Britain and America, born before the Revolution, are become aliens to each other, it follows by the laws of both, that the lands which either possessed, within the jurisdiction of the other, became the property of the State in which they are. But a question arises, whether the transfer of the property took place on the Declaration of Independence, or not till an office, or an act of Assembly, had declared the transfer. If the property passed to the State on the Declaration of Independence, then it did not remain in General Oglethorpe, and, of course, at the time of his death, he having nothing, there was nothing to pass to his heirs, and so nothing for the treaty to operate on.

3. If the property does not pass till declared by an office found by jury, or an act passed by the Assembly, the question then is, whether an office had been found, or an act of Assembly been passed for that purpose, before the peace. If there was, the lands had passed to the State during his life, and nothing being left in him, there is nothing for his heirs to claim under the treaty.

4. If the property had not been transferred to the State, before the peace, either by the Declaration of Independence, or an office or an act of Assembly, then it remained in General Oglethorpe at the epoch of the peace and it will be insisted, no doubt, that, by the sixth article of the treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain, which forbids future confiscations, General Oglethorpe acquired a capacity of holding and of conveying his lands. He has conveyed them to his wife. But, she being an alien, it will be decided by the laws of the land, whether she took them for her own use, or for the use of the State. For it is a general principle of our law, that conveyances to aliens pass the lands to the State; and it may be urged, that though, by the treaty of peace, General Oglethorpe could convey, yet that treaty did not mean to give him a greater privilege of conveyance, than natives hold, to wit, a privilege of transferring the property to persons incapable, by law, of taking it. However, this would be a question between the State of Georgia and the widow of General Oglethorpe, in the decision of which the Chevalier de Mezieres is not interested, because, whether she takes the land by the will, for her own use, or for that of the State, it is equally prevented from descending to him: there is neither a conveyance to him, nor a succession ab intestato devolving on him, which are the cases provided for by our treaty with France. To sum up the matter in a few words; if the lands had passed to the State before the epoch of peace, the heirs of General Oglethorpe cannot say they have descended on them, and if they remained in the General at that epoch, the treaty saving them to him, he could convey them away from his heirs, and he has conveyed them to his widow, either for her own use, or for that of the State.

Seeing no event, in which, according to the facts stated to me, the treaty could be applied to this case, or could give any right, whatever, to the heirs of General Oglethorpe, I advised the Chevalier de Mezieres not to urge his pretensions on the footing of right, nor under the treaty, but to petition the Assembly of Georgia for a grant of these lands. If, in the question between the State and the widow of General Oglethorpe, it should be decided that they were the property of the State, I expected from their generosity, and the friendly dispositions in America towards the subjects of France, that they would be favorable to the Chevalier de Mezieres. There is nothing in the preceding observations, which would not have applied against the heir of General Ogiethorpe, had he been a native citizen of Georgia, as it now applies against him, being a subject of France. The treaty has placed the subjects of France on a footing with natives, as to conveyances and descent of property. There was no occasion for the assemblies to pass laws on this subject; the treaty being a law, as I conceive, superior to those of particular Assemblies, and repealing them where they stand in the way of its operations.

The supposition that the treaty was disregarded on our part, in the instance of the acts of Assembly of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which made a distinction between natives and foreigners, as to the duties to be paid on commerce, was taken notice of in the letter of November the 20th, which I had the honor of addressing to the Count de Vergennes. And while I express my hopes, that, on a revision of these subjects, nothing will be found in them derogatory from either the letter or spirit of our treaty, I will add assurances that the United States will not be behind hand, in going beyond both, when occasions shall ever offer of manifesting their sincere attachment to this country.

