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declares that representatives shall be apportioned among the States according to their numbers, i. e., by some common ratio.
Viewing this bill either as a violation of the constitution, or as giving an inconvenient exposition of its words, is it a case wherein the President ought to interpose his negative? I think it is.
1. The non-user of his negative begins already to excite a belief that no President will ever venture to use it; and has, consequently, begotten a desire to raise up barriers in the State legislatures against Congress, throwing off the control of the constitution.
2. It can never be used more pleasingly to the public, than in the protection of the constitution.
3. No invasions of the constitution are fundamentally so dangerous as the tricks played on their own numbers, apportionment, and other circumstances respecting themselves, and affecting their legal qualifications to legislate for the union.
4. The majorities by which this bill has been carried (to wit: of one in the Senate and two in the Representatives) show how divided the opinions were there.
5. The whole of both houses admit the constitution will bear the other exposition, whereas the minorities in both deny it will bear that of the bill.
6. The application of any one ratio is intelligible to the people, and will, therefore be approved, whereas the complex operations of this bill will never be comprehended by them, and though they may acquiesce, they cannot approve what they do not understand.
XXX.–Opinion relative to a case of recapture, by citizens of
the United States, of slaves escaped into Florida, and of an American captain enticing French slaves from St. Domingo.
December 3, 1792. Complaint has been made by the Representatives of Spain that certain individuals of Georgia entered the State of Florida, and without any application to the Government, seized and carried into Georgia, certain persons, whom they claimed to be their slaves. This aggression was thought the more of, as there exists a convention between that government and the United States against receiving fugitive slaves.
The minister of France has complained that the master of an American vessel, while lying within a harbor of St. Domingo, having enticed some negroes on board his vessel, under pretext of employment, bought them off, and sold them in Georgia as slaves.
1. Has the general government cognizance of these offences ? 2. If it has, is any law already provided for trying and punishing them?
1. The Constitution says “Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts &c., provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States." I do not consider this clause as reaching the point. I suppose its meaning to be, that Congress may collect taxes for the purpose of providing for the general welfare, in those cases wherein the Constitution empowers them to act for the general welfare. To suppose that it was meant to give them a distinct substantive power, to do any act which might tend to the general welfare, is to render all the enumerations useless, and to make their powers unlimited. We must seek the power therefore in some other clause of the Constitution. It says further, that Congress shall have power to “ define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the law of nations." These offences were not committed on the high seas, and consequently not within that branch of the clause. Are they against the law of nations, taken as it may be in its whole extent, as founded, 1st, in nature ; 2d, usage ; 3d, convention ? So much may be said in the affirmative, that the legislators ought to send the case before the judiciary for discussion; and the rather, when it is considered that unless the offenders can be punished under this clause, there is no other which goes directly to their case, and consequently our peace with foreign nations will be constantly at the discretion of individuals.
2. Have the legislators sent this question before the Courts by any law already provided? The act of 1789, chapter 20, section 9, says the district courts shall have cognizance concurrent with the courts of the several States, or the circuit courts, of all causes, where an alien sues for a tort only, in violation of the law of nations : but what if there be no alien whose interest is such as to support an action for the tort ?—which is precisely the case of the aggression on Florida. If the act in describing the jurisdiction of the Courts, had given them cognizance of proceedings by way of indictment or information against offenders under the law of nations, for the public wrong, and on the public behalf, as well as to an individual for the special tort, it would have been the thing desired.
The same act, section 13, says, the “Supreme Court shall have exclusively all such jurisdiction of suits or proceedings against ambassadors, or other public ministers, or their domestics or domestic servants, as a court of law can have or exercise consistently, with the law of nations.”—Still this is not the case, no ambassador, &c., being concerned here. I find nothing else in the law applicable to this question, and therefore presume the case is still to be provided for, and that this may be done by enlarging the jurisdiction of the courts, so that they may sustain indictments and informations on the public behalf, for offences against the law of nations.
[A note added by Mr. Jefferson at a later period.] On further examination it does appear that the 11th section of the judiciary act above cited gives to the circuit courts exclusively, cognizance of all crimes and offences cognizable under the authority of the United States, and not otherwise provided for. This removes the difficulty, however, but one step further ;—for questions then arise, 1st. What is the peculiar character of the offence in question; to wit, treason, felony, misdemeanor, or trespass ? 2d. What is its specific punishment–capital or what? 3d. Whence is the venue to come ?
XXXI.-Report on Assays at the Mint, communicated to the
House of Representatives, January 8, 1793. The Secretary of State, to whom was referred, by the President of the United States, the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 29th of November, 1792, on the subject of experiments of France, England, Spain, and Portugal, reports :
That assays and experiments have beer, accordingly, made at the mint, by the director, and under his care and inspection, of sundry gold and silver coins of France, England, Spain, and Portugal, and of the quantity of fine gold and alloy in each of them, and the specific gravities of those of gold given in by the director, a copy of which, and of the letter covering it, are contained in the papers marked A and B.
January 7, 1733. SIR:—I have, herewith, enclosed the result of our assays, &c., of the coins of France, England, Spain, and Portugal. In the course of the experiments, a very small source of error was detected, too late for the present occasion, but which will be carefully guarded against in future, I am, with the most perfect esteem, your most obedient humble servant,
DAVID RITTENHOUSE, Director of the Mint. THOMAS JEFFERSON, Secretary of State.
In 24 grains.
grs. 32 pts.
grs. 32 pts.
2 16 2 13 2 06 2 29 2 10 2 10 2 10 2 07
17.48 17.38 17.58 17.23 17.57 17.51 17.50 17.57
Mint, January 7, 1793. Assayed by Mr. David Ott, under my inspection, at the mint, in pursuance of a resolution of Congress of November 29, 1792. I have added the specific gravity of each piece of gold coin. DAVID RITTENHOUSE, Director of the Mint.
XXXII.—Report on the petition of John Rogers, relative to certain lands on the north-east side of the Tennessee.
February 16, 1793. The Secretary of State, to whom was referred, by the House of Representatives of the United States, the petition of John Rogers, setting forth, that as an officer of the State of Virginia,