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You have seen the decree which has been made respecting tobacco, and which gives to French shipping a preference of above one hundred livres per ton over American. Previous to the decision on this business, T was desired by a note to dine with Monsieur De Lafayette, in order to confer on American business. And note, that I had attended once before, when he wished me to go with him to the Committee of Commerce, but I declined until the Committee should ask my attendance, which they have not done. At the conference to which I was invited, were present Mr Swan, and Colonel Walker, and a little man whom Chastellux formerly recommended to me as being a disciple of Doctor Pangloss. In his way to America he was shipwrecked, had his toes frozen off, and was after wards, I believe, appointed to some subordinate place in the consular office. During the conference, another little man came in, whom I do not know, but have been told that his name is Raymond, and that he is from Alsace.
After Lafayette had proposed the question, I asked the opinion of Walker and Swan, which they gave, and the latter in particular observed that the southern provinces would soon supply the kingdom, if the culture was allowed. I delivered my sentiments to the following effect. A sacrifice of the interest of France to that of America could not reasonably be expected. The first question was, or ought to be, whether they could dispense with the revenue. If they could, then they should give it up entirely, and consult the commercial interest of the country. That to this effect they should make the article free to be imported and exported everywhere. That if on the contrary they should deem the revenue necessary, then the following modes of obtaining it occurred. 1. a Duty ; 2. an Excise ; 3. a Farm ; 4. a Regie. That the first, if great, would be eluded ; that the second, incompatible with their new principles, was not worth establishing as a single article, because of the expense attending it; that the third was out of fashion ; and by the fourth they would be cheated.
Respecting the free culture, I gave it as my decided opinion, that in a short time it would totally destroy the tobacco trade, and to this effect I stated the charges attending the transportation of that article, which amount to about three guineas on the medium produce of an acre. And I have no doubt that the south of France will produce as good tobacco as Virginia. About this time the Alsacian came in, and said a great deal to prove what, if I can read the countenance, he did not believe a word of, viz. that no tobacco would be planted even if the permission were granted, excepting in Flanders and Alsace. I did not think it worth while to attempt a useless confutation, but told Lafayette that as they had already set Alsace on fire, I could not advise them to add more fuel. That I had given him facts from which he might draw his own conclusions. That I would not pretend to advise, but would venture to predict. That the free culture would be permitted, and thereby the revenue be lost ; but that afterwards the culture would be prohibited through all France, and the revenue be established. I could not but smile inwardly at the conduct of the business. The national interests are every way injured, those of America by no means served, and Alsace is the dupe. All this, time I think will show.
Finding that the decrees bore so hard upon us, both in our agriculture and navigation, I have, notwithstanding my previous determination, spoken to Monsieur De Lafayette, who, ac cording to custom, asked for a little note about it. I spoke also to Monsieur de Montmorin, at whose request I have really written a pretty large note, which he will get translated and deliver to the Diplomatic Committee. It purports to be observations of sundry American citizens. I mean to keep out of sight as much as possible, and do all the good I can ; and for the rest I repeat again, let the world wag as it may. I have the honor to be, &ic.
- Gouverneur Morris
- The Life of Gouverneur Morris With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers Vol. II., Jared Sparks, 1832