I will pass on to the observation, that our commercial regulations are difficult and repugnant to the French merchants. To detail these regulations minutely, as they exist in every State, would be beyond my information. A general view of them, however, will suffice because the States differ little in their several regulations. On the arrival of a ship in America, her cargo must be reported at the proper office. The duties on it are to be paid. These are commonly from two and a half to five per cent, on its value. On many articles, the value of which is tolerably uniform, the precise sum is fixed by law. A tariff of these is presented to the importer, and he can see what he has to pay, as well as the officer. For other articles, the duty is such a per cent, on their value. That value is either shown by the invoice, or by the oath of the importer. This operation being once over, and it is a very short one, the goods are considered as entered, and may then pass through the whole thirteen States, without their being ever more subject to a question, unless they be re-shipped. Exportation is still more simple: because, as we prohibit the exportation of nothing, and very rarely lay a duty on any article of export, the State is little interested in examining outward bound vessels. The captain asks a clearance for his own purposes. As to the operations of internal commerce, such as matters of exchange, of buying, selling, bartering, &c, our laws are the same as the English. If they have been altered in any instance, it has been to render them more simple. Lastly, as to the tardiness of the administration of justice with us, it would be equally tedious and impracticable for me to give a precise account of it in every State. But I think it probable, that it is much on the same footing through all the States, and that an account of it in any one of them, may found a general presumption of it in the others. Being best acquainted with its administration in Virginia, I shall confine myself to that. Before the Revolution, a judgment could not be obtained under eight years, in the supreme court, where the suit was in the department of the common law, which department embraces about nine tenths of the subjects of legal contestation. In that of the chancery, from twelve to twenty years were requisite. This did not proceed from any vice in the laws, but from the indolence of the judges appointed by the King: and these judges holding their offices during his will only, he could have reformed the evil at any time. This reformation was among the first works of the legislature, after our independence. A judgment can now be obtained in the supreme court, in one year, at the common law, and in about three years, in the chancery. But more particularly to protect the commerce of France, which at that moment was considerable with us, a law was passed, giving all suits wherein a foreigner was a party, a privilege to be tried immediately, on the return of his process, without waiting till those of natives, which stand before them, shall have been decided on. Out of this act, however, the British stand excluded by a subsequent one. This, with its causes, must be explained. The British army, after ravaging the State of Virginia, had sent off a very great number of slaves to New York. By the seventh article of the treaty of peace, they stipulated not to carry away any of these. Notwithstanding this, it was known, when they were evacuating New York, that they were carrying away the slaves. General Washington made an official demand of Sir Guy Carleton, that he should cease to send them away. He answered, that these people had come to them under promise of the King's protection, and that that promise should be fulfilled, in preference to the stipulation in the treaty. The State of Virginia, to which nearly the whole of these slaves belonged, passed a law to forbid the recovery of debts due to British subjects. They declared, at the same time, they would repeal the law, if Congress were of opinion they ought to do it. But, desirous that their citizens should be discharging their debts, they afterwards permitted British creditors to prosecute their suits, and to receive their debts in seven equal and annual payments; relying that the demand for the slaves would either be admitted or denied, in time to lay their hands on some of the latter payments for reimbursement. The immensity of this debt was another reason for forbidding such a mass of property to be offered for sale under execution at once, as, from the small quantity of circulating money, it must have sold for little or nothing, whereby the creditor would have failed to receive his money, and the debtor would have lost his whole estate, without being discharged of his debt. This is the history of the delay of justice in that country, in the case of British creditors. As to all others, its administration is as speedy as justice itself will admit. I presume it is equally so in all the other States, and can add, that it is administered in them all with a purity and integrity, of which few countries afford an example.

I cannot take leave, altogether, of the subjects of this conversation, without recalling the attention of the Count de Vergennes to what had been its principal drift. This was to endeavor to bring about a direct exchange between France and the United States, (without the intervention of a third nation) of those productions, with which each could furnish the other. We can furnish to France (because we have heretofore furnished to England) of whale-oil and spermaceti, of furs and peltry, of ships and naval stores, and of potash, to the amount of fifteen millions of livres; and the quantities will admit of increase. Of our tobacco, France consumes the value of ten millions more. Twenty-five millions of livres, then, mark the extent of that commerce of exchange, which is, at present, practicable between us. We want, in return, productions and manufactures, not money. If the duties on our produce are light, and the sale free, we shall undoubtedly bring it here, and lay out the proceeds on the spot, in the productions and manufactures which we want. The merchants of France will, on their part, become active in the same business. We shall no more think, when we shall have sold our produce here, of making an useless voyage to another country, to lay out the money, than we think, at present, when we have sold it elsewhere, of coming here to lay out the money. The conclusion is, that there are commodities which form a basis of exchange, to the extent of a million of guineas annually: it is for the wisdom of those in power, to contrive that the exchange shall be made.

Having put this paper into the hands of Monsieur Reyneval, we entered into conversation again, on the subject of the Farms, which were now understood to be approaching to a conclusion. He told me, that he was decidedly of opinion, that the interest of the State required the Farm of tobacco to be discontinued, and that he had, accordingly, given every aid to my proposition, which lay within his sphere: that the Count de Vergennes was very clearly of the same opinion, and had supported it strongly with reasons of his own, when he transmitted it to the Comptroller General; but that the Comptroller, in the discussions of this subject which had taken place, besides the objections which the Count de Vergennes had repeated to me, and which are before mentioned, had added, that the contract with the Farmers General was now so far advanced, that the article of tobacco could not be withdrawn from it, without unraveling the whole transaction. Having understood, that, in this contract, there was always reserved to the crown, a right to discontinue it at any moment, making just reimbursements to the Farmers, I asked M. Reyneval, if the contract should be concluded in its present form, whether it might still be practicable to have it discontinued, as to the article of tobacco, at some future moment. He said it might be possible.

