Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11

Document 7

Thomas Jefferson, The Anas

Nov. 1793Works 1:325--30

Nov. 8. 93. . . . R. [Attorney-General Edmund Randolph] & myself opposed the right of the Presidt. to declare anything future on the qu. shall there or shall there not be war? & that no such thing was intended; that H.'s constrn [Hamilton's construction] of the effect of the proclmn would have been a determn of the question of the guarantee which we both denied to have intended, & I had at the time declared the Executive incompetent to. R. said he meant that forn natns. should understand it as an intimation of the Pr.'s opn that neutrality would be our interest. I declared my meaning to have been that forn nations should understand no such thing, that on the contrary I would have chosen them to be doubtful & to come & bid for our neutrality. I admitted the Presidt. havg. recd. the natn. at the close of Congr. in a state of peace, was bound to preserve them in that state till Congr. shd. meet again, & might proclaim anything which went no farther. The Pres. decld. he nevr. had an idea that he could bind Congress agt. declaring war, or that anything containd. in his proclmn could look beyd. the first day of their meeting. His main view was to keep our people in peace, he apologized for the use of the term neutrality in his answers, & justifd. it by having submitted the first of them (that to the merchts wherein it was used) to our considn, & we had not objected to the term. He concluded in the end that Colo. H. should prepare a paragraph on this subject for the speech, & it should then be considered. We were here called to dinner.

After dinner the renvoi of Genet was proposed by himself. I opposed it on these topics. France the only nation on earth sincerely our friend.--The measure so harsh a one that no precedt. is producd. where it has not been followed by war. Our messenger has now been gone 84. days, conseqly. we may hourly expect the return & to be relieved by their revocation of him. Were it now resolved on, it would be 8. or 10. days before the matter on which the order shd. be founded could be selected, arranged, discussed, & forwarded. This wd. bring us within 4 or 5. days of the meeting of Congress. Wd. it not be better to wait & see how the pulse of that body, new as it is, would beat. They are with us now, probably but such a step as this may carry many over to Genet's side. Genet will not obey the order, &c., &c. The Presidt. asked me what I would do if Genet sent the accusn to us to be communicd. to Congr. as he threatd. in the lre to Moultrie? I sd. I wd. not send it to Congr., but either. put it in the newsp. or send it back to him to be publd. if he pleased. Other questions & answers were put & returned in a quicker altercation than I ever before saw the President use. Hamilton was for the renvoi. Spoke much of the dignity of the nation, that they were now to form their character, that our conduct now would tempt or deter other forn. min. from treatg us in the same manner, touched on the Pr's personal feelings--did not believe Fr. wd. make it a cause of war, if she did we ought to do what was right & meet the consequences &c. Knox on the same side, & said he thot it very possible Mr. Genet would either declare us a departmt. of France, or levy troops here & endeavor to reduce us to obedce. R. of my opn, & argued chiefly on the resurrection of popularity to Genet which might be prodd. by this measure. That at present he was dead in the public opn if we would but leave him so. The Presidt. lamented there was not unanimity among us; that as it was we had left him exactly where we found him. & so it ended.

Nov. 15. 1793. E. R. tells me, that Ham. in conversn with him yesterday said "Sir, if all the people in America were now assembled, & to call on me to say whether I am a friend to the French revolution, I would declare that I have it in abhorrence."

Nov. 21. We met at the President's. The manner of explaining to Congress the intentions of the Proclmn was the matter of debate. E. R. produced his way of stating it. This expressed it's views to have been 1. to keep our citizens quiet. 2. to intimate to foreign nations that it was the Pr's opn that the interests & disposns of this country were for peace. Hamilton produced his statement in which he declared his intention to be to say nothing which could be laid hold of for any purpose, to leave the proclamation to explain itself. He entered pretty fully into all the argumentation of Pacificus, he justified the right of the Presidt to declare his opinion for a future neutrality, & that there existed no circumstances to oblige the U. S. to enter into the war on account of the guarantee, and that in agreeing to the proclmn he meant it to be understood as conveying both declarations, viz, neutrality, & that the casus foederis on the guarantee did not exist. Notwithstanding these declns of the Presidt. he admitted the Congress might declare war. In like manner they might declare war in the face of a treaty, & in direct infraction of it. Among other positions laid down by him, this was with great positiveness, that the constn having given power to the Presidt. & Senate to make treaties, they might make a treaty of neutrality which should take from Congress the right to declare war in that particular case, and that under the form of a treaty they might exercise any powers whatever, even those exclusively given by the constn to the H. of representatives. R. opposed this position, & seemed to think that where they undertook to do acts by treaty (as to settle a tariff of duties) which were exclusively given to the legislature, that an act of the legislature would be necessary to confirm them, as happens in England when a treaty interferes with duties establd by law.--I insisted that in givg to the Prest. & Senate a power to make treaties, the constn meant only to authorize them to carry into effect by way of treaty any powers they might constitutionally exercise. I was sensible of the weak points in this position, but there were still weaker in the other hypotheses, and if it be impossible to discover a rational measure of authority to have been given by this clause, I would rather suppose that the cases which my hypothesis would leave unprovided, were not thought of by the Convention, or if thought of, could not be agreed on, or were thought on and deemed unnecessary to be invested in the government. Of this last description were treaties of neutrality, treaties of offensive & defensive &c. In every event I would rather construe so narrowly as to oblige the nation to amend and thus declare what powers they would agree to yield, than too broadly & indeed so broadly as to enable the Executive and Senate to do things which the constn forbids. On the question Which form of explaining the principles of the proclmn should be adopted? I declared for R.'s, tho' it gave to that instrumt. more objects than I had contemplated. K declared for H's. The Presidt. said he had had but one object, the keeping our people quiet till Congress should meet, that nevertheless to declare he did not mean a decln of neutrality in the technical sense of the phrase might perhaps be crying peccavi before he was charged. However he did not decide between the two draughts.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11, Document 7
The University of Chicago Press

The Works of Thomas Jefferson. Collected and edited by Paul Leicester Ford. Federal Edition. 12 vols. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904--5.

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