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It will be observed that these efforts to improve the commerce of the United States, have been confined to that branch only which respects France itself, and that nothing passed on the subject of our commerce with the West Indies, except an incidental conversation as to our fish. The reason of this, was no want of a due sense of its importance. Of that, I am thoroughly sensible. But efforts in favor of this branch would, at present, be desperate. To nations with which we have not yet treated, and who have possessions in America, we may offer a free vent of their manufactures in the United States, for a full or modified admittance into those possessions. But to France, we are obliged to give that freedom for a different compensation; to wit, for her aid in effecting our independence. It is difficult, therefore, to say what we have now to offer her, for an admission into her West Indies. Doubtless, it has its price. But the question is, what this would be, and whether worth our while to give it. Were we to propose to give to each other's citizens all the rights of natives, they would, of course, count what they should gain by this enlargement of right, and examine whether it would be worth to them as much as their monopoly of their West India commerce. If not, that commercial freedom which we wish to preserve, and which, indeed, is so valuable, leaves us little to offer. An expression in my letter to the Count de Vergennes, of November the 20th, wherein I hinted that both nations might, perhaps, come into the opinion, that the condition of natives might be a better ground of intercourse for their citizens, than that of the most favored nation, was intended to furnish an opportunity to the minister of parleying on that subject, if he was so disposed, and to myself, of seeing whereabouts they would begin, that I might communicate it to Congress, and leave them to judge of the expediency of pursuing the subject. But no overtures have followed; for I have no right to consider as coming from the minister, certain questions which were, very soon after, proposed to me by an individual. It sufficiently accounts for these questions, that that individual had written a memorial on the subject, for the consideration of the minister, and might wish to know what we would be willing to do. The idea that I should answer such

questions to him, is equally unaccountable, whether we suppose them originating with himself, or coming from the minister. In fact, I must suppose them to be his own; and I transmit them, only that Congress may see what one Frenchman, at least, thinks on the subject. If we can obtain from Great Britain reasonable conditions of commerce, (which, in my idea, must forever include an admission into her islands,) the freest ground between these two nations would seem to be the best. But if we can obtain no equal terms from her, perhaps Congress might think it prudent, as Holland has done, to connect us unequivocally with France. Holland has purchased the protection of France. The price she pays, is aid in time of war. It is interesting for us to purchase a free commerce with the French islands. But whether it is best to pay for it, by aids in war, or by privileges in commerce, or not to purchase it at all, is the question.


Answers by Mr. Jefferson, to questions addressed to him by Monsieur de Meusnier, author of that part of the Encyclopedie Methodique, entitled Economie politique et diplomatique.

1. What has led Congress to determine, that the concurrence of seven votes is requisite in questions which, by the Confederation, are submitted to the decision of a majority of the United States, in Congress assembled?

The ninth article of Confederation, section six, evidently establishes three orders of questions in Congress. 1. The greater ones, which relate to making peace or war, alliances, coinage, requisitions for money, raising military force, or appointing its commander-in-chief. 2. The lesser ones, which comprehend all other matters submitted by the Confederation to the federal head. 3. The single question of adjourning from day to day. This gradation of questions is distinctly characterized by the article.

In proportion to the magnitude of these questions, a greater concurrence of the voices composing the Union was thought necessary. Three degrees of concurrence, well distinguished by substantial circumstances, offered themselves to notice. 1. A concurrence of a majority of the people of the Union. It was thought that this would be insured, by requiring the voices of nine States; because, according to the loose estimates which had been made of the inhabitants, and the proportion of them which were free, it was believed that even the nine smallest would include a majority of the free citizens of the Union. The voices, therefore, of nine States were required in the greater questions. 2. A concurrence of the majority of the States. Seven constitute that majority. This number, therefore, was required in the lesser questions. 3. A concurrence of the majority of Congress, that is to say, of the States actually present in it. As there is no Congress, when there are not seven States present, this concurrence could never be of less than four States. But these might happen to be the four smallest, which would not include one-ninth part of the free citizens of the Union. This kind of majority, therefore, was entrusted with nothing but the power of adjourning themselves from day to day.

