The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


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