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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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8573. TREATIES OF COMMERCE, Favored nation principle. ‐ [continued].
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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8573. TREATIES OF COMMERCE, Favored nation principle. ‐ [continued].

When the first article of
our instructions of May 7th, 1784, was under
debate in Congress, it was proposed that neither
party should make the other pay, in their ports,
greater duties, than they paid in the ports of
the other. One objection to this was its impracticability;
another, that it would put it out of
our power to lay such duties on alien importation
as might encourage importation by natives.
Some members, much attached to English policy,
thought such a distinction should actually
be established. Some thought the power to do
it should be reserved, in case any peculiar circumstances
should call for it, though under the
present, or, perhaps, any probable circumstances,
they did not think it would be good policy ever
to exercise it. The footing gentis amicissimæ


Page 882
was, therefore, adopted, as you see in the instruction.
As far as my enquiries enable me to
judge, France and Holland make no distinction
of duties between aliens and natives. I also
rather believe that the other States of Europe
make none, England excepted, to whom this
policy, as that of her navigation act, seems peculiar.
The question then is, should we disarm
ourselves of the power to make this distinction
against all nations, in order to purchase
an exception from the alien duties in England
only; for if we put her importations on the
footing of native, all other nations with whom
we treat will have a right to claim the same.
I think we should, because against other nations,
who make no distinction in their ports
between us and their own subjects, we ought
not to make a distinction in ours. And if the
English will agree, in like manner, to make
none, we should, with equal reason, abandon
the right as against them. I think all the world
would gain, by setting commerce at perfect liberty.
I remember this proposition to put foreigners
and natives on the same footing was
considered; and we were all three, Dr. Franklin
as well as you and myself, in favor of it. We
finally, however, did not admit it, partly from
the objection you mention, but more still on account
of our instructions. But though the
English proclamation had appeared in America
at the time of framing these instructions, I
think its effect, as to alien duties, had not yet
been experienced, and therefore was not attended
to. If it had been noted in the debate,
I am sure that the annihilation of our whole
trade would have been thought too great a
price to pay for the reservation of a barren
power, which a majority of the members did not
propose ever to exercise, though they were willing
to retain it. Stipulating for equal rights for
foreigners and natives, we obtain more in foreign
ports than our instructions required, and
we only part with, in our own ports, a power
of which sound policy would probably forever
forbid the exercise. Add to this, that our treaty
will be for a very short term, and if any evil
be experienced under it, a reformation will soon
be in our power. I am, therefore, for putting
this among our original propositions to the
court of London. If it should prove an insuperable
obstacle with them, or if it should stand
in the way of a greater advantage, we can but
abandon it in the course of the negotiation.—
To John Adams. Washington ed. i, 370. Ford ed., iv, 79.
(P. July. 1785)