Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 3

Author: Thomas Jefferson

Report of Decree Rendered by the National Assembly of France.

December 30, 1793.

The Secretary of State, to whom the President of the United States referred the resolution of the House of Representatives of December 24, 1793, desiring the substance of all such laws, decrees, or ordinances, respecting commerce in any of the countries with which the United States have commercial intercourse, as have been received by the Secretary of State, and not already stated to the House in his report of the 16th instant, reports:

That he has had an official communication of a Decree rendered by the National Assembly of France on the 26th day of March last, of which the following is a translation:


Exempting from all duties the subsistences and other objects of supply in the Colonies, relative to the United States, pronounced in the sitting of the 26th of March, 1793, 2d year of the French Republic.

The National Convention, wi]]ing to prevent by precise dispositions, the difficulties that might arise relatively to the execution of its decree of the 19th February last, concerning the United States of America— to grant favors to this ally-nation, and to treat it, in its commercial relations with the Colonies of France, in the same manner as the vessels of the Republic—decree as follows:

Art. 1. From the day of the publication of the present decree in the French-American Colonies, the vessels of the United States, of the burdens of sixty tons at the least, laden only with meals and subsistences, as well as the objects of supply announced in article 2, of the arret of 30th August, 1784, as also lard, butter, salted salmon, and candies shall be admitted into the ports of said Colonies exempt from all duties. The same exemption shall extend to the French vessels laden with the same articles, and coming from a foreign port.

Art. 2. The captains of vessels of the United States, who, having brought into the French American Colonies the objects comprised in the above article, wish to return to the territory of the said States, may laden the said Colonies, independent of sirups, rum, taffias, and French merchandises, a quantity of coffee equivalent to the one-fiftieth of the tonnage of every vessel, as also a quantity of sugar equal to one-tenth on conforming to the following articles:

Art. 3. Every captain of an American vessel, who wishes to make returns to the United States of coffee and sugar of the French Colonies, shall make it appear that his vessel entered therein with at least two-thirds of her cargo, according to article 1. For this purpose, he shall be obliged to transmit, within twenty-four hours after his arrival, to the custom-house of the place he may land at, a certificate of the marine agents, establishing the gauge of his vessel and the effective tonnage of her cargo. The heads of the said custom-houses shall assure themselves that the exportation of the sugars and coffee does not exceed the proportion fixed by the second article of the present decree.

Art. 4. The captains of vessels of the United States of America shall not pay, on going from the islands, as well as those of the Republic, but a duty of 5 livres per quintal of indigo, 10 livres per thousand weight of cotton, 5 livres per thousand weight of coffee, 5 livres per thousand weight of brown and clayed sugars, and 50 sols per thousand weight of raw sugar. Every other merchandise shall be exempt from duty on going out of the Colonies.

Art. 5. The sugars and coffee which shall be laden shall pay at the custom-houses which are established in the Colonies, or that shall be established, in addition to the duties above fixed, those imposed by the law of 19th March, 1791, on the sugars and coffee imported from the said Colonies to France, and conformably to the same law.

Art. 6. The captains of vessels of the United States, who wish to lade merchandises of the said Colonies, for the ports of France, shall furnish the custom-house at the place of departure with the bonds required of the masters of French vessels by the second article of the law of 10th July, 1791, to secure the unlading of these merchandises in the ports of the Republic.

Art. 7. The vessels of the nations with whom the French Republic is not at war may carry to the French American Colonies all the objects designated by the present decree. They may also bring, into the ports of the Republic only, all the productions of the said Colonies, on the conditions announced in the said decree, as well as that of 19th of February.

Copy conformable to the original.


That he has not received officially any copy of the decree said to have been rendered by the same Assembly on the 27th day of July last, subjecting the vessels of the United States laden with provisions to be carried, against their will, into the ports of France, and those having enemy goods on board to have such goods taken out as legal prize.