Upon the whole, the true obstacle to this proposition has penetrated, in various ways, through the veil which covers it. The influence of the Farmers General has been heretofore found sufficient to shake a minister in his office. Monsieur de Calonne's continuance or dismission has been thought, for some time, to be on a poise. Were he to shift this great weight, therefore, out of his own scale into that of his adversaries, it would decide their preponderance. The joint interests of France and America would be an insufficient counterpoise in his favor.

It will be observed, that these efforts to improve the commerce of the United States have been confined to that branch only, which respects France itself, and that nothing passed on the subject of our commerce with the West Indies, except an incidental conversation as to our fish. The reason of this was no want of a due sense of its importance. Of that I am thoroughly sensible. But efforts in favor of this branch would, at present, be desperate. To nations with which we have not yet treated, and who have possessions in America, we may offer a free vent of their manufactures in the United States, for a full, or a modified admittance into those possessions. But to France, we are obliged to give that freedom for a different compensation; to wit, for her aid in effecting our independence. It is difficult, therefore, to say what we have now to offer her, for an admission into her West Indies. Doubtless it has its price. But the question is, what this would be, and whether worth our while to give it. Were we to propose to give to each other's citizens all the rights of natives, they would, of course, count what they should gain by this enlargement of right, and examine whether it would be worth to them, as much as their monopoly of their West India commerce. If not, that commercial freedom which we wish to preserve, and which, indeed, is so valuable, leaves us little else to offer. An expression in my letter to the Count de Vergennes, of November the 20th, wherein I hinted, that both nations might, perhaps, come into the opinion, that the condition of natives might be a better ground of intercourse for their citizens, than that of the most favored nation, was intended to furnish an opportunity to the minister, of parleying on that subject, if he was so disposed, and to myself, of seeing whereabouts they would begin, that I might communicate it to Congress, and leave them to judge of the expediency of pursuing the subject. But no overtures have followed; for I have no right to consider, as coming from the minister, certain questions which were, very soon after, proposed to me by an individual. It sufficiently accounts for these questions, that that individual had written a memorial on the subject, for the consideration of the minister, and might wish to know what we would be willing to do. The idea that I should answer such questions to him, is equally unaccountable, whether we suppose them originating with himself, or coming from the minister. In fact, I must suppose them to be his own; and I transmit them, only that Congress my see what one Frenchman, at least, thinks on the subject. If we can obtain from Great Britain reasonable conditions of commerce (which, in my idea, must for ever include an admission into her islands), the freest ground between these two nations would seem to be the best. But if we can obtain no equal terms from her, perhaps Congress might think it prudent, as Holland has done, to connect us unequivocally with France. Holland has purchased the protection of France. The price she pays is, aid in time of war. It is interesting for us to purchase a free commerce with the French islands. But whether it is best to pay for it, by aids in war, or by privileges in commerce; or not to purchase it at all, is the question.



Paris, January 3, 1786.

Dear Sir,

I wrote you last on the 25th of September. Since that I have received yours of October the 25th, enclosing a duplicate of the last invented tongue for the harpsichord. The letter enclosing another of them, and accompanied by newspapers, which you mention in that of October the 25th, has never come to hand. I will embrace the first opportunity of sending you the crayons. Perhaps they may come with this, which I think to deliver to Mr. Bingham, who leaves us on Saturday, for London. If, on consulting him, I find the conveyance from London uncertain, you shall receive them by a Mr. Barrett, who goes from hence for New York, next month. You have not authorized me to try to avail you of the new tongue. Indeed, the ill success of my endeavors with the last does not promise much with this. However, I shall try. Houdon only stopped a moment, to deliver me your letter, so that I have not yet had an opportunity of asking his opinion of the improvement. I am glad you are pleased with his work. He is among the foremost, or, perhaps, the foremost artist in the world.

Turning to your Encyclopedie, Arts et Metiers, tome 3, part 1, page 393, you will find mentioned an instrument, invented by a Monsieur Renaudin, for determining the true time of the musical movements, largo, adagio, &c. I went to see it. He showed me his first invention; the price of the machine was twenty-five guineas: then his second, which he had been able to make for about half that sum. Both of these had a mainspring and a balance-wheel, for their mover and regulator. The strokes are made by a small hammer. He then showed me his last, which is moved by a weight and regulated by a pendulum, and which cost only-two guineas and a half. It presents, in front, a dial-plate like that of a clock, on which are arranged, in a circle, the words largo, adagio, andante, allegro, presto. The circle is moreover divided into fifty-two equal degrees. Largo is at 1, adagio at 11, andante at 22, allegro at 36, and presto at 46. Turning the index to any one of these, the pendulum (which is a string, with a ball hanging to it) shortens or lengthens, so that one of its vibrations gives you a crochet for that movement. This instrument has been examined by the academy of music here, who were so well satisfied of its utility, that they have ordered all music which shall be printed here, in future, to have the movements numbered in correspondence with this plexi-chronometer. I need not tell you that the numbers between two movements, as between 22 and 36, give the quicker or slower degrees of the movements, such as the quick andante, or moderate allegro. The instrument is useful, but still it may be greatly simplified. I got him to make me one, and having fixed a pendulum vibrating seconds, I tried by that the vibrations of his pendulum, according to the several movements. I find the pendulum regulated to Largo

