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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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3870. IMPRESSMENT, Protection against.—
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3870. IMPRESSMENT, Protection against.—

We entirely reject the mode[of


Page 418
protecting our seamen from impressment] which was the subject of conversation between
Mr.[Gouverneur] Morris and the
British minister, which was, that our seamen
should always carry about them certificates of
their citizenship. This is a condition never
yet submitted to by any nation, one with
which seamen would never have the precaution
to comply. The casualties of their calling
would expose them to the constant
destruction or loss of this paper evidence,
and thus, the British government would be
armed with legal authority to impress the
whole of our seamen. The simplest rule will
be, that the vessel being American, shall be
evidence that the seamen on board her are
such. If they apprehend that our vessels
might thus become asylums for the fugitives
of their own nation from impress-gangs, the
number of men to be protected by a vessel
may be limited by her tonnage, and one or
two officers only be permitted to enter the
vessel in order to examine the numbers on
board; but no press-gang should be allowed
ever to go on board an American vessel, till
after it shall be found that there are more than
their stipulated number on board, nor till
after the master shall have refused to deliver
the supernumeraries (to be named by himself )
to the press-officer who has come on
board for that purpose; and even then, the
American consul should be called in.—
To Thomas Pinckney. Washington ed. iii, 443. Ford ed., vi, 76.
(Pa., June. 1792)