That an ordinance has been passed by the Government of Spain, on the 9th day of June last, the substance of which has been officially communicated to him in the following words, to wit:

Extract of an Ordinance that the inhabitants of Louisiana, being deprived of their commerce with France, (on account of the war,) as allowed by the ordinance of January, 1782, &c., His Majesty considering that they and the inhabitants of the Floridas cannot subsist without the means of disposing of their productions and of acquiring those necessary for their own consumption; for that purpose, and to increase the national commerce—the commerce of those provinces and their agriculture—has directed the following articles to be provisionally observed:

The inhabitants of the above-mentioned provinces to be allowed to commerce freely both in Europe and America with all friendly nations who have treaties of commerce with Spain; New Orleans, Pensacola, and St. Augustine, to be ports for that purpose. No exception as to the articles to be sent or to be received. Every vessel, however, to be subjected to touch at Corcuhion, in Gallicia, or Alicant, and to take a permit there, without which, the entry not to be allowed in the ports above mentioned.

The articles of this commerce, carried on thus directly between those provinces and foreign nations to pay a duty of fifteen per cent importation, except negroes, who may be imported free of duty. The productions and silver exported to purchase those negroes to pay the six per cent. exportation duty. The exportation of silver to be allowed for this purpose only.

The commerce between Spain and those provinces to remain free. Spaniards to be allowed to observe the same rules and to fit out from the same ports (in vessels wholly belonging to them, without connexion with foreigners) for those provinces as for the other Spanish Colonies.

To remove all obstacles to this commerce, all sorts of merchandise destined for Louisiana and the Floridas (even those whose admission is prohibited for other places) may be entered in the ports of Spain, and, in like manner, tobacco and all other prohibited articles may be imported into Spain from these provinces, to be re-exported to foreign countries.

To improve this commerce and encourage the agriculture of those provinces the importation of foreign rice into the ports of Spain is prohibited, and a like preference shall be given to the other productions of these provinces, when they shall suffice for the consumption of Spain.

All articles exported from Spain to these provinces shall be free of duty on exportation, and such as being foreign, shall have paid duty on importation into Spain, shall have it restored to exporters.

These foreign articles, thus exported, to pay a duty of three per cent. on entry into those provinces. Those which are not foreign to be free of duty.

The articles exported from those provinces to Spain to be free of duty, whether consumed in Spain or re-exported to foreign countries.

Those Spanish vessels which, having gone from Spain to those provinces, should desire to bring back productions from thence directly to the foreign ports of Europe, may do it on paying a duty of exportation of three per cent.

All vessels, both Spanish and foreign, sailing to those provinces, to be prohibited from touching at any other port in His Majesty’s American Dominions.

No vessel to be fitted out from New Orleans, Pensacola, or St. Augustine for any of the Spanish islands or other Dominions in America, except for some urgent cause, in which only the respective Governors to give a permission, but without allowing any other articles to be embarked than the productions of those provinces.

All foreign vessels purchased by His Majesty’s subjects, and destined for this commerce, to be exempted from those duties to which they are at present subjected, they proving that they are absolute and sole proprietors thereof.

He takes this occasion to note an act of the British Parliament of the 28 George III., chap. 6, which, though passed before the epoch to which his report aforesaid related, had escaped his researches. The effect of it was to convert the proclamations regulating our direct intercourse with their West Indian Islands into a standing law, and so far to remove the unfavorable distinction between us and foreign nations, stated in the report, leaving it, however, in full force as to our circuitous intercourse with the same islands, and as to our general intercourse, direct and circuitous, with Great Britain and all her other Dominions.


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Chicago: Thomas Jefferson, "Report of Decree Rendered by the National Assembly of France.," Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 3 in Thomas Jefferson, the Writings of Jefferson: Monticello Edition, Vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904-1905), Pp.307-311 Original Sources, accessed March 23, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D3ANW61GZHWWHDM.

MLA: Jefferson, Thomas. "Report of Decree Rendered by the National Assembly of France." Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 3, in Thomas Jefferson, the Writings of Jefferson: Monticello Edition, Vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904-1905), Pp.307-311, Original Sources. 23 Mar. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D3ANW61GZHWWHDM.

Harvard: Jefferson, T, 'Report of Decree Rendered by the National Assembly of France.' in Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 3. cited in , Thomas Jefferson, the Writings of Jefferson: Monticello Edition, Vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904-1905), Pp.307-311. Original Sources, retrieved 23 March 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D3ANW61GZHWWHDM.