Every one, therefore, may make a chronometer adapted to his instrument.

For a harpsichord, the following occurs to me:

In the wall of your chamber, over the instrument, drive five little brads, as, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, in the following manner. Take a string with a bob to it, of such length, as, that hung on No. 1, it shall vibrate fifty-two times in a minute. Then proceed by trial to drive No. 2, at such a distance, that drawing the loop of the string to that, the part remaining between 1 and the bob, shall vibrate sixty times in a minute. Fix the third for seventy vibrations, &c.; the cord always hanging over No. 1, as the centre of vibration. A person playing on the violin may fix this on his music-stand. A pendulum thrown into vibration will continue in motion long enough to give you the time of your piece. I have been thus particular, on the supposition that you would fix one of these simple things for yourself.

You have heard often of the metal called platina, to be found only in South America. It is insusceptible of rust, as gold and silver are, none of the acids affecting it, excepting the aqua regia. It also admits of as perfect a polish as the metal hitherto used for the specula of telescopes. These two properties had suggested to the Spaniards the substitution of it for that use. But the mines being closed up by the government, it is difficult to get the metal. The experiment has been lately tried here by the Abbe Rochon (whom I formerly mentioned to Mr. Rittenhouse, as having discovered that lenses of certain natural crystals have two different and uncombined magnifying powers), and he thinks the polish as high as that of the metal heretofore used, and that it will never be injured by the air, a touch of the finger, &c. I examined it in a dull day, which did not admit a fair judgment of the strength of its reflection.

Good qualities are sometimes misfortunes. I will prove it from your own experience. You are punctual; and almost the only one of my correspondents on whom I can firmly rely, for the execution of commissions which combine a little trouble with more attention. I am very sorry however that I have three commissions to charge you with, which will give you more than a little trouble. Two of them are for Monsieur de Buffon. Many, many years ago, Cadwallader Golden wrote a very small pamphlet on the subjects of attraction and impulsion, a copy of which he sent to Monsieur de Buffon. He was so charmed with it, that he put it into the hands of a friend to translate, who lost it. It has ever since weighed on his mind, and he has made repeated trials to have it found in England. But in vain. He applied to me. I am in hopes, if you will write a line to the booksellers of Philadelphia to rummage their shops, that some of them may find it. Or, perhaps, some of the careful old people of Pennsylvania or New Jersey may have preserved a copy. In the King's cabinet of Natural History, of which Monsieur de Buffon has the superintendence, I observed that they had neither our grouse nor our pheasant. These, I know, may be bought in the market of Philadelphia, on any day while they are in season. Pray buy the male and female of each, and employ some apothecary's boys to prepare them, and pack them. Methods may be seen in the preliminary discourse to the first volume of Birds, in the Encyclopedie, or in the Natural History of Buffon, where he describes the King's cabinet. And this done, you will be so good as to send them to me. The third commission is more distant. It is to precure me two or three hundred paccan nuts from the western country. I expect they can always be got at Pittsburgh and am in hopes, that by yourself or your friends, some attentive person there may be engaged to send them to you. They should come as fresh as possible, and come best, I believe, in a box of sand. Of this, Barham could best advise you. I imagine vessels are always coming from Philadelphia to France. If there be a choice of ports, Havre would be the best. I must beg you to direct them to the care of the American consul or agent at the port, to be sent by the Diligence or Fourgon. A thousand apologies would not suffice for this trouble, if I meant to pay you in apologies only. But I sincerely ask, and will punctually execute, the appointment of your charge des affaires in Europe generally. From the smallest to the highest commission, I will execute with zeal and punctually, in buying, or doing any thing you wish, on this side the water. And you may judge from the preceding specimen, that I shall not be behind hand in the trouble I shall impose on you. Make a note of all the expenses attending my commissions, and favor me with it every now and then, and I will replace them. My daughter is well, and retains an affectionate remembrance of her ancient patroness, your mother, as well as of your lady and family. She joins me in wishing to them, and to Mr. and Mrs. Rittenhouse and family, every happiness. Accept, yourself, assurances of the esteem with which I am, Dear Sir,

your friend and servant,

Th: Jefferson.

