Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (JOHN JAY) - The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789)
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TO THE SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (JOHN JAY) - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 5.
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TO THE SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Paris, May 27, 1786.
—In my letter of January 2, I had the honour of stating to you what had passed here on the subject of the commerciable articles between this country & the United States. I beg leave now to resume that subject. I therein informed you that this government had agreed to receive our fish oils on the footing on which they receive those of the Hanseatic towns, which gave us a reduction of duty from — on the barrique to — amounting to about on the English ton, according to a statement by Monsr. Sangrain inclosed in that letter. This was true, but there was another truth which neither that statement, nor any other evidence I then had, enabled me to discover, and which it is but lately I could be ascertained of; which is that there is another duty called the Droit des huiles et savons to which the Hans towns are subject, as we are also of consequence. This is of 6. deniers on the nett pound, and 10. sous per livre on that, amounting to — on the nett hundred, French weight, or to —— the English ton. This with the reduced duty makes about ——, or very nearly four guineas according to the present exchange, on the English ton. Tho this be still advantageous when compared with the English duty of 18 guineas, yet it is less so than we had expected, and it will remain, when we apply for a renewal of the indulgence, to see whether we can obtain further reduction.
The fur trade is an object of desire in this country. London is at present their market for furs. They pay for them there in ready money. Could they draw their furs into their own ports from the U. S. they would pay us for them in productions. Nor should we lose by the change of market, since, tho the French pay the London merchants in cash, those merchants pay us with manufactures. A very wealthy & well connected company is proposing here to associate themselves with an American company, each to possess half the interest, & to carry on the fur trade between the two countries. The company here expect to make the principal part of the advances; they also are solliciting considerable indulgencies from this government from which the part of the company on our side of the water will reap half the advantage. As no exclusive idea enters into this scheme, it appears to me worthy of encouragement. It is hoped the government here will interest themselves for it’s success. If they do, one of two things may happen: either the English will be afraid to stop the vessels of a company consisting partly of French subjects & patronized by the Court; in which case the commerce will be laid open generally; or if they stop the vessels, the French company, which is strongly connected with men in power, will complain in form to their government, who may thus be interested as principals in the rectification of this abuse. As yet, however, the proposition has not taken such a form, as to assure us that it will be prosecuted to this length.
As to the article of tobacco, which had become an important branch of remittance to almost all the states, I had the honour of communicating to you my proposition to the court to abolish the monopoly of it in their farm; that the Ct. de Vergennes was, I thought, thoroughly sensible of the expediency of this proposition, and disposed to befriend it, that the renewal of the lease of the farms had been consequently suspended six months and was still in suspence, but that so powerful were the Farmers general and so tottering the tenure of the Minister of finance in his office that I despaired of preventing the renewal of the farm at that time. Things were in this state when the M. de la Fayette returned from Berlin. On communicating to him what was on the carpet, he proposed to me a conference with some persons well acquainted with the commercial system of this country. We met. They proposed the endeavoring to have a committee appointed to enquire into the subject. The proposition was made to the Ct. de Vergennes who befriended it & had the M. de la Fayette named a member of the committee. He became of course the active and truly zealous member for the liberty of commerce, others, tho’ well disposed, not chusing to oppose the farm openly. This committee has met from time to time. It shewed an early and decisive conviction that the measure taken by the farm to put the purchase of their tobaccoes into monopoly on that side the water, as the sale of them was on this, tended to the annihilation of commerce between the two countries. Various palliatives were proposed from time to time. I confess that I met them all with indifference; my object being a radical cure of the evils by discontinuing the farm, and not a mere assuagement of it for the present moment, which rendering it more bearable, might lessen the necessity of removing it totally, & perhaps prevent that removal. In the mean time the other branches of the farm rendered the renewal of the lease necessary and it being said to be too far advanced to have the article of tobacco separated from it & suspended, it was signed in the month of March while I was in England, with a clause, which is usual, that the King may discontinue when he pleases on certain conditions. When I returned I found here a Memorial from the