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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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8562. TREATIES, Self-liberation from.—
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8562. TREATIES, Self-liberation from.—

Reason which gives * * * [the] right of self-liberation from a contract in certain
cases, has subjected it to certain just limitations.
1. The danger which absolves us must
be great, inevitable and imminent. * * * 2. A second limitation on our right of releasing
ourselves is that we are to do it from so
much of the treaties only as is bringing great
and inevitable danger on us, and not from the
residue, allowing the other party a right at
the same time, to determine whether on our
non-compliance with that part, they will declare
the whole void. This right they would
have, but we should not. * * * 3. A third
limitation is that when a party, from necessity
or danger, withholds compliance with that
part of a treaty, it is bound to make compensation
where the nature of the case admits
and does not dispense with it. [486]
Opinion on French Treaties. Washington ed. vii, 614. Ford ed., vi, 221.


The question under consideration, when this
opinion was given, was “whether the United States
had the right to renounce their treaties with France,
or to hold them suspended till the government of that
country shall be established”. Alexander Hamilton
took the ground that as France was a monarchy
when the United States entered into an alliance with
it, and had since declared itself to be a republic, which might issue in a military despotism and there by render
the alliance “dangerous”, to the United States,
we had the right either to renounce the treaty or to
declare it suspended until a settled government had
been formed. Jefferson opposed this view, maintaining
that the danger to be apprehended was not
sufficient in sound morality to justify the United
States in declaring the treaty null.—Editor.