P.S. What is become of the Lunarium for the King?



Paris, January 4, 1786.

Dear Sir,

I have been honored with your letter of September the 26th, which was delivered me by Mr. Houdon, who is safely returned. He has brought with him the mould of the face only, having left the other parts of his work with his workmen to come by some other conveyance. Doctor Franklin, who was joined with me in the superintendence of this just monument, having left us before what is called the costume of the statue was decided on, I cannot so well satisfy myself, and I am persuaded I should not so well satisfy the world, as by consulting your own wish or inclination as to this article. Permit me, therefore, to ask you whether there is any particular dress, or any particular attitude, which you would rather wish to be adopted. I shall take a singular pleasure in having your own idea executed, if you will be so good as to make it known to me.

I thank you for the trouble you have taken in answering my inquiries on the subject of Bushnel's machine. Colonel Humphreys could only give me a general idea of it from the effects proposed, rather than the means contrived to produce them.

I sincerely rejoice that three such works as the opening the Potomac and James rivers, and a canal from the Dismal Swamp are likely to be carried through. There is still a fourth, however, which I had the honor I believe of mentioning to you in a letter of March the 15th, 1784, from Annapolis. It is the cutting a canal which shall unite the heads of the Cayahoga and Beaver Creek. The utility of this, and even the necessity of it, if we mean to aim at the trade of the lakes, will be palpable to you. The only question is its practicability. The best information I could get as to this was from General Hand, who described the country as champain, and these waters as heading in lagoons, which would be easily united. Maryland and Pennsylvania are both interested to concur with us in this work. The institutions you propose to establish by the shares in the Potomac and James river companies, given you by the Assembly, and the particular objects of those institutions, are most worthy. It occurs to me, however, that if the bill 'for the more general diffusion of knowledge,' which is in the revisal, should be passed, it would supersede the use and obscure the existence of the charity schools you have thought of. I suppose in fact, that that bill or some other like it will be passed. I never saw one received with more enthusiasm than that was in the year 1778, by the House of Delegates, who ordered it to be printed. And it seemed afterwards, that nothing but the extreme distress of our resources prevented its being carried into execution even during the war. It is an axiom in my mind, that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This it is the business of the State to effect, and on a general plan. Should you see a probability of this, however, you can never be at a loss for worthy objects of this donation. Even the remitting that proportion of the toll on all articles transported, would present itself under many favorable considerations, and it would in effect be to make the State do in a certain proportion what they ought to have done wholly: for I think they should clear all the rivers, and lay them open and free to all. However, you are infinitely the best judge, how the most good may be effected with these shares.

All is quiet here. There are indeed two specks in the horizon: the exchange of Bavaria, and the demarcation between the Emperor and Turks. We may add as a third, the interference by the King of Prussia in the domestic disputes of the Dutch. Great Britain, it is said, begins to look towards us with a little more good humor. But how true this may be, I cannot say with certainty. We are trying to render her commerce as little necessary to us as possible, by finding other markets for our produce. A most favorable reduction of duties on whale-oil has taken place here, which will give us a vent for that article, paying a duty of a guinea and a half a ton only.

I have the honor to be, with the highest esteem and respect, Dear Sir,

your most obedient and

most humble servant,

Tm: Jefferson.

LETTER CXLIX.—TO A. CARY, January 7, 1786


Paris, January 7, 1786.

Dear Sir,

The very few of my countrymen who happen to be punctual, will find their punctuality a misfortune to them. Of this I shall give you a proof by the present application, which I should not make to you, if I did not know you to be superior to the torpidity of our climate. In my conversations with the Count de Buffon on the subjects of Natural History, I find him absolutely unacquainted with our elk and our deer. He has hitherto believed that our deer never had horns more than a foot long; and has, therefore, classed them with the roe-buck, which I am sure you know them to be different from. I have examined some of the red deer of this country at the distance of about sixty yards, and I find no other difference between them and ours, than a shade or two in the color. Will you take the trouble to procure for me the largest pair of buck's horns you can, and a large skin of each color, that is to say, a red and a blue? If it were possible to take these from a buck just killed, to leave all the bones of the head in the skin with the horns on, to leave the bones of the legs in the skin also, and the hoofs to it, so that having only made an incision all along the belly and neck to take the animal out at, we could by sewing up that incision and stuffing the skin, present the true size and form of the animal, it would be a most precious present. Our deer have been often sent to England and Scotland. Do you know (with certainty) whether they have ever bred with the red deer of those countries? With respect to the elk, I despair of your being able to get for me any thing but the horns of it. David Ross I know has a pair; perhaps he would give them to us. It is useless to ask for the skin and skeleton, because I think it is not in your power to get them, otherwise they would be most desirable. A gentleman, fellow-passenger with me from Boston to England, promised to send to you in my name some hares, rabbits, pheasants, and partridges, by the return of the ship which was to go to Virginia, and the captain promised to take great care of them. My friend procured the animals, and the ship changing her destination, he kept them, in hopes of finding some other conveyance, till they all perished. I do not despair, however, of finding some opportunity still of sending a colony of useful animals. I am making a collection of vines for wine, and for the table; also of some trees, such as the cork-oak, &c. &c.