merchants of l’Orient complaining of their having 6000 hhds of tobo on hand, and of the distresses they were under from the loss of this medium of remittance. I enclosed it to the Count de Vergennes and asked his interference. I saw him on the 23d inst and spoke to him on the subject. He told me there was to be a committee held the next day at Berni, the seat of the Comptroller general & that he would attend it himself to have something done. I asked him if I was to consider the expunging that article from the farm as desperate. He said that the difficulty of changing so antient an institution was immense. That the King draws from it a revenue of 29 millions of livres. That the interruption of this revenue at least, if not a diminution, would attend a change, that their finances were not in a condition to bear even an interruption, and in short that no minister could venture to take upon himself so hazardous an operation. This was only saying explicitly, what I had long been sensible of, that the comptroller general’s continuance in office was too much on a poise to permit him to shift this weight out of his own scale into that of his adversaries; and that we must be contented to await the completion of the public expectation that there will be a change in this office, which change may give us another chance for effecting this desirable reformation. Incidents enough will arise to keep this object in our view, and to direct the attention to it as the only point on which the interests & harmony of the two countries (so far as this article of their commerce may influence) will ultimately find repose. The committee met the next day. The only question agitated was how best to relieve the trade under its double monopoly. The committee found themselves supported by the presence and sentiments of the Count de Vergennes. They therefore resolved that the contract with Mr. Morris, if executed on his part, ought not to be annulled here, but that no similar one should ever be made hereafter: that, so long as it continued, the farmers should be obliged to purchase from twelve to 15,000 hhds. of tobacco a year, over and above what they should receive from Mr. Morris, from such merchants as should bring it in French or American vessels, on the same conditions contracted with Mr. Morris; providing however that where the cargo shall not be assorted, the prices shall be 38♯. 36♯ & 34♯ for the 1st. 2d. & 3d qualities of whichsoever the cargo may consist. In case of dispute about the quality, specimens are to be sent to the council, who will appoint persons to examine and decide on it. This is indeed the least bad of all the palliatives which have been proposed: but it contains the seeds of perpetual trouble: it is easy to foresee that the farmers will multiply difficulties and vexations on those who shall propose to sell to them by force and that these will be making perpetual complaints, so that both parties will be kept on the fret. If, without fatiguing the friendly dispositions of the ministry, this should give them just so much trouble as may induce them to look to the demolition of the monopoly as a desirable point of rest, it may produce a permanent as well as temporary good. This determination of the committee needs the Kings order to be carried into effect. I have been in hourly expectation of receiving official information that it is ultimately confirmed by him. But as yet it is not come, and the post will set out to-day. Should it arrive in time I will enclose it. Should it not arrive as I do not apprehend any danger of its being rejected. or even altered materially (seeing that M. de Vergennes approved of it & M. de Calonne acquiesced) I have supposed you would wish to be apprized of its substance for a communication of which I am indebted to the M. de la Fayette. Tho’ you cannot publish it formally till you know it is confirmed by the King yet an authoritative kind of notice may be given to the merchants to put them on their guard. Otherwise the merchants here, having first knowledge of it, may by their agents purchase up all the tabaccoes they have on hand, at a low price & thus engross to themselves all the benefit.
In the same letter of January 2d I mentioned that the rice of Carolina compared with that of the Mediterranean was better & dearer. This was my own observation, having examined both in the shops here where they are retailed. Further enquiries gave me reason to believe that the rice of Carolina, on it’s arrival is fouler & cheaper; and that it is obliged to be cleaned here before it is saleable. That this advances the price, but at the same time the quality also, beyond that of the Mediterranean. Whether the trouble of this operation discourages the merchant, or the price the consumer, or whether the merchants of Carolina have not yet learnt the way to this market, I cannot tell. I find in fact that but a small proportion of the rice consumed here is from the American market, but the consumption of this article here is immense. If the makers of American rice would endeavour to adapt the preparation of it to the taste of this country so as to give it over the mediterranean rice the advantage of which it seems susceptible, it would very much increase the quantity for which they may find sale. As far as I have been able to find it is received here on a favourable footing. I shall reserve my letter open to the last moment in hopes of being able to put into it the order of the King to the Farmers general. I have the honor of enclosing a copy of their contract with Mr. Morris to which the resolution of the Committee refers & to be with sentiments &c. &c., &c.