Here then are three kind of majorities. 1. Of the people. 2. Of the States. 3. Of the Congress: each of which is entrusted to a certain length.

Though the paragraph in question be clumsily expressed, yet it strictly announces its own intentions. It defines with precision, the greater questions, for which nine votes shall be requisite. In the lesser questions, it then requires a majority of the United States in Congress assembled: a term which will apply either to the number seven, as being a majority of the States, or to the number four as being a majority of Congress. Which of the two kinds of majority, was meant? Clearly, that which would leave a still smaller kind, for the decision of the question of adjournment. The contrary construction would be absurd.

This paragraph, therefore, should be understood, as if it had been expressed in the following terms: "The United States, in Congress assembled, shall never engage in war, &c., but with

the consent of nine States: nor determine any other question, but with the consent of a majority of the whole States, except the question of adjournment from day to day, which may be determined by a majority of the States actually present in Congress."

2. How far is it permitted, to bring on the reconsideration of a question which Congress has once determined?

The first Congress which met, being composed mostly of persons who had been members of the legislatures of their respective States, it was natural for them to adopt those rules in their proceedings, to which they had been accustomed in their legisla tive houses; and the more so, as these happened to be nearly the same, as having been copied from the same original, those of the British parliament. One of those rules of proceeding was, that "a question once determined, cannot be proposed, a second time, in the same session." Congress, during their first session, in the autumn of 1774, observed this rule strictly. But before their meeting in the spring of the following year, the war had broken out. They found themselves at the head of that war, in an executive as well as legislative capacity. They found that a rule, wise and necessary for a legislative body, did not suit an executive one, which, being governed by events, must change their purposes as those change. Besides, their session was then to become of equal duration with the war; and a rule, which should render their legislation immutable, during all that period, could not be submitted to. They, therefore, renounced it in practice, and have ever since continued to reconsider their questions freely. The only restraint as yet provided against the abuse of this permission to reconsider, is, that when a question has been decided, it cannot be proposed for reconsideration, but by some one who voted in favor of the former decision, and declares that he has since changed his opinion. I do not recollect accurately enough, whether it be necessary that his vote should have decided that of his State, and the vote of his State have decided that of Congress.

Perhaps it might have been better, when they were forming the federal constitution, to have assimilated it, as much as possi

ble, to the particular constitutions of the States. All of these have distributed the legislative, executive and judiciary powers, into different departments. In the federal constitution, the judiciary powers are separated from the others; but the legislative and executive are both exercised by Congress. A means of amending this defect has been thought of. Congress having a power to establish what committees of their own body they please, and to arrange among them the distribution of their business, they might, on the first day of their annual meeting, appoint an executive committee, consisting of a member from each State, and refer to them all executive business which should occur during their session; confining themselves to what is of a legislative nature, that is to say, to the heads described in the ninth article, as of the competence of nine States only, and to such other questions as should lead to the establishment of general rules. The journal of this committee, of the preceding day, might be read the next morning in Congress, and considered as approved, unless a vote was demanded on a particular article, and that article changed. The sessions of Congress would then be short, and when they separated, the Confederation authorizes the appointment of a committee of the States, which would naturally succeed to the business of the executive committee. The legislative business would be better done, because the attention of the members would not be interrupted by the details of execution; and the executive business would be better done, because, business of this nature is better adapted to small, than great bodies. A monarchical head should confide the execution of its will to departments, consisting, each, of a plurality of hands, who would warp that will, as much as possible, towards wisdom and moderation, the two qualities it generally wants. But, a republican head, founding its decrees, originally, in these two qualities, should commit them to a single hand for execution, giving them, thereby, a promptitude which republican proceedings generally want. Congress could not, indeed, confide their executive business to a smaller number than a committee consisting of a member from each State. This is necessary to insure the confidence of the Union. But it would be gaining a

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