Every thing is absolutely quiet in Europe. There is not, therefore, a word of news to communicate. I pray you to present me affectionately to your family and that of Tuckahoe. Whatever expense is necessary for procuring me the articles above-mentioned, I will instantly replace, either in cash, or in any thing you may wish from hence.

I am with very sincere esteem, Dear Sir,

your most obedient, humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.



Paris, January 12, 1786.

Dear Sir,

Your favor of June the 1st did not come to hand till the 3rd of September. I immediately made inquiries on the subject of the frigate you had authorized your relation to sell to this government, and I found that he had long before that sold her to government, and sold her very well, as I understood. I noted the price on the back of your letter, which I have since unfortunately mislaid, so that I cannot at this moment state to you the price. But the transaction is of so long standing that you cannot fail to have received advice of it. I should without delay have given you this information, but that I hoped to be able to accompany it with information as to the live-oak, which was another object of your letter. This matter, though it has been constantly pressed by Mr. St. John, and also by the Marquis de la Fayette, since his return from Berlin, has been spun to a great length, and at last they have only decided to send to you for samples of the wood. Letters on this subject from the Marquis de la Fayette accompany this.

Every thing in Europe is quiet, and promises quiet for at least a year to come. We do not find it easy to make commercial arrangements in Europe. There is a want of confidence in us. This country has lately reduced the duties on American whale-oil to about a guinea and a half the ton, and I think they will take the greatest part of what we can furnish. I hope, therefore, that this branch of our commerce will resume its activity. Portugal shows a disposition to court our trade; but this has for some time been discouraged by the hostilities of the piratical states of Barbary. The Emperor of Morocco, who had taken one of our vessels, immediately consented to suspend hostilities and ultimately gave up the vessel, cargo, and crew. I think we shall be able to settle matters with him. But I am not sanguine as to the Algerines. They have taken two of our vessels, and I fear will ask such a tribute for a forbearance of their piracies as the United States would be unwilling to pay. When this idea comes across my mind, my faculties are absolutely suspended between indignation and impatience. I think whatever sums we are obliged to pay for freedom of navigation in the European seas, should be levied on the European commerce with us by a separate impost, that these powers may see that they protect these enormities for their own loss. I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Dear Sir,

your most obedient

and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.



Paris, January 13, 1786.


I have duly received your letter of the 2nd instant. The delays, which have attended your enlargement, have been much beyond my expectation. The reason I have not written to you for some time, has been the constant expectation of receiving an order for your discharge. I have not received it however. I went to Versailles three days ago, and made fresh applications on the subject. I received assurances which give me reason to hope that the order for your discharge will soon be made out. Be assured it shall not be delayed a moment after it comes to my hands, and that I shall omit no opportunity of hastening it. In the mean time, I think you may comfort yourself and companions with the certainty of receiving it ere long.

I am, Sir, your most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.


[The following were answers by Mr. Jefferson to questions addressed to him by Monsieur de Meusnier, author of that part of the Encylopedie Methodique, entitled Economie Politique et Diplomatique.]

1. What has led Congress to determine that the concurrence of seven votes is requisite in questions, which by the Confederation are submitted to the decision of a majority of the United States in Congress assembled?

The ninth article of Confederation, section sixth, evidently establishes three orders of questions in Congress. 1. The greater ones which relate to making peace or war, alliances, coinage, requisitions for money, raising military force, or appointing its commander-in-chief. 2. The lesser ones which comprehend all other matters submitted by the Confederation to the federal head. 3. The single question of adjourning from day to day. This gradation of questions is distinctly characterized by the article.

In proportion to the magnitude of these questions, a greater concurrence of the voices composing the Union was thought necessary. Three degrees of concurrence, well distinguished by substantial circumstances, offered themselves to notice. 1. A concurrence of a majority of the people of the Union. It was thought that this would be insured by requiring the voices of nine States; because according to the loose estimates which had then been made of the inhabitants, and the proportion of them which were free, it was believed, that even the nine smallest would include a majority of the free citizens of the Union. The voices, therefore, of nine States were required in the greater questions. 2. A concurrence of the majority of the States. Seven constitute that majority. This number, therefore, was required in the lesser questions. 3. A concurrence of the majority of Congress, that is to say, of the States actually present in it. As there is no Congress when there are not seven States present, this concurrence could never be of less than four States. But these might happen to be the four smallest, which would not include one ninth part of the free citizens of the Union. This kind of majority, therefore, was entrusted with nothing but the power of adjourning themselves from day to day.

