The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson
I will take the liberty of hazarding to you some thoughts on the
policy of entering into treaties with the European nations, and the
nature of them.
My primary object in the formation of treaties is to take the
commerce of the States out of the hands of the States, and to place it
under the superintendence of Congress, so far as the imperfect
provisions of our constitutions will admit, and until the States
shall, by new compact, make them more perfect. I would say, then, to
every nation on earth, by treaty, your people shall trade freely with
us, and ours with you, paying no more than the most favored nation, in
order to put an end to the right of individual States, acting by fits
and starts, to interrupt our commerce, or to embroil us with any
nation. As to the terms of these treaties, the question becomes more
difficult. I will mention three different plans. 1. That no duty shall
be laid by either party on the productions of the other. 2. That each
may be permitted to equalize their duties to those laid by the other.
3. That each shall pay in the ports of the other, such duties only as
the most favored nations pay.
to James Monroe,17 June 1785