Here then are three kinds of majorities. 1. Of the people. 2. Of the States. 3. Of the Congress. Each of which is entrusted to a certain length.

Though the paragraph in question be clumsily expressed, yet it strictly announces its own intentions. It defines with precision, the greater questions, for which nine votes shall be requisite. In the lesser questions, it then requires a majority of the United States in Congress assembled: a term which will apply either to the number seven, as being a majority of the States, or to the number four, as being a majority of Congress. Which of the two kinds of majority was meant. Clearly that which would leave a still smaller kind for the decision of the question of adjournment. The contrary construction would be absurd.

This paragraph, therefore, should be understood as if it had been expressed in the following terms. 'The United States in Congress assembled, shall never engage in war, &c. but with the consent of nine States: nor determine any other question, but with the consent of a majority of the whole States, except the question of adjournment from day to day, which may be determined by a majority of the States actually present in Congress.'

2. How far is it permitted to bring on the reconsideration of a question which Congress has once determined?

The first Congress which met being composed mostly of persons who had been members of the legislatures of their respective States, it was natural for them to adopt those rules in their proceedings, to which they had been accustomed in their legislative houses; and the more so, as these happened to be nearly the same, as having been copied from the same original, those of the British parliament. One of those rules of proceeding was, that 'a question once determined cannot be proposed a second time in the same session.' Congress, during their first session in the autumn of 1774, observed this rule strictly. But before their meeting in the spring of the following year, the war had broken out. They found themselves at the head of that war, in an executive as well as legislative capacity. They found that a rule, wise and necessary for a legislative body, did not suit an executive one, which, being governed by events, must change their purposes as those change. Besides, their session was then to become of equal duration with the war; and a rule, which should render their legislation immutable during all that period, could not be submitted to. They, therefore, renounced it in practice, and have ever since continued to reconsider their questions freely. The only restraint, as yet provided against the abuse of this permission to reconsider, is, that when a question has been decided, it cannot be proposed for reconsideration, but by some one who voted in favor of the former decision, and declares that he has since changed his opinion. I do not recollect accurately enough, whether it be necessary that his vote should have decided that of his State, and the vote of his State have decided that of Congress.

Perhaps it might have been better, when they were forming the federal constitution, to have assimilated it as much as possible to the particular constitutions of the States. All of these have distributed the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers into different departments. In the federal constitution the judiciary powers are separated from the others; but the legislative and executive are both exercised by Congress. A means of amending this defect has been thought of. Congress having a power to establish what committees of their own body they please, and to arrange among them the distribution of their business, they might, on the first day of their annual meeting, appoint an executive committee consisting of a member from each State, and refer to them all executive business which should occur during their session; confining themselves to what is of a legislative nature, that is to say, to the heads described in the ninth article, as of the competence of nine States only, and to such other questions as should lead to the establishment of general rules. The journal of this committee of the preceding day might be read the next morning in Congress, and considered as approved, unless a vote was demanded on a particular article, and that article changed. The sessions of Congress would then be short, and when they separated, the Confederation authorizes the appointment of a committee of the States which would naturally succeed to the business of the executive committee. The legislative business would be better done, because the attention of the members would not be interrupted by the details of execution; and the executive business would be better done, because business of this nature is better adapted to small than great bodies. A monarchical head should confide the execution of its will to departments, consisting each of a plurality of hands, who would warp that will as much as possible towards wisdom and moderation, the two qualities it generally wants. But a republican head, founding its decrees originally in these two qualities, should commit them to a single hand for execution, giving them thereby a promptitude which republican proceedings generally want. Congress could not, indeed, confide their executive business to a smaller number than a committee consisting of a member from each State. This is necessary to insure the confidence of the Union. But it would be gaining a great deal to reduce the executive head to thirteen, and to relieve themselves of those details. This, however, has as yet been the subject of private conversations only.

3. A succinct account of paper money, in America?

Previous to the late revolution, most of the States were in the habit, whenever they had occasion for more money than could be raised immediately, by taxes, to issue paper notes or bills, in the name of the State, wherein they promised to pay to the bearer the sum named in the note or bill. In some of the States, no time of payment was fixed, nor tax laid to enable payment. In these, the bills depreciated. But others of the States named in the bill the day when it should be paid, laid taxes to bring in money enough for that purpose, and paid the bills punctually, on or before the day named. In these States, paper money was in as high estimation as gold and silver. On the commencement of the late Revolution, Congress had no money. The external commerce of the States being suppressed, the farmer could not sell his produce, and, of course, could not pay a tax. Congress had no resource then, but in paper money. Not being able to lay a tax for its redemption, they could only promise that taxes should be laid for that purpose, so as to redeem the bills by a certain day. They did not foresee the long continuance of the war, the almost total suppression of their exports, and other events, which rendered the performance of their engagement impossible. The paper money continued, for a twelvemonth, equal to gold and silver. But the quantities which they were obliged to emit, for the purposes of the war, exceeded what had been the usual quantity of the circulating medium. It began, therefore, to become cheaper, or, as we expressed it, it depreciated, as gold and silver would have done, had they been thrown into circulation in equal quantities. But not having, like them, an intrinsic value, its depreciation was more rapid, and greater, than could ever have happened with them. In two years, it had fallen to two dollars of paper money for one of silver; in three years, to four for one; in nine months more, it fell to ten for one; and in the six months following, that is to say, by September, 1779, it had fallen to twenty for one.

Congress, alarmed at the consequences which were to be apprehended, should they lose this resource altogether, thought it necessary to make a vigorous effort to stop its further depreciation. They, therefore, determined, in the first place, that their emissions should not exceed two hundred millions of dollars, to which term they were then nearly arrived: and, though they knew that twenty dollars of what they were then issuing, would buy no more for their army than one silver dollar would buy, yet they thought it would be worth while to submit to the sacrifices of nineteen out of twenty dollars, if they could thereby stop further depreciation. They, therefore, published an address to their constituents, in which they renewed their original declarations, that this paper money should be redeemed at dollar for dollar. They proved the ability of the States to do this, and that their liberty would be cheaply bought at that price. The declaration was ineffectual. No man received the money at a better rate; on the contrary, in six months more, that is, by March, 1780, it had fallen to forty for one. Congress then tried an experiment of a different kind. Considering their former offers to redeem this money, at par, as relinquished by the general refusal to take it, but in progressive depreciation, they required the whole to be brought in, declared it should be redeemed at its present value, of forty for one, and that they would give to the holders new bills, reduced in their denomination to the sum of gold or silver, which was actually to be paid for them. This would reduce the nominal sum of the mass in circulation, to the present worth of that mass, which was five millions; a sum not too great for the circulation of the States, and which, they therefore hoped, would not depreciate further, as they continued firm in their purpose of emitting no more. This effort was as unavailing as the former. Very little of the money was brought in. It continued to circulate and to depreciate, till the end of 1780, when it had fallen to seventy-five for one, and the money circulated from the French army, being, by that time, sensible in all the States north of the Potomac, the paper ceased its circulation altogether, in those States. In Virginia and North Carolina, it continued a year longer, within which time it fell to one thousand for one, and then expired, as it had done in the other States, without a single groan. Not a murmur was heard, on this occasion, among the people. On the contrary, universal congratulations took place, on their seeing this gigantic mass, whose dissolution had threatened convulsions which should shake their infant confederacy to its centre, quietly interred in its grave. Foreigners, indeed, who do not, like the natives, feel indulgence for its memory, as of a being which has vindicated their liberties, and fallen in the moment of victory, have been loud, and still are loud in their complaints. A few of them have reason; but the most noisy are not the best of them. They are persons who have become bankrupt, by unskilful attempts at commerce with America. That they may have some pretext to offer to their creditors, they have bought up great masses of this dead money in America, where it is to be had at five thousand for one, and they show the certificates of their paper possessions, as if they had all died in their hands, and had been the cause of their bankruptcy. Justice will be done to all, by paying to all persons what this money actually cost them, with an interest of six per cent, from the time they received it. If difficulties present themselves in the ascertaining the epoch of the receipt, it has been thought better that the State should lose, by admitting easy proofs, than that individuals, and especially foreigners, should, by being held to such as would be difficult, perhaps impossible.

4. Virginia certainly owed two millions, sterling, to Great Britain, at the conclusion of the war. Some have conjectured the debt as high as three millions. I think that state owed near as much as all the rest put together. This is to be ascribed to peculiarities in the tobacco trade. The advantages made by the British merchants, on the tobaccos consigned to them, were so enormous, that they spared no means of increasing those consignments. A powerful engine for this purpose, was the giving good prices and credit to the planter, till they got him more immersed in debt than he could pay, without selling his lands or slaves. They then reduced the prices given for his tobacco, so that let his shipments be ever so great, and his demand of necessaries ever so economical, they never permitted him to clear off his debt. These debts had become hereditary from father to son, for many generations, so that the planters were a species of property, annexed to certain mercantile